Former India captain Sourav Ganguly on Sunday (March 25) expressed his stance over ICC’s decision to ban Australia skipper Steve Smith for only one Test over the ball-tampering scandal in the just concluded Newlands Test against South Africa. Ganguly termed the verdict as lenient before adding that the involved Aussie players will have to live with this stain forever.
Smith was handed a one-match suspension and fined 100% of his match fee following his confession to tamper the ball during the third day’s play in Cape Town.
"I think the ban of just one match and 100 percent match fee is a bit soft. Ball-tampering is not match-fixing or criminal offence but what is going to remain with Steve Smith, Darren Lehmann, David Warner and even that substitute who was in the dug-out, is those walkie-talkie footages, is those instructions sent to a young cricketer to keep that sand paper in his hand to scratch the ball,” Ganguly quoted by India Today as saying.
“Why didn't Steve Smith keep it? Why didn't David Warner keep it? Why did you ask the young cricketer to do that on a cricket ball? So these will remain and this is what Steve Smith will have to overcome. It's not a crime as I said. Match-fixing is a bigger crime than what has happened. It's the perception of people what will remain that oh God! these boys are not trustworthy. That will haunt them for the rest of their careers," he added.
Besides Smith, the rookie Australia opener Cameron Bancroft has been penalized 75 percent of his match fee and awarded three demerit points for breaching Level 2 of the ICC Code of Conduct.
The incident that led to such charges occurred during South Africa’s innings on Saturday after the post-lunch session. Cameras caught Bancroft using a foreign object to work on the ball. Video aired by the official broadcaster shows Bancroft using a small, yellow object hidden in his palm, as he rubbed the ball with his palm and then onto his trousers. He is then seen transferring something from that palm into his right pocket.
Even though Smith had ruled out the involvement of head coach Darren Lehmann in the entire saga, a video emerged out on social media where the latter was seen sending a message to Bancroft through substitute Peter Handscomb on a walkie-talkie. No wonder, Ganguly has doubts over Lehmann’s integrity and said that he will be surprised to see him as the coach of the side in future.
"Ball-tampering has happened before. Bowlers and fielders have found different ways to get the ball roughened up on one side. But the orchestra which was behind it and the way it has happened, the way it was hidden immediately when the camera was on, will leave a very bad taste for everyone who's seen it. With so much of television, I really found the Australian team management very, very stupid,” Dada said.
"From my point of view, Steve Smith, David Warner and Darren Lehmann will have to face the brunt for a long, long time. I don't see Steve Smith continuing as captain for Australia. I don't see David Warner taking the post of captain and I don't see Darren Lehmann continuing as coach. Australian cricket, with Prime Minister involved, will take a very strong action. What will stand out for years to come is that footage of the walkie-takie where Darren Lehmann speaks to substitute fielder at the dug-out. The message going to the fielder and then hiding...will leave a bad taste for many, many. Life is about perception, life is about trust and I think that will take a serious beating," he explained.
This incident has also put a question mark over Smith and other involved players’ participation in the 11th edition of Indian Premier League, starting on April 7. IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla on Sunday said that they will come up with a decision after receiving reports from the ICC and Cricket Australia.
Talking about their participation in IPL 2018, Ganguly said: "I think they (franchisees) will not withdraw the IPL contract. What Rajasthan Royals is going to do is, I just have feeling, that they will just get rid of Steve Smith as captain because they have come out of a tough couple of years. They were handed two-year suspension because of betting and fixing. They will remove Steve Smith as captain and probably make Ajinkay Rahane the captain. And he will make a good captain."
“ Following what Rajasthan Royals will do, I think Sunrisers Hyderabad will also do that. If Rajasthan Royals don't do it, Sunrisers may not do it. But I feel Rajasthan Royals coming back to the IPL after two years, they will not want to affect the image of the team. They have got Shane Warne as their head coach and mentor and they will have to be very careful with that. He is a very dear friend of (co-owner) Manoj Badale so a lot of things happen because of friendship and lot of things happen in modern day because of my man, his man and people in doing that slowly forget the most important item which is integrity and honesty,” he elaborated.
“I think that's what very, very important. Image is very, very important and I think Rajasthan Royals will take a tough decision, I maybe wrong and things maybe different, but they will take a tough decision and that will actually force Sunrisers Hyderabad to take a tough decision. I won't be surprised if Ajinkya Rahane leads Rajasthan Royals this season with Steve Smith in the side. And, it's a same thing with Sunrisers Hyderabad and maybe they'll ask somebody else to lead the side. Shikhar Dhawan might lead with David Warner in the squad," Ganguly concluded.