David Warner, variously labelled as ‘maverick’, ‘rebel’, ‘loose cannon’, ‘kaboom kid’ etc, will not go down quietly. That must be a major worry as Cricket Australia seek time to announce the punishment even as Warner has been identified as mastermind of the cheating episode that has taken world cricket by storm.
CA could be working on ways and means to control him and limit the damage that will inevitably follow once further dirty linen is washed in public. This may also be the reason why coach Darren Lehmann is, incredibly, yet to face the press.
Logically, Lehmann ought to have been eager to clear the air as soon his team’s cheating ways were exposed. But there is always the lurking feeling that Warner could sing and thereby throw up contradictions galore to whatever Lehmann had to say.
Whatever Cricket Australia’s or Lehmann’s quandary, should Indian Premier League authorities — and this includes Committee of Administrators — wait for Australia to pass sentence before swinging into action?
Make no mistake; the game of cricket has been brought into disrepute by Australia’s nefarious ‘teamwork’. The Board of Control for Cricket in India as custodians of cricket in India have a huge responsibility to safeguard the interests of Indian cricket. They ought to ensure that the IPL is not seen as a refuge for cheats.
Over the years, IPL’s popularity has grown by leaps and bounds as can be gauged by the enhanced sums of money that television deals, sponsorship and allied activities have attracted. But at the same time it has also been hit by a series of scandals ranging from spot-fixing, betting, assault, franchise suspensions, etc.
In all these cases, BCCI and IPL were forced to take action against the transgressors and these interventions, in turn, have driven up the value of the property.
The current situation, where the ‘leadership group’ of Steve Smith and Warner were guilty of plotting and executing ball-tampering activities in the Cape Town Test presents IPL with an excellent opportunity to do some much-needed image building.
The IPL Governing Council will be seen as being proactive if it bans the duo instantly from this year’s IPL for the disrepute they have brought to the game. That would send a message to other players to watch out as IPL would hit them where it hurts most — their pockets!
Make no mistake, a ban for a Test or two is chicken feed compared to the hit these players would take if they were kept out of an IPL season. Smith and Warner are paid Rs 12.5 crore apiece by their franchises, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad, respectively. This is apart from sponsorship and endorsements deals. And all these for just 45 days of work.
In contrast, Cricket Australia’s annual contract is worth just Rs 6 crore for Smith and Rs 4.5 crore for Warner. The one Test ban announced by ICC will make them poorer by a mere Rs 8.5 lakh only!
Of course, the IPL Governing Council and CoA can sit on their haunches and simply pass the buck onto CA to take action against the ball doctors. But that would not only mean inaction but also an inability to do some serious image building at an opportune time.
Alternately, if Smith and Warner are banned for 12 months they would be free from their CA contracts and thus become ‘free agents’ who can peddle their wares to T20 leagues around the world without having to wait for CA’s ‘no-objection’ certificates.
But this would mean rewarding them for stabbing cricket in the back.
The world of T20 leagues are far more lucrative, though none, not even the Big Bash, offers anything close to IPL in terms of player fees.
Many cricketers, Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Brendon McCullum and many others chose to retire from representing their countries just to keep their powder dry for the IPL season. It would be a shame if Smith and Warner are also allowed to take that path.
Further, BCCI and IPL need to focus on the kind of role models they are providing for Indian kids. Smith and Warner have let down millions of their followers in India and must thus be made to pay the price for not having played according to the Laws and Spirit of the Game.
Revoking their IPL contract will teach them and others who may be tempted to stray, that it does not pay to cheat.
As for Lehmann, if a major cheating operation could take place under his watch without his knowledge, he probably is in the wrong profession. Either way he and the duo of Smith and Warner must be told they have no place in IPL.