Australia’s real leadership failures are in politics, not cricket

Cameron Bancroft (left) and Steve Smith, at a press conference in South Africa, at which they admitted to ball tampering.

Australian cricketer Cameron Bancroft has been caught on video shoving some yellow sticky tape into his underpants. Fortunately – or unfortunately – there was a cricket match in play at the time.

The image of him shoving sticky tape into his underpants was broadcast live to the crowd at the Newlands ground in South Africa, and they booed.

“I panicked quite a lot,” said Bancroft.

Understandably. While only Bancroft’s hands touched his underpants, he did not sticky tape alone. Indeed, a veritable sticky tape conspiracy has unspooled in South Africa, where Australia’s national cricket team are currently on tour. The tape was granulated with dirt, creating a sandpaper-like surface that a non-panicking person sensibly keeps far away from their underpants, but which an unscrupulous “win at all costs” team ethic guided towards the surface of a cricket ball held in Bancroft’s hand.

Bancroft – known as “Bangers” – admits: “We had a discussion during the break … I saw an opportunity … to change the conditions of the ball.” The aim was to get “an unresponsive ball to swing” or to damage the ball to the point that it would have to be replaced. The team captain, Steve Smith, has confessed he was in on the plan, concocted to provide the Australians an advantage.

Outrage has erupted. The Australian newspaper has described it as an act of “shameful ignominy”. Fairfax belted the hyperbole for six: “This is cricket’s #MeToo moment”, Malcolm Knox claimed, comparing Smith also to a drink-driver, a laughing stock, a pustulant infection and the Bjelke-Petersen era of Queensland policing. In the same piece, no less.

Quick guide

Ball tampering

Show Hide What is ball tampering?

When a member of the bowling team interferes with the condition of the ball with the primary aim of altering its aerodynamics.

Why would a bowler do that?

To gain an advantage over the batsman by making the ball swing more in the air, to achieve reverse swing or to degrade the ball to a point that a new one is required. New balls are favoured by fast bowlers as they move quicker and bounce more.

How can it be it done?

The ball can either be shined on one side – with the application of lip balm, saliva sweetened by a lolly, polish, sun cream or hair gel – or made more abrasive on the other – by scuffing the ball with a finger nail, rough paper, dirt or even teeth. The seam of the ball can also be picked.

Why is it considered cheating?

Ball tampering is outlawed by the Laws of Cricket. Under law 41, it is…

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