Even demigods have been accused. India's sanctified Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, received an initial one match suspension from match referee Mike Denness after alleged ball tampering in the second test match of India's 2001 tour of South Africa. (He was subsequently cleared of the charge.)
A supposedly squeaky clean Michael Atherton was less fortunate, receiving a £2,000 fine for rubbing dirt from his pocket onto the ball in the 1994 Lord's test against South Africa. The dirt itself had been extracted from the pitch.
In 2006, a Test match between Pakistan and England was forfeited after claims by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove that ball tampering had taken place. Bitterly protracted, Hair's judgment and the international governance of cricket, was brought into furious question by the Pakistani team.
Nor can all this be said to be a particularly modern phenomenon. The difference has been catching the sly culprit. Australia's elusive and daring Keith Miller admitted to lifting the seam on occasion. "If you can do this without being spotted by the umpire and if you can get the ball to pitch on the seam," he confessed in Cricket Crossfire, "it will fairly fizz through." That, in an age of less televisual scrutiny.
Talk about equity and fair play rapidly becomes comic, especially when it stems from former players, such as Warne, who gave pitch reports to an Indian bookmaker and took diuretics at the height of his career. The noble game has always boasted its ignoble rogues and its heavy disgraces.
The response to the incident has also been viewed with some dismay, not least of all regarding the insistence from the Australian captain to stay put. Smith may well feel that a call to the principal's office is in order, but he still holds the view that he is the best man for the captaincy. This view may well be challenged given his decision to saddle the young, potentially doomed Bancroft with the onerous task of executing the deed.
Australian cricket's self-advertised purity, however misplaced, has been overtly corrupted. It's "claim to playing hard but fair," wrote a resigned Geoff Lemon, "has evaporated for years to come." Even John Cleese, with acid accuracy, felt some remark on the affair was in order. Smith "in admitting 'ball-tampering', explained that the team leaders thought it was a way of 'gaining an advantage'. Another way of 'gaining an advantage' is to cheat."
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