Let Cricket Remain A Sport Of Skill

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PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 12: Steven Smith (capt) of Australia at the post press conference after day 4 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at St Georges Park on March 12, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Sport. It’s passionate, nervy, exhilarating, tense and a whole lot more. Two opponents trying to get one over the other. When skill is the difference between the two, you stand and up applaud the superiority. When it is controversy, you tend to forget the result and focus on what spoiled it.

Cricket is a Gentleman’s Game. 22 players representing their countries, trying to ensure that their nation’s flag flies high at the end of the contest. Here are a few instances that have brought the game and the spirit of competition into disrepute in the recent past:

1. ‘Mintgate’ – Hobart, 2016

The spotlight fell firmly on South African captain Faf du Plessis and for all the wrong reasons. He was at the centre of a ball-tampering allegation when he was found guilty of applying saliva from a mint on the ball during the second Test against Australia.

While du Plessis denied these claims, stating that there is a difference between ball shining and ball tampering, he was fined 100% of his match fees and received three demerit points after the ICC investigated the footage of the incident from the match. Australian captain Steven Smith defended du Plessis after the saga. England’s Alastair Cook pleaded the ICC to be clearer on ball-tampering rules, saying there were a lot of “grey areas” in the guidelines.
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2. The DRS Row – Bengaluru, 2017

In the headline bilateral Test series of last year, controversy was available on demand, and it took a bizarre moment to send this Test series into complete frenzy. Steven Smith, given out LBW in the second innings of the Second Test, looked at his dressing room for a brief moment before reviewing the decision.

This, however, is not allowed under the ICC rules. The damage though was done. The umpires then were in the middle of telling Smith to go back to the dressing room before Indian Captain Virat Kohli intervened which led to animated discussions. Internet opinion and social media trolls had already run into overdrive.

Smith called it as a “Brain-Fade” on his part in the post-match press-conference, whereas Kohli stopped short of calling Smith a “cheater” but did say such an incident happened twice and did not qualify to be called as a “Brain-Fade”. Smith did come out and said these claims were absolute rubbish. ICC did not take any action against the two great but firey batsmen and captains.

3. The Mocking Shoulder – Ranchi, 2017

The very next Test of the series, tempers seemed to be out of control. During Australia’s first innings, Virat Kohli injured his right shoulder while trying to prevent a boundary. When India were batting in their first innings, Glenn Maxwell, took a dig at Kohli. While fielding and stopping a boundary, Maxwell started holding his right shoulder to show as if he was in pain, just like Kohli earlier, which certainly did not go down well in the Indian camp.

Maxwell, who scored his maiden Test hundred in the first innings, went a little ahead of himself and fired up Kohli. In the Australian second innings, while trailing by 152 runs, Kohli returned the favour. He started his tapping his right shoulder ferociously when Ravindra Jadeja dismissed David Warner on the fourth evening. Both these reactions were uncalled for and the ICC still did not take any action.

4. Spot-Fixing Strikes Again – UAE, 2017

In the previous season of Pakistan’s T20 competition, the Pakistan Super League(PSL), spot fixing claims resurfaced to rock Pakistan Cricket. The Pakistan Cricket Board(PCB), first suspended and then banned six cricketers after match-fixing allegations were uncovered in a PSL game.

The six men in question, Sharjeel Khan, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shahzaib Hasan and Khalid Latif, out of them, five have represented the national team, were punished by the board’s anti-corruption code, backed by the ICC.┬áThe incident came to light when Sharjeel, Latif and Irfan were questioned by the anti-corruption sboard, with the PSL Chairman claiming to have evidence of alleged bookie-cricketers link.

Irfan and Jamshed were banned for one year. Sharjeel was found guilty of five counts of the charges and banned for five years. Latif also got the same punishment. Nawaz was suspended too, for two months, for not reporting suspect bookie approach.
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5. The Overturned Appeal – Port Elizabeth, 2018

In one of the most talked about events of 2018 so far, South Africa and Australia found themselves in the limelight yet again. Kagiso Rabada was the focus of this event. Trailing 0-1 in the four match Test series, Rabada displayed a lot of aggression in the second Test. His aggression though got just a little too much for his own good.

In the first innings, Rabada dismissed Steven Smith and while letting out his emotions, Rabada, first shouting ‘Yes!’ in Smith’s face multiple times, ended up making contact with Smith’s shoulders, which is not allowed in any sense under the Code of Conduct. What followed was another event of its own.

After the end of the Test, the ICC suspended Rabada for two Tests and handed three demerit, which took his tally to eight points in a 24-month period which warranted for an automatic two Test suspension, after the investigation found him of deliberately pushing Smith. Rabada and South Africa challenged the decision and were able to overturn the decision after the hearing committee said they were not ‘convinced’ of deliberate contact by Rabada. Rabada was cleared to play and took four wickets in the first innings of the ongoing third Test in Cape Town.

6. Sandgate? – Cape Town, 2018

The ongoing Test series saw its biggest saga yet and it has led to further criticism of the Australian players, who have been questioned for their character throughout this series. Young opener Cameron Bancroft on the third day of the third Test was caught on cameras using adhesive tape to pick up some rough earth from the pitch.┬áThe incident took place during the afternoon session and was picked up on by TV cameras. A small, yellow object was seen in Bancroft’s hands after he had worked on the ball, and he was also captured taking it from his pocket and placing it down his trousers. The footage showed Bancroft rubbing the rough side of the ball, the opposite side to which he would usually be trying to shine on his trousers.

Some footage also showed coach Darren Lehmann and substitute Peter Handscomb over walkie talkie. In the post day’s play press conference, Bancroft and captain Steven Smith “admitted” to ball-tampering, saying it was desperation which led the Aussies to do such a thing. Pundits and experts have called upon the team to own up for the incident. How ICC decides to act upon this incident is yet to be seen.

While we love the gentleman’s game, it is clear that the game has gone too far too many times. Expression, aggression and desperation seems to have to have taken over modern-day Cricket. It is in these times that the International Cricket Council must act swiftly and decisively to ensure that the players learn their lesson and such things are not repeated in the future, a job the ICC has not been able to do properly. Cricket is best when it is a competition between skill, not when it involves unsavoury elements.

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