In the background of Lord’s and at the covetous convention of former cricketers for the World Cricket Committee hosted by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), a former captain instead of coming down hard on the misdemeanors of his own compatriots seemed to suggest that his team were the brunt of example setting. While Ricky Ponting may consider the bans on Australian cricketers ‘shocking’ to the world, the world is not only more astounded by the incident itself but also, aghast by the actions coming from Australia months after the self-imposed penalties.
Using the background and platform of the MCC World Cricket Committee meeting, instead of denouncing the shameful actions of the Australian team in the course of the Cape Town Test in March earlier this year, the former Australian captain instead threw out a familiar line that has been towed by many an Australian cricketer blissfully blind with it comes to his own reflection in the mirror.
Even as the International Cricket Council (ICC) mulls greater penalties for players, teams as well as cricket boards for increasing infringements on the code of conduct rules that include ball tampering or the application of illegal substances to the ball, the saga of the ball tampering incident involving the Australians refuses to die down as well as the complaining from Australian quarters about the treatment meted out to the Australian cricketers involved.
Stating that the world was ‘shocked’ by the lengthy bans imposed on the then Australian captain, Steven Smith, vice-captain, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft who did the dreadful deed of rubbing sandpaper onto the ball in clear violation of the code of conduct, Ricky Ponting seemed to suggest that the Australians got it tougher than most other players and teams who resorted to similar incidents of ball tampering.
It is not often that one can justify refuting an international cricketer and captain of the stature of Ricky Ponting. But given that his statements echo what has been a gripe in Australian cricket which is not reflected in the rest of the cricketing world, a few ‘shocking’ facts need to be pointed out which should sufficiently end the matter in the area of debate about whether the Australian players were at the receiving end of rather harsh and unfair punitive measures by their own board.
Australian cricketers, who have often claimed a holier-than-thou approach when it comes to berating those who cross the line as long as the players do not belong on their own turf, have been involved in a first-of-a-kind admission of guilt that has involved the leadership of the team. There were suggestions that the Australian cricketers were punished harshly because they ‘confessed’. That is another shocking statement given that the Australians were caught on camera blatantly violating the law and furthermore, made a shoddy effort at a cover up that was, also, captured on camera. That the Australian coach and those involved in relaying the message have been let off is even more appalling.
When Ponting claims that the one-year ban imposed on Smith and Warner and the nine-month ban imposed on Bancroft as shockingly harsh, Cricket Australia took it upon itself to hastily impose these penalties as if pre-empting the ICC who then sat back not wanting it to look like a case of double jeopardy. However, there would always been a backdoor as was accorded to Mark Waugh and Shane Warne in the past. The world is not shocked by the bans as much as it is shocked by the fact that while the Pakistan players – Mohammad Aamir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt – was banned from the game for lengthier durations over the offence of spot fixing – were not allowed to play any legalized form of cricket, Warner and Smith are making merry in Twenty20 leagues around the world, barring the Indian Premier League, despite the very notion of the ban. How can Cricket Australia or even the ICC explain this?
Ponting should have instead used such a halo platform in the backdrop of the veritable Mecca of cricket, Lord’s, to ask: what message is Cricket Australia trying to send across to the rest of the cricket world by superseding the ICC only so that it can then brazenly allow these players time in an actual legal cricket match? And what is the ICC going to do about it?