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Cricket Australia showed a lot of courage to ban Smith & Warner but it was needed to save the game

The ban is seemingly a bit harsh on the ones on the receiving end.

Steve Smith and David Warner
Steve Smith and David Warner celebrate with the Ashes Urn. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

This March, two international cricket teams faced the wrath of their respective boards for not being able to conduct themselves on the ground. The first was Bangladesh, who during their key game against Sri Lanka in a triangular T20 tournament in Colombo, ill-behaved on and off the ground after they disliked an umpiring decision. The incident drew ire of the cricketing world and the Bangladeshi cricket board warned the players over their conduct.

The second incident happened in Cape Town, South Africa, where a weighty team like Australia found themselves at the receiving end in the Third Test after one of their young players was caught tampering the ball – a plot which was hatched by none other than the senior players of the same team. The incident caused such an uproar that the Australian cricket board had no other option but to ban captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner for 12 months and Cameron Bancroft, who tried the manipulation, for nine months. Warner has also banned form captaincy for life.

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Of course, it was the incident in Cape Town which got more attention since it involved Australia – arguably one of the greatest sides to play the game of cricket. But what Cricket Australia also did differently was the courage it displayed in banning none other than the captain and their best player Smith and a big-hitter Warner.

This was required after Australia cricket faced its biggest moment of disrepute and anything short of this strong step would not have recovered the trust of the cricket-lovers of Australia in particular and the world in general. Yes, public outrage made it fast but certainly, it was the practical sense of the board which made it a reality.

For those countries that are finding a sweet moment of moral revenge against Australia’s hard way of playing cricket in the Cape Town scandal, they would also need to match Cricket Australia’s call in case they face a similar challenge to respond in future.

There would still be voiced dissatisfied with CA’s decision to not blacklist head coach Darren Lehmann as well after the fiasco. But even then the CA’s decision cannot be downplayed for it has marked a turning point in the cricketing world, something that even the International Cricket Council (ICC) failed to do and earned criticism.

CA has ensured that no cricketer is bigger than the game

The CA’s decision has done two important favors to cricket. First, it has conveyed the message to the players that none of them are bigger than the game, no matter what their feats are. If they fail to abide by the spirit and the rules of cricket, they will face the consequences.

Both Smith and Warner have been Australian two most prolific scorers at the moment and their absence would weaken the team to a great extent. Yet, CA did not hesitate to take a strong call even it that risks Australia plummeting down the rank table.

Ball-tampering no more remains a casual offense

Secondly, CA’s move has made the offense of ball tampering a grave one, if not as heinous as fixing a game. At the moment, ball tampering is a level-2 offense in the ICC’s rulebook but in terms of the gravity, the Sandpapergate in Cape Town made it bigger. The Australian captain’s conceding to the crime, saying the senior group was involved, made it worse.

These instances added up to make the issue so grave that the authorities had to call for a ban of players like the captain and vice-captain – something which has generally been seen with crimes like match-fixing. Now, with players getting banned even for ball tampering, the on-field surveillance will be stricter and players under more pressure to honor the game’s spirit.

Ball-tampering on the ground has not happened for the first time in history but never did it really alarm the cricketing world the way it did in Cape Town. CA deserves the credit for making a sweeping attempt to save the game from further fall.

The ban of a couple of exciting players would affect the game’s attraction as Smith was in the prime form of his career when he got the punishment. Twelve months of inaction might ruin his hunger for runs or might not. We never know. But the future of a couple of great talents became uncertain and that’s not an apt advertisement for cricket. A slip of human virtue indeed did the game of cricket a great harm.

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