Right from the moment #SandpaperGate happened, it was obvious that this was going to be huge. In the aftermath of the ban by ICC and action taken by CA, the opinion is divided on the degree punishment meted out by CA. Is it too harsh to ban the players for a year for an offence which seems to have pseudo legal sanction by the authorities, and carries only minor punishment legally? Why is there such an uproar in the cricketing community if the offence was minor? Bottom-line it sucks that Steve Smith and David Warner are not going to be wearing the baggy greens for over a year, not just for the Australians but for fans of cricket around the globe. Some unfortunately are celebrating the fall of the two of the greatest modern batsmen and one hapless rookie. This grudge comes from a deeper resentment towards the Australian team which has always played with an in-your-face attitude which also shows their impact on the game. Australian team is and will be one of the greatest sporting teams ever and their top players have always had an aura of an invincible heroes around them. Yet when we allow them to get away with taking the hollow path to the moral high ground, when we don’t value virtue enough, that they become victims of their own arrogance and fall.
Sport by its very nature brings out the unknown aspects of human ability and puts it bare on the field. Most often it allows us to breaks the limits of achievement and sets impossible boundaries under tremendous pressure only to be broken nonchalantly by some newcomer. If there is any other pursuit in this world other than religion which can claim to uphold virtue, then it is only Sport. Cricket with whatever limited viewership it has among the other modern sports can still be envied by all the others for the amount of detail, layers and knowledge it is required to follow. There are very few sports where the character of a player and not skill is tested to such a degree that the highest format has been given the epithet, the Test match. No other sport can boast of having reams of pages written over even on the minutest aspects of the game. Nothing of this sort is possible if not for the love and affection of the players as well as the fans towards the great game. But then the game like every precious thing in this world rests on the delicate threads of Honesty and Trust which are reinforced by the love of everyone involved in the game. We realize the value of these threads only when they snap.
It is for this reason that the heart break is so damning, that so many past greats are so gutted for the last week. The anger in Michael Holding’s voice was unmistakably palpable on the 4th morning in Cape Town that he was breathing fire even with the mellowest of voices among the commentators. Like him and other past greats such as Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Smith, Michael Clarke, Shane Warne and a lot many others have been unequivocal in their criticism and have rightly called for the right steps to be taken to uphold the trust in the game. I believe a sportsperson is closer to the game than an average fan. It is a 100% part of their life and would take their word for it rather than interpreting it only as professional rivalry.
People throwing the rule book at this incident, need to step back and look at the larger picture, it is not just about ball tampering. If the leader of the greatest cricketing team can claim to have planned an illegal means of gaining advantage along with his senior teammates, then it breaks the fundamental aspects on which any game rests, Trust. Any act which involves hiding stuff in your jocks and blatantly lying to the authorities shows lack of character and that is a dangerous thing for the game. If the greatest can cheat and get away, what stops the other minnow teams or the kids who look up to these stars and play on the streets and backyards across the world? Just as the game tests our character and limits of skill, it throws up these watershed moments when the rules are not enough. CA has rightly upheld justice in banning its superstar players including the world cup winning captain for a year. Now it is a journey for the Australian cricketers to rebuild the trust of everyone else in the game. For the game is greater than the greatest ever players who have played it.
As per Steve Smith and David Warner as well as the young Bancroft, it is for them to choose whether they want to bounce back as changed people and win back the love to write a new story for themselves or fade away. Because that’s what heroes do when they fall. They pick themselves up and get ready to fight again.