On the Australian Ball Tampering

I’m actually hoping this is true:

Former England captain Michael Vaughan is “pretty sure” Australia were ball-tampering during their 4-0 Ashes series victory in the winter.

I’m also hoping this ball tampering goes back to the 2013/4 Ashes when England got smashed 5-0, and even further to the 1990s when we could barely win a match. It would at least explain why we were so shite, other than the fact we weren’t much good at batting, bowling, and fielding. Being a little more serious, even if this ball tampering had occurred in previous games, I doubt it would have made a difference to the result.

So let’s talk about the incident itself. If the Australian cricket team had set out to destroy their reputation, it’s hard to see what they’d have done differently. Firstly, the idea that sticking dirt to a piece of tape and rubbing it on the ball would make a noticeable difference to the result is laughable. Even sandpapering it probably wouldn’t help. Sure, you might get some reverse swing but South Africa were all over Australia in the bowling department as well. It’s the sort of thing that might nick you a wicket but is hardly going to turn the game in your favour. So the actual plan itself was stupid.

Secondly, who the hell thought it was a good idea to try something like this with bright yellow tape in an era where 30 high-definition cameras watch every player for every second of the match, and each frame is scrutinised by millions of people who, by virtue of being cricket fans, have way too much time on their hands to begin with? It’s an idea so monumentally stupid both in intent and execution that it could only have come from an Australian cricketer. The culprits have been narrowed down to Steven Smith and David Warner, with the latter looking the more likely to be the brains behind the scheme. Tell me, does Warner look like the sort of chap you’d rely on to come up with a cunning plan of devilish ingenuity? Or does he look like someone who is too thick to know to come in from the rain?

I’ve always had a soft spot for Smith, ever since I saw interviews with him playing for Pune Warriors in the IPL. He came across as a decent sort of fellow, if a little dim, and he grew into a splendid batsman. However, he has handled this episode about as badly as possible. Leaving aside the stupidity of the plan, he should never have allowed a rookie like Cameron Bancroft to be involved, let alone take a leading role. Bancroft is 25 years old and was playing in only his 8th test. His career is now over before it properly began, and he probably agreed to it because he looked up to the likes of Warner and Smith and trusted them. As a professional sportsman he should have known better, but it is easy to see how peer pressure from senior players exerted itself.

What then made matters ten times worse is Smith shoving Bancroft in front of the cameras for a live interview to explain himself. It’s hard to think of a worse example of leadership than this. Smith should have walked out there alone and taken the entire blame himself, stating clearly that he instructed Bancroft to do it. Instead he let Bancroft stutter and stammer his way through a surprisingly frank explanation before wibbling on about how it was the decision of players in a “leadership group”. Clearly Smith is well versed in modern management practices whereby blame is dispersed among a vague and largely anonymous committee, but this wasn’t the time or place to deploy such a technique. He needed to have put his hands in the air and taken the hit for the entire team, limiting the damage done to the rest of them – especially junior players like Bancroft. As further evidence Smith would fit in well in any modern corporation, he used the interview to absolve his boss, the coach Darren Lehmann, of all blame even though it is inconceivable that he knew nothing about it. Even if he didn’t, Lehmann helped appointed these clowns to the team and allowed such a culture to develop, and therefore should shoulder a portion of the blame. So Smith had proved himself to be an absolutely shameful captain off the pitch, even if he wasn’t bad on it. Say what you like about Alistair Cook’s captaincy, but you can’t imagine him doing something like this. He’d rather lose the match by an innings, and Lord knows he probably even got used to doing so.

Which brings us to David Warner. I have written before about how I think Warner is an ignorant, classless, hypocritical piece of shit and my views of him were confirmed this series even before the ball tampering incident. Having spent half the match hurling abuse at Quinton de Kock, he cried foul when the South African keeper retaliated with a jibe about Warner’s wife. Cue outrage that de Kock had “crossed the line”, that arbitrary boundary between fair and foul that nobody but Australians can see and moves according to their whims, always in their favour. Hypocritical doesn’t even begin to describe it. In the post I link to above, I said of Warner:

Crying over the loss of a mate is fine, fella.  But not after you’ve strutted around like the schoolyard bully gobbing off about how tough you are while mocking fellow batsmen whose mind obviously isn’t quite right.

This article makes broadly the same point:

Cricket fans don’t mind rebels and they don’t mind do-gooders but they do struggle to accept it when they come in the one self-righteous, flip-flopping, two-toned package.

In the comments under my earlier post, Michael Jennings remarked that the rot in Australian cricket set in under Ponting, and I’d probably agree. There was a time when Australian cricketers really did deserve to be admired. William of Ockham rightly criticises the lack of sportsmanship and “win and all costs” mentality that Allan Border’s team brought to the game, but few can doubt that Border, Boon, Taylor, Healy, and Waugh were pretty tough guys who could back their words up with action. There then followed a quite incredible team which dominated world cricket for years, and elevated Australian players to almost mythical status: Langer, Hadyen, Ponting, Warne, Gilchrist, McGrath. But the team that came after were not as good, and Ponting was an awful captain. The team that came after them was worse still, and Michael Clarke was more of a preening metrosexual (albeit a handy batsman) than a rough-arse Allan Border type. As successive teams’ abilities and fortunes declined, they found themselves out of whack with the hype that surrounded them, foisted on the players by a public who’d deluded themselves into thinking the legendary status earned by Warne & Co. was permanent. Worse than that, both the players and public thought they were entitled to such status merely by pulling on the baggy green, before they’d even stepped onto the pitch.

The celebrity status bestowed on the players (reinforced by the ludicrous posturing over the death of Philip Hughes) and the money from TV deals, combined with the entitlement mentality, ushered in a culture of almost zero accountability. Australian cricketers were free to strut their stuff, demanding this and rejecting that, confident they would get their way regardless of how they performed with bat and ball. Granted not every player succumbed to this, but the whole setup reeked of it. It was only in an environment where weak management answered to over-entitled players that someone like Warner could be appointed vice-captain of the national team. The players’ pay dispute, and Warner’s behaviour during it, should have served as a warning but it went unheeded. It is only under this environment that this ball tampering incident could have occurred; a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable.

The behaviour of Australia’s cricketers over the past decade has slowly eroded much of the goodwill foreigners and even many Australians had towards their team, especially when performances were dire (as they often were). It’s why so many are piling on now, basking in schadenfreude as the likes of Warner finally get their comeuppance. I must confess I’m one of them, but I’m disappointed for Smith and feel rather sorry for Bancroft. What pleases me most, though, is that South Africa smashed them in the second and third tests and the whole episode serves as a handy distraction from England’s abysmal performance in New Zealand. Gulp.

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29 thoughts on “On the Australian Ball Tampering

  1. Great post.
    Just not sure about the Cameron Bancroft is “only” 25 narrative that is developing. Sure he was younger and less experienced than Smith and co, but 25 is not exactly a child. Although I do agree he shouldn’t have been made to do the press conference with Smith.
    Oh, and the shadenfreude at seeing the Aussies grovel is delicious.

  2. Warner, supreme hypocrite, is on record saying how disgraceful ball tampering is.

  3. Sure he was younger and less experienced than Smith and co, but 25 is not exactly a child.

    True, but he’s Australian and so we need to dock at least 10 years of maturity off him. /snark

    More seriously, 25 isn’t young but he was “young” in the sense his international career was only just starting. I’m sure his inexperience and awe of the more senior players would have played some part, even if the daft sod ought to have known better. I’m hugely disappointed Nathan Lyon was part of this leadership group, I’d thought better of him.

  4. Someone decided to make David Warner vice-captain. That means someone, at least one senior person, had the utterly colossal lack of judgement to think that Warner was captaincy material.

    Just think on that. Even before this ball-tampering incident, the evidence was piling up in drifts about what a cunt this man was, and not even an intelligent, cunning one either, but a brainless one.

    They put him in a leadership position?

    Whoever made that decision should be shown the door.

  5. Hey, not sure if it was Lyon or Warner who said pre-Ashes that he wanted to “kill” the England players. I can’t find a link, but given that these people actually had one of their own team killed on the pitch it is just a staggering lack of judgement. These people are colossally stupid.

  6. These people are colossally stupid.

    That’s the bottom line of it, yes. Warne had smarts, even if he’d often get in trouble. Jason Gillespie is far from stupid, as his coaching career has shown. Every team needs someone with a brain somewhere. Australia’s cricket team haven’t had one for years.

  7. “I’m also hoping this ball tampering goes back to the 2013/4 Ashes when England got smashed 5-0, and even further to the 1990s when we could barely win a match”

    2013-14 maybe. Not the 1990s. Why? David Warner.

    >Firstly, the idea that sticking dirt to a piece of tape and rubbing it on the ball would make a noticeable difference to the result is laughable. Even sandpapering it probably wouldn’t help.

    Inept doesn’t begin to cover it, which is why I doubt the Australians are experienced masters of this art. (Warner excepted, with his suspicious hand bandages.)

    >What then made matters ten times worse is Smith shoving Bancroft in front of the cameras for a live interview to explain himself.

    Bancroft did it, he can explain himself. Like Jimmers I think this whole ‘he was only 25’ explanation is BS. Sure he felt pressured to do it by the team leaders, and I accept that as Warner’s opening partner, Warner probably had a hold over him — one word from Warner to the selectors and he may have been out. But 25 isn’t young. (I think in a few years anyone under 30 will be classed as too young to make a decision for themself, yet the voting age will have gone down to 14).

    >Michael Jennings remarked that the rot in Australian cricket set in under Ponting, and I’d probably agree.

    I don’t really agree, Ponting is a decent guy and is a cricket man through and through. He may not be an Alistair Cook, but he’s not a win-at-all-costs-guy, the spirit of the game means something to him.

    Warner is the cancer at the heart of the team. It was always weird that NSW refused to pick him for state games, choosing players like Peter Forrest instead, who never went on to do anything, even though the Australian board wanted NSW to pick him for 4-day cricket. It took a few years for NSW to start playing him in 4-day cricket, and I think he’d already made the Australian 20-20 side (and maybe even the one-day side) at that stage. The supposed reason was that NSW didn’t see him as longer format player, but everyone could see that he was better than most of the other NSW players at that format. I think we know now why they didn’t like him. Nobody in Australia likes him. Except kids, who just see the swinging bat.

  8. >As further evidence Smith would fit in well in any modern corporation, he used the interview to absolve his boss, the coach Darren Lehmann, of all blame even though it is inconceivable that he knew nothing about it.

    I totally agree with your comments about modern corprorations, but I’m not sure about this bit, because Lehmann isn’t Smith’s boss. Lehmann couldn’t have sacked Smith. He can’t even really tell him what to do. If anything, Smith is above Lehmann, because he could have had Lehmann sacked just by saying he doesn’t think he can work with him, whereas Lehmann couldn’t have done that to Smith. (If Lehmann had told the ACB that it’s Smith or me, then he would have been the one packing his bags.)

    >I’m hugely disappointed Nathan Lyon was part of this leadership group, I’d thought better of him.

    The latest ruling suggests he wasn’t a part of this (although it’s hard to believe the senior players didn’t know what was going on). But Lyon’s a bit of a turd, I think. Look at the way he’s been strutting around with his new young blonde girldfriend in his ripped jeans and sports car after dumping his wife and kids. Looks like his success has gone to his head.

  9. Look at the way he’s been strutting around with his new young blonfe girldfriend in his ripped jeans and sports car after dumping his wife and kids. Looks like his success has gone to his head.

    Oh, I didn’t know that. Doesn’t that just typify the whole malaise I’m talking about?

    And thanks for your other comments, too.

  10. I wouldn’t give Steve Waugh a free pass – he was the one who invented the term ‘mental disintegration’ remember? Aussie teams have always liked a sledge, but Waugh was the one who took it to the next level, not just a reactive thing to a fleeting moment in the game, but a conscious strategy to target psychologically certain opposition players on and off the field constantly before and during the series.

    Everyone goes on about Waugh and his promoting of the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ code, what they forget is that it was inspired by the actions of Waugh’s team over the previous years – culminating in the infamous McGrath/Sarwan confrontation, where McGrath, having asked Sarwan what Brian Lara’s dick tasted like, got the reply ‘Ask your wife’ and went mental and had to be dragged away by his team mates. Admittedly his wife was very ill at the time, but even so, don’t dish it out if you can’t take the comeback. Waugh only got ‘fair play religion’ after he stopped playing Test cricket, during his career he never restrained his team.

    Where Australia went wrong was not picking Gilchrist as captain when Waugh retired, and going for the petulant child that was Ponting. Gilchrist was a true upholder of cricket fair play, to the extent of walking when he knew he’d hit the ball but been given not out by the umpire, in a World Cup semi-final I think. If he had been the captain of that wonder team of the mid 00s the culture in Australian cricket would have been far different. Instead they got Ponting who was quite happy to let the sledging (and other on field cheating) continue.

  11. Baldrick, I have a cunning plan!

    Heh! Warner makes Baldrick look like Keyser Söze!

  12. It was an outright doozy, and they got caught, it really is laughable, except that the kids do need to know the difference from right and wrong and here lies the fundamental reason why this type of behaviour can never under any circumstance be somehow condoned in any manner at any level.

    So embarrassingly sad and failed school yard and sport field pranks aside. Smith broke the unbreakable golden rule as Tim has mentioned, he should have taken the wrap, but he said the leadership team, he dobbed them in right there and then and and tried to spread responsibility, turned queens so to speak, other than being the cringeworthy ringleader in the questionable sandpapergate farce he is all of a sudden mortlasied and immediately suspect in the eyes of the average Aussie, is Steve Smith just a spoiled brat, lucky as fuck good batsman or is he deep down inside a weak dobbing wranger?

    The only winner here is Australian Cricket for the professional way they are handling this monumental international embarrassment. The Saffas are still a bunch of cunts and the Joburg test should be a cauldron.

    The perpetrators will all be back, Warner will continue to boganise the uppity, Bancroft will be fine and regretfully Smith can now never match Bradman even if he does on the scoreboard, Bradman never cheated.

  13. “Heh! Warner makes Baldrick look like Keyser Söze!”

    Just imagine that you were born a little short, had a small cock, were a bit dumb and didn’t feel knocks to the head and that your wife shagged Sonny Bill Williams in a Sydney hotel bathroom one hour after meeting him and photos of the moment were spread across the media. Is it any wonder he goes to defcon 1 at any mention of his wife Candices lust for muscle cock, can we hold this attraction against him?

    I kind of understand why he is the way he is, but if he wants to shed his wifes record then best he stops trying to bash up folk that bring it up.

    It is also a documented fact that Sonny Bill brought up every single newspaper in his NZ village in a bold effort that his fiance wouldn’t find out about his steamy sex tryst with Candice in the Clovelly Hotel.

  14. Yeah, I was discussing this over email the other day. Warner’s obviously married the town bike, who has a thing for celebrity sportsmen. Not exactly the type of woman anyone sensible would marry but if you’re going to, you’d better be prepared to cop some flak over it. This is especially the case if you’re going to go around shooting your mouth off trying to wind people up. He should have learned to laugh it off, or not done anything to make anyone bring it up, or both.

  15. @Bardon “The Saffas are still a bunch of cunts and the Joburg test should be a cauldron.”.Hey, I resemble that remark!! But, you are right. I do think Warner asked for the comments about his wife. Apparently he was “teasing” de Kock about his surname, his mother and his sister. Really adult stuff. A grade 5 boy would have been ashamed of it. De Kock then told him that he had heard Warner’s wife liked rugby players and she should enjoy SA as we had lots of them.

  16. De Kock then told him that he had heard Warner’s wife liked rugby players and she should enjoy SA as we had lots of them.

    😀

  17. Still doesn’t explain a cunt struck Sonny Bill outside of concussion, thinking he good buy up every single newspaper in town to stop his missus finding out about it, although maybe he could have got away with it in NZ?

  18. Yeah, well nobody accused SBW of having brains either. Not that British Lions fans are complaining, him being daft enough to get himself sent off in the second test, costing his side the match and denying them a series win.

  19. Turns out it was sandpaper, not sticky tape.

    Then Bancroft lied in the interview about something that was bound to quickly come out anyway. Does such ineptness cancel out your reduction?

  20. We were all young and rambunctious once and some of the best sex that I ever had was shagging birds in toilets, I have so many fond memories of this kind of thing but also have an equal sense of relief that they all belong to someone else these days.

    Back in the day would I have shagged her, yes I admit that I would have, but boy do I thank my lucky stars that I never married her or any others that I did shag like that.

    Would be interested to know if any others here before they were hitched would have shagged her or not under the circumstances?

    See her picture below, just before SJW had her, I have the video but wont post in here in respect of Tim and his sheltered upbringing.

    Link here

  21. “Turns out it was sandpaper, not sticky tape. ”

    Which is what I said from the word go. What Bancroft was caught sticking down his trousers was stiff (ooh er missus), like sandpaper, not ‘tape’ which by any stretch of the imagination is more flexible (and useless for trying to abrade a cricket ball).

    So in fact this whole thing just got a lot more serious – instead of a silly spur of the moment inept plot to doctor the ball with ‘tape’ and dirt, its now something a bit more industrial that required planning – who has sandpaper in their cricket bag? You can’t exactly wander out of the ground during the game to the nearest hardware store and ask for some 40 grit sandpaper please. And then they barefaced lied about what they were doing, to try and make it look like a one off.

    I reckon this has been going on for ages, definitely during the Ashes. I reckon Warner latched onto Bancroft about the time of the Headbutt incident with Bairstow – Bancroft gave Warner (and the rest of the team) something to destabilise the England team, and I reckon he got drawn into the machinations of the senior players at that point. It was noticeable that Warner came out before this series started and publicly backed Bancroft to come good, despite a bad patch of form in latter stages of the Ashes, and early warm up games in SA.

    And if it has been going on for some time, then the question is how many of the rest of the team knew what was going on? This sort of thing can’t be kept secret from your own team mates, they’re going to twig. Especially the bowlers for Gods sake, they’re looking at that ball 6 times an over. They’ll spot if its gone from a new ball to a moon crater inside 15 to 20 overs.

  22. Actually sandpaper is something you should have in your cricket bag, I do (and I only go to the local nets with my son these days), along with super glue, for bat repairs. Put glue in the crack, sandpaper it so that the wood dust gets mixed up with the glue, then whack it a few times with a mallet.

    But I agree the tampering was clearly planned, and long-standing. The only reason Warner stopped being chief- ball-polisher was because there was suspicion about the bandages he always has across his hands, but never needed when he was batting.

  23. Incidentally reverse swing is a weird thing – years before it was ever in the public domain I reckon I did it entirely by accident. I was bowling in the nets with a really old ball, and it was swinging perfectly, really dangerous late swing, not the sort that goes straight from the hand and usually ends up wide one side or the other, but when you bowl the ball straight for 2/3rd of the pitch, then it swings. But the thing I couldn’t understand was when I held the ball shiny side left, for my inswinger, it swung out, and vice versa. I couldn’t understand it at all. I had a great net, cleaned up several of the senior players, but never realised what I was doing……..

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