Crossing a line - ball-tampering led to disgrace for the Australians

The third test between South Africa and Australia hosted one of the biggest ever cricketing scandals, causing uproar, debate and disbelief. Amongst other issues, the scandal has darkened the image of test cricket, once again. Carly Odell has her say…

Australia captain, Steve Smith and teammate Cameron Bancroft admitted to ball-tampering during the third day of Australia’s test match against South Africa in Cape Town, causing the biggest cricketing scandal since Pakistani players intentionally bowled no-balls at Lords in 2010.

The Australian team are looked up to, as one of the best teams in the world, so this incident has sent out a shocking message, on a global scale, that cheating can be considered as an option. What’s worse, is that the scandal has also added to the declining image of test cricket that is already on a downward spiral.

Smith’s team were in a salvable position on day three of the test match, in terms of claiming victory. They also have one of, if not the best bowling attacks in the world, so the fact that the ‘leadership group’ agreed to ball-tampering in this scenario, is sending out a negative image of test cricket, from the highest possible level.

The image of international players, who are paid to play test cricket, giving up when the going gets slightly tough.

The sheer beauty of test cricket is that it is all about perseverance. The excitement of the longer format is that a team can change the game around completely if they remain focused on a goal and keep chipping away at it gradually.

But if the best players in world cannot or will not persevere and stay focused long enough to compete in the five day format without resorting to cheating, how can younger players be expected to want to play this format? How are fans, of any age expected to watch and support this format, if the international role models do not even respect it?

The red-ball game is already in decline due to the increased popularity of T20 cricket. During the 2017 T20 blast, in England, the overall attendance figure for the competition was 63%. A figure that test cricket could only ever dream of, in present times. And the cheating scandals of previous years, such as the 2010 Pakistani no-balls and Sachin Tendulkar’s ball-tampering in 2001, only decrease the interest in test cricket more, as will this most recent scandal.

If we are to save the image of test cricket from complete dismay, these offenders and any future offenders need to be made an example to prove that there is still life and relevance in the five-day format of this great sport.