For the sniggering juvenile pun-makers and innuendo invokers around the world, the sport of cricket is a veritable goldmine of material.

A dirty mind and an excited Ramiz Raja on commentary talking about “inspired strokeplay” can unlock such hidden levels to the ‘gentleman’s game’ that you’d wonder how anyone can make it through a heated discussion on the sport with a straight face. The ‘SandpaperGate’ does not make the task any easier. For days somber journalists from world over were enthralled by close up, slow-mo shots of Australia’s Cameron Bancroft stuffing a yellow bit of sandpaper down his trousers during a Test match against South Africa – all the while talking about “ball tampering” and “illegal handling”. Unsurprisingly the puns flowed hot and heavy.

Before we talk about the important issues – how much punishment is enough and what to do about reverse swing. Let’s get a few burning questions out of the way. How stupid do you have to be to attempt tampering with the ball in the sport that has high-definition slow-motion cameras, infrared imaging, ball tracking, a Snickometer, an aerial spider cam, body-mounted cameras on referees, and drones circling the air? You can’t pick your nose safely in cricket, and these fine gentlemen attempted to rub yellow sandpaper on a bright red cricket ball. Ballsy move (pun intended).

Exposed, the cheating trio, Captain Steven Smith, Vice-Captain David Warner, and the rookie batsman Cameron Bancroft have returned home in shame. They were hounded by reporters at airports, heckled by onlookers, and ridiculed home and abroad. For many seeing a broken Steven Smith gasping back tears to read out a heartfelt apology was all the vindication they needed; to them, the 12-month ban imposed by Cricket Australia (CA)  is “too harsh” and would destroy the career of arguably one of the world’s best batsmen.

But the CA maintains that you cannot cry your crimes away. Steven Smith’s puppy-eyed routine may have melted a few hardened hearts (his natural baby-face helps immensely) but he did orchestrate planned and premeditated cheating.  CA is adamant that its sanctions “properly reflect a balance between the need to protect the integrity and reputation of the game, and the need to maintain the possibility of redemption for the individuals involved, all of whom have learned difficult lessons through these events.”

They certainly have. Muhammad Amir emerged from his five-year ban a determined and jaded soul – perhaps this disgrace can temper the short-tempered David Warner too.

Pakistanis were rightly appalled when the teenage Muhammad Amir was paraded around like a common thief in front of British tabloids, but we accepted his fate because the punishment needed to be “exemplary” – future spot fixers needed to be deterred.

Now Smith, Warner, and Bancroft must be the example. Ball tampering isn’t a gamey, naughty little misdemeanor anymore – it is a cricketing crime and needs to be treated as such.

P.S. Irony died a slow death when IPL franchise, Rajasthan Royals – themselves returning from a two-year suspension for being involved in spot-fixing – decided to not make Steven Smith their captain because they don’t endorse cheating. Classic.

Feature Image Source: Cricfit


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