Ex-skipper Steve Smith and batsman Cameron Bancroft have opted for a cowardly, “un- Aussie” way of trying to regain the Green Baggies they have been stripped of (for varying periods, along with David Warner) for cheating.
They have squealed: an attempt to deflect their guilt after being “caught” on television for brazen ball tampering in a Test match in South Africa.
Initially, they struck a penitent note that had caused some folk to believe that despite the genuine outrage in a short impassioned society, they had been subjected to excessively harsh punishments. Their period of suspension (Bancroft excepted) was long enough to make a return to top-level play seem remote.
Yet some of their recent comments ~ where else but on TV ~ negate the suggestion of repentance created at tear-jerking press meets when they came back home in disgrace. They have tried to “involve” others in the scripting of one of the darkest chapters in the saga of sport Down Under.
After manfully “taking it on the chin” the former captain articulates a theory that it were two top officials of Cricket Australia (the counterpart of the BCCI) who issued the “win at all costs” directive, and he breached the sacred covenant that what happens in the dressing room stays there by recalling a dressing down from the officials after a previous poor performance. “We don’t pay you guys to play, we pay you to win” was the directive ~ as per Smith’s narrative.
While he conceded that opinions could differ, he was sure that it was the attitude of officials that caused the moral decay. Although Bancroft did subsequently own up his responsibility and said he ought to have known better, he too tried wriggle his way of trouble. In a Fox News chat with Adam Gilchrist, the upcoming batter said he was told to sandpaper the ball by David Warner, the vice-captain. He wanted to “fit in” and “feel valued” ~ as if Warner had forced his hand.
The Australian cricket mantra has long been “play hard, play fair”. That had been overlooked at Cape Town, and again by the way Smith and Bancroft have been cooking-up alibis of late. Maybe a guilt complex is also kicking-in, the Australian batting has been wobbly during the current series against India. Are Smith and Bancroft batting for their mates?
The ex-skipper did mention “culture”. The cricketing history of the subcontinent could teach him something about both culture and character. During the infamous Bodyline series Iftikhar Ali, the Nawab of Pataudi (Sr), batted for England but was so appalled by “leg theory” that he protested strongly. The caustic Jardine warned that he might never play for England again ~ the Nawab’s response was a royal snub to his captain. Cricket was then played by gentlemen of principle.