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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Ball tampering trio have heaped shame on a game of champions

Cheating goes against cricket's foundations as a game of fair play and decent behaviour

If the punishments dispensed by Cricket Australia deter players from cheating in the future, this low moment will have served a purpose. Marco Longari / AFP
If the punishments dispensed by Cricket Australia deter players from cheating in the future, this low moment will have served a purpose. Marco Longari / AFP

In October this year, the UAE will host a month-long cricket tournament between Australia and Pakistan. The UAE has become the de facto home turf for Pakistan’s cricketers, who haven’t fielded a foreign team at home for more than a decade because of security concerns. The series is one of the biggest fixtures on the sporting calendar, bringing together two of the finest cricket teams in the world. Thousands of cricket lovers will travel here to watch the clash between Australia and Pakistan; millions will tune in from across the world, especially the subcontinent. It is the devotion of such fans that keeps international cricket alive.

Yet for years now, international cricketers have repeatedly engaged in the most appalling behaviour. In the past two decades, cricketers from India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies have received bans for engaging in match-fixing. In 2010, three Pakistani cricketers became embroiled in a spot-fixing scandal. And this week three members of the Australian cricket team – captain Steve Smith, vice captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft – once again brought cricket into disrepute, heaping shame on a nation and prompting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call them a "shocking affront", by tampering with the ball during a test match against South Africa.

The blatancy of their cheating as they smuggled sandpaper onto the field and scuffed the ball with it in full view of the cameras was breathtaking. A public outcry ensued when Smith was given a mere one-match ban by the International Cricket Council, a decision described by former South Africa captain Graeme Smith as a failure to lead by example. Cricket Australia's much heftier 12-month ban on Smith and Warner and nine-month ban on Bancroft yesterday seem to have done more to preserve the game’s integrity. As Mr Turnbull said, a nation's cricket team are looked up to as role models and champions, not cheaters. This barrel-scraping moment will serve an important purpose if the punishments deter players from cheating in the future and put an end to unsavoury practices. For the true pleasure of cricket has always lain not in the pursuit of victory at all cost but in a gentlemen’s game dating back to the 16th century, its foundations rooted in fair play and good behaviour. A return to those values of decency and respect is what fans expect and deserve.