In November, 1984, Kim Hughes the Australian captain at the time, sat in the front of the media and with tears rolling down his cheeks tried his best to read out his resignation. Halfway through his statement, he walked out. Hughes had not committed a cricketing sin, nor had he brought the game into disrepute, nor had he cheated in any way form or manner. He was just emotionally drained by the burden of captaincy. But despite not committing any offence, he felt the desire to resign for the sake of the cricket loving nation.
Then there is Steve Smith. He is the captain of the Australian team. Only a couple of months ago, he was being compared to Australia’s greatest cricketing hero – Donald Bradman. Now he is facing a backlash from a nation that demands him to be sacked after admitting to blatantly deriving a plan with his senior teammates to tamper the condition of the ball to ascertain unfair advantage in a cricket match. To put it bluntly, he ‘cheated’.
But despite committing an offense, he bravely sat in front of the media and told the cameras that he should still remain the Australian captain. There is courage involved in admitting your mistake, but then to simply dismiss it as a one off mistake and still have the belief to state that he is the best man to represent the country as a leader is a sign of his and the Australian cricket team’s arrogance and egotism.
Twelve months ago, he had admitted to looking at the Australian dressing room for a DRS decision. At the time Indian captain, Virat Kohli had alleged him of cheating. Smith apologised and called it a ‘brain fade’ and described his unsavoury actions as a heat of the moment deed. He was forgiven, even the match referee failed to fine him. At the end of the series against India last year, he admitted his actions had got the better of him and he had to tidy up his act.
Fast forward to 2018 and nothing has changed. Along with coach, Darren Lehmann, Smith has been sliding this current team on the path of arrogance. Instead of fixing the image of his team, he has directed them towards the path of the "ugly Australians".
Smith should be immediately sacked or asked to step down as the leader of the nation. No amount of runs, no amount of bravery should prevent him from losing his captaincy role.
Smith is not the only one to blame for his actions. His deputy, David Warner and coach Lehmann need to pay the price for it as well. The fact that no senior member or the leadership group even stopped Smith or Cameron Bancroft from indulging in the act of ball-tampering is an indication of the pitiable mentality of the Australian dressing room.
The fact that it was a well scripted plan to cheat is disgusting, and shows the lack of respect Smith and those involved have for the game of cricket.
For a while now the culture of the current Australian team under the leadership of Smith has been diminishing. There has been no effort made to control the sledging, as evident in the opening Test of the South Africa series when Warner was allowed to hurl abuses at his opponents without Smith objecting.
Even in the ongoing Test match, the minute Australians realised that they lacked the skill to dismiss AB De Villiers, they started targeting him with a series of verbal volleys. This is all a part of a pre-conceived plan that has constantly led to the debate of pushing the ‘line of control’ in terms of sledging.
The fact that Australia orchestrate such acts does not imply they decide on the nature of the line. For a while now the Australians have been guilty of constantly probing this line and defending their own teammates. In this instance, there is no issue of defence, they have openly admitted to cheating. It is a sinful act in any sport, and the ramifications should be severe.
Smith has to be sacked or be asked to step aside. Warner’s behaviour has been appalling in recent times and the fact that he has also played a role in devising a plan to cheat the system means he too should be stripped of the vice-captaincy and never be allowed to captain Australia in any format.
Finally, there is Lehmann, the coach, the man who should be responsible for the acts of his players. Instead of controlling them, he has allowed them the license to play a brand of cricket that he deems as ‘tough cricket’. But as evident from the ball-tampering, there is no toughness, it is simply a cowardly act.
Given the way Lehmann loves to make his presence felt in the dressing room, it seems remotely impossible that he was unaware of the plan to tamper the ball. Either he was naive to it, or he simply wasn’t doing his job. Which begs the question — why should he remain the Australian coach?
The trio has tarnished the image of Australian cricket and this episode of ball-tampering presents an ideal opportunity for Cricket Australia to start from scratch by instilling a new captain, new coach and then set its priority to playing the game in an appropriate manner.