Steve Smith, you are a damn cheat! Do you think that we fans and spectators are stupid? And the fact that you were not charged for this appals me. As a passionate South African cricket fan and writer, I am beyond angry at the ICC. Let us just get one thing clear: the ICC is full of nonsense. Absolute bollocks! And I will tell you why I think so. Some people, who are just not keeping up with such serious matters like this, even though it is in cricket, will think that this situation is meaningless. Well, here we go in trying to understand the thinking of the ICC here.
What a test match it was though. In the first one, India had just come from a 333-run drubbing in their own flat, spinning-like-a-top track where they had been dominating visiting teams in tests to eventually climb to the number one rankings in the format. Historical win for the Australians to inflict such a beating, but that has gone out of the window once this incident occurred, and it was kind of a one-man show, in which Steve O’Keefe got twelve wickets at the end of the match to help his side to a win. This test series was just full of drama: from Matt Renshaw being looked down by retired Baggy Greens and his captain for ‘retiring hurt’ to go to the toilet during the first innings, to this cheating debacle. People were not kidding when they previewed this series by saying it will be interesting.
But back on topic now: the deceitful ways of an Australian player. Worse thing is that he is the captain. I will try and simplify it for you if you do not know what happened. Steve Smith was batting to try and save his team in the fourth innings of the second test match in Bengaluru, with Australia three wickets down very early in the innings. Umesh Yadav of India bowled an absolute peach to trap Smith for leg before wicket (lbw). Absolutely plumb, it was. Even if he had reviewed it, he was going to be out, and apparently the umpire thought so, too. Smith, now unsure whether or not he got a little bit of bat on the ball, consults with his non-striking partner, Peter Handscomb. Now here is where things start to get controversial. Handscomb suggests to Smith that he should ask the Aussie dressing room whether or not to review it.
As a captain, Smith should have stopped there straight away. It is stated in the ICC Code of Conduct, that is only read by umpires and match referees apparently, that you can only consult with your batting partner on whether or not you should review. It is simple as to why you should not ask the dressing room: they are also watching the game on their televisions and laptops for technical things players can look out for and work on etcetera. It’s basically cheating. It is almost like taking a test in high school and having a phone on you with the answers on it: unfair! The umpire saw this straight away and sent Smith off the field with him not even getting a chance to review the lbw. Rightfully so, Captain Virat Kohli of India was livid! He stated in the press conference that he had spoken to the umpires and match referee of this almost typical Australian doing of consulting the dressing room.
Steve Smith, I will ask you again: do you think for a second that fans are going to believe that it was a brain fade to consult the dressing room on whether or not you were out knowing full well you cannot do that? Again I ask, do you think we are incredibly stupid? Apparently the ICC and Cricket Australian Board (CAB) believe you because now they are not going to review this case, and the CAB have gone on to say to fans stating the obvious that this was unfair play are outrageous and wrong; and that he is a respected player amongst the team. It was almost as if they were not watching the same match as majority of the cricket fans in the world. Unlucky for him, the Australian cricket teams over the years have a slight reputation for cheating in matches and getting away with it. For example, Justin Langer in the late 90s had walked past a batsman’s stumps and knocked the bails off so that he could be ‘hit wicket’ out. ICC did not review the case even though there was clear evidence and footage that he did intentionally knock the bails off.
The reason this story irritates and angers me so much is because the very same ICC that fined Proteas test captain Faf du Plessis one hundred percent of his match fee for shining the ball with saliva while having a sweet in his mouth, is not going to fine Steve Smith for a more serious offence. There is no scientific proof of this, but it is said that sugar enhances the ball to swing more for bowlers, meaning more wickets to be taken. The Australians do love to clutch at straws when things do not go their way in a match. This is because this Mint-gate saga, as it was called, came from the Aussies media stating that it caused the South Africans to beat the Aussies in one of their worst-scoring game ever. The players and media acted all self-righteous in saying that Faf should have just followed the rules and not “tampered” with the ball, and that “rules are rules”. The very same teammates and blind Aussie fans that were discrediting and booing Faf respectively are now standing behind captain Smith for him to not get sanctioned and banned for something evident, stating it was an “honest mistake”.
As a captain for an international captain for as long as he has been, I believe you should know what is and is not allowed on the field of play. He should have known the rules. Even when Handscomb suggested he ask the dressing room for advice, he should have told him it’s not allowed, because it seems pretty evident that Handscomb himself does not know what the rules and laws in the Code of Conduct are. I, myself don’t know them by head, but I would think that not being allowed to ask people off the field for batting advice is common sense? Or am I being presumptuous here?
I am extremely disgruntled that this case is not being reviewed: it was reported within five days after the match, there is that “in-your-face” nothing-hidden-or-complicated evidence of what happened. While there has not been much spoken on the other times the Aussies looked up at the dressing room for a review, it still cannot be classified a “brain-fade” if you’ve done it more than once. Let me put it like this: Faf said that there was no intention for his so-called “ball-tampering” when shining the ball. With this, it is something that all players have done, in which he had a huge amount of support from current and former cricketers on the matter. He still got fined 100 percent of his match-fee, though; a real storm in a teacup, if you ask me. Smith on the other hand, knows the rules, is a captain, and took advice from a batsman who has only played six test matches for his country.
If you were to ask me right now: do I feel that Steve Smith was left off way too lightly? I’ll say yes, without a doubt. ICC’s chief executive, David Richardson was utterly disgusted and “disappointed” when Faf appealed the ICC’s original decision when he was found guilty. But Richardson wants fans to know that the repercussions, or lack thereof, that were taken with Smith and Virat Kohli were acceptable and fair. I’m not once suggesting that there may be a great deal of corruption or ill-dealings within the ICC camp, but I just want someone, anyone, to explain clearly to me as to why Steve Smith will not get charged for this “mistake” he’s made here, and that if Faf made a mistake, why was he heavily fined for something that has no scientific proof. Mark my words: this is sure to have a very interesting effect come the next test match between these two countries. Peace talks were set to place; whether the two captains left with peace and without bruised egos remains to be seen.