How quickly things can change in the cricketing world. 4 months ago, England were having a terrible time in test cricket, the Australian media were having a field day around ball tampering and pictures of Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft in a news conference were everywhere. Fast forward to the current day and its all new. England are having a terrible time in test cricket (Seriously, 58 all out?), the Australian media are having another field day based around ball tampering and pictures of Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft in a news conference are everywhere. Sound familiar?
Whilst it might sound like a record stuck on a loop, things are different now. Granted, England are still having an awful winter of test cricket but the smile on Steve Smith’s face has very much disappeared. The laughter has been replaced with sombre apologies as he today openly admitted to not just cheating but actively planning on cheating along with the leading players in the Australian changing room. In a sport that is so closely linked with sportsmanship, this feels huge. For them not only to have been caught cheating but to then confess to have planned it prior to the match is staggering. To add to this, Steve Smith’s announcement that he will not be stepping down and will continue in his role as captain leaves me to wonder: What exactly did he expect to happen if found out? That he would get a small telling off but all would be forgiven? Here is a man who has dominated the cricketing world of late and lead his country to a famous victory over England in this winter’s Ashes. But all of that credit now counts for naught in the face of some of the most bare-faced cheating in recent memory. They might not have doped, they might not have tried to throw the game but cheating is cheating.
The sheer lack of thought that went into their attempts to alter the outcome of the game is what staggers me most. How did they think this was going to pan out? Did they think that no one would notice? Maybe that headbutt that they found so funny in December was more serious that we first thought. Because someone clearly wasn’t thinking clearly.
I really do, or did to be more accurate, admire Steve Smith as much as I disliked how easy he found scoring runs against England. He might not have been the prettiest of batsmen, but his innings were ones that will live in my memory for their sheer effectiveness and unerring certainty of scoring big. But much like he walks across the crease, he walked right into this controversy.
It still remains to be seen what the consequences for Smith and the rest of those involved are. If it does not involve a ban and lose Smith the captaincy then something is not right. He, especially in the role of Australian captain, has rubbed the name of cricket in the dirt much like Bancroft planned to do with that yellow tape and to maintain the integrity of the game, something serious needs to be done. They may not have been trying to earn money from match fixing but does that make it really any better. In the end they were still trying to change the result of the game.
With time I hope to be able to go back to begrudgingly admiring Steve Smith as he inevitably scores another huge score in an Ashes test. But it’s never going to be quite the same. There will always be the doubts. There will always be the concerns. How things have changed in 4 months.