As the aftermath of the ball tampering saga continues, today marked the day that the lead protagonists of the episode, Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner, all made public statements for the first time after the day it all began. Over the course of the past few days, the outrage from Australia has been vocal and sustained, by all accounts. I can’t imagine the Prime Minster of India taking upon himself to make a public statement over a ball tampering/ cheating incident on a cricket field! The Prime Minister of Australia, however, did. He was among the first to react and even used his office status to push Cricket Australia into action, not that they needed any pushing, of course.
I made a reference to the Aussie way of cricket in my previous blog post and had highlighted the blurring of “the line”, wherever it may exist, for them. Soon after, the ball tampering scene exploded and while I have no sympathy for either Smith, Bancroft or Warner, the reactions do make interesting reading. In a sequence, the public opinion has moved from:
a. complete outrage, calling it blasphemy and stringent actions against all those involved, to
b. surprise at the quantum of the punishment (50% of those polled on Cricinfo thought the punishment was harsh or too less), to
c. “devastation” at the sight of Steve Smith breaking down during his latest press conference.
Now, looking at the series of steps taken by Bancroft and Smith (who have spoken publicly, while Warner has not, as yet):
1. Bancroft rubs sandpaper on the ball and then hides the paper in his trousers
2. When questioned by umpires, he shows off a dark cloth, seemingly like any used to polish glasses: Lie #1
3. In a press conference later, he sits next to Steve Smith, and claims it was “sticky tape” that was used: Lie #2
4. Steve Smith, sitting next to him, does not correct him, instead believes he is still “the right man” for the job of leading the cricket team.
5. Today, both of them express tremendous regret for their actions yet again. And today, Smith cries during the press conference.
Initial reactions suggest that Smith is a “good guy who made a mistake”. Overwhelmingly, the reaction to his latest statement is one of forgiveness and “moving on”.
As humans, we are driven by the reactions that we want to see from people who have made mistakes. When they admitted to their guilt at the end of the 3rd day’s play during the Cape Town Test match, they were only being honest, because they had no choice. There was no sympathy for them at the time. Only criticism and schadenfreude. Now, after they have been handed punishments, banning them from cricket for an extended duration of time and they have confessed to their guilt with a new story, we are sorry for them. How do we know that Smith and Bancroft are not lying about one thing or another, again?
The fallacy of the story, to me, lies in our minds. We are looking for a reason to pardon and quickly at that. The sight of the two talking publicly and appearing to be sorry, is enough reason for all of us to forgive, forget and move on. To me, they got what they deserved. If they are sorry for it, they are no different from anyone who regrets their actions, later. I have no sympathy for them, either earlier or now.