The ICC will undertake a comprehensive review of its code of conduct following recent poor behaviour from players, which culminated in the ball-tampering scandal in the Cape Town Test between South Africa and Australia. Ball tampering, currently a level 2 offence, will most certainly be looked at more seriously in the new code of conduct. The review will seek to clearly define what the spirit of the game is, identify what acceptable behaviour is in clear terms and review whether the penalties in place for such offences are appropriate.
Such a review, the ICC CEO Dave Richardson said, was imminent but the recent events have necessitated urgent action. The matter was on the agenda at ICC meetings in April, but has now been fast-tracked. “We have seen a number of incidents of poor player behaviour in recent weeks including things like some ugly sledging, abusive language, send-offs, dissent against umpire decisions, we had a walk-off in the tri-series in Sri Lanka, and now this ball-tampering episode in the latest series,” Richardson said. “In fact player behaviour and player conduct was already on our agenda for the April meeting, but I think what happened in Cape Town has certainly created an additional sense of urgency that something needs to be done.”
A group that includes the ICC cricket committee, the MCC and former players who, according to the ICC, played the game in the right spirit will conduct this code-of-conduct review. Current players will also be part of the process.
“Players from the past that we think have epitmosied the way the game should be played Names that come to mind immediately are Allan Border, Anil Kumble, Shaun Pollock, Courtney Walsh these are all players that played with aggression, passion. Richie Richardson will be another one. He was brilliant when he was captain of West Indies. These are players that played with passion and aggression and determination but never ever overstepped the mark. Never were abusive. Never resorted to personal sledging. And – to my knowledge anyway – no tampering of the ball.”
Richardson said he was taken aback by the enormity of the reaction the specific incident of ball-tampering has received. “It has been an eye-opener for me that, ‘Hang on, ball-tampering around the world is considered cheating.’ And if we are going to take the attitude that everyone does it, if we allow a little bit of lip balm on occasion, raise the quarter seam on another, then where do we draw the line? Is that okay and using sandpaper is not? We probably need to look at it again. Let’s be absolutely clear what we mean when we say ball tampering is not allowed. And what we mean by ball-tampering.”
Richardson admitted the penalty available for ball-tampering in this instance – maximum of a one-Test ban for captain Steven Smith – sort of handicapped the ICC a little. He said that was not the case when the playing conditions were first formulated. “It is only subsequently that we have come to realise that, ‘Hang on, the world, not only Australia, regards ball-tampering in a very serious light. That, I think we identified as, the need to look at the level of the penalty imposed specific to ball tampering.”
TEARS & REGRETS
I just want to say I’m sorry for the pain that I’ve brought to Australia and the fans and the public,” he said. “It’s devastating and I’m truly sorry.
For former Australia cricket captain Steve Smith, it was reality television at its most heart-wrenchingly real. Having lost the captaincy after a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, Smith returned to Australia on Thursday night and broke down several times in nationally-televised news conference at Sydney airport. Smith started crying as he reflected on the effect his involvement in a ball-tampering plot in the Cape Town Test last weekend had on his parents, and he apologised for the pain he brought on to them and to the Australian public. In his first public comments following his 12-month ban from the Australian cricket team, Smith took responsibility for the scandal that has rocked the sport in Australia.
It has been a tumultuous 24 hours for Smith, who left South Africa in disgrace after being sent home by Cricket Australia. At Johannesburg airport, he was led through the international terminal by up to six police and security guards, hearing boos and taunts of “cheater” from a crowd that had gathered at the airport. David Warner used the social media to issue an apology while still in the air. Smith, wearing a sports jacket and drawing deep breaths as he spoke, addressed the fans and the children of Australia who wanted to know why he’d cheated. “First, I’m deeply sorry. I love the game of cricket. I love kids wanting to play the great game of cricket that I love,” he said. “Any time you’re thinking of making a questionable decision. Think about who you’re affecting.”
“You’re affecting your parents. To see the way my old man has been …,” Smith, stopping briefly to cry, continued. “… and my mum. It hurts.”
Smith said as the captain of the Australian team, he had to “take full responsibility.” “I made a serious error of judgment and I know and understand the consequences,” he said. “It was a failure of my leadership. I will do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it has caused. If any good can come from this, then I hope I can be a force for change. “I will regret this for the rest of my life, I am absolutely gutted, I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness.”
Nearly 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) west, an emotional Bancroft apologized at Perth, Western Australia and said he will forever regret his role in the episode that resulted in 12-month bans for team leaders Smith and Warner and a nine-month ban for him. Warner was scheduled to arrive back in Sydney late Thursday night, but was not planning to speak to the media. “Not a second has gone by when I wish I could turn back time. It is something I will regret for the rest of my life,” Bancroft said. “All I can do in the short term is to ask for forgiveness.”
“The thing that breaks my heart is that I have given up my spot in the team for free,” Bancroft said, holding back tears. “People know I worked so hard to get to this point in my career and to have given up that chance is devastating.”
“I lied about the sandpaper,” Bancroft explained. “I panicked in that situation. I’m embarrassed by that. I have never ever been involved in tampering with the ball and it clearly compromises my values and what I stand for as a player and as a person.” Warner, who has lost two sponsors already, posted a statement on Twitter and Instagram to say he is on his way back to Australia from South Africa and added: “You will hear from me in a few days.” “Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket. I apologize for my part and take responsibility for it,” he said. “I understand the distress this has caused the sport and its fans.”
Smith won’t be considered eligible to regain the Test captaincy for at least two years, Cricket Australia said. Warner will never again be considered for a leadership role in an Australian team.