** Update: Darren Lehmann has just announced that he’s stepping down as Australian coach after the next test.
I’ve just watched the Steve Smith press conference in Australia. Wow. Do you think he was a bit upset? He cried more than my little sister when she watched Bambi. The poor bloke.
But should we feel sorry for Smith? On a human level it was very hard not to feel some sympathy for a person whose world has been turned upside down. He’s clearly very emotional and completely devastated.
On the other hand he said some things that made him appear a tad self-absorbed. For example, amongst the tears and numerous apologies he said “if anything good can come from this, it’s that I can be a lesson to others, and become a force for change”. Really? You’re looking for positives in this, Steve? What makes you think you deserve to become a force for good?
The next thing I found a bit strange was his obvious wish to be forgiven: “I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness”. Unfortunately Steve that’s not really your call. It’s far too early to be talking about rehabilitation. Why should anyone care if you can become a good role model again in time? It all seemed a bit “me, me, me”.
I also thought that his statement was somewhat designed to generate sympathy. One might argue that it was simply a very honest expression of his emotions – and I can only applaud him for that – but on the other I’d have preferred him to talk more about the way he’s damaged cricket, and the office of Australia captain. Instead he came across as a bit self-pitying – although his contrition was obviously very apparent.
The most poignant moment of the presser, however, was when he advised children to think about who they might affect before making stupid decisions. He talked about the pain he’d caused his family, and really started to sob when he mentioned the hurt he’s caused his parents. Good on him for that. Just for a moment, Smith seemed to escape the bubble of his own misery and think about the broader consequences of what he’s done.
On a personal note, I do feel that his punishment was somewhat harsh. Although I think using sandpaper to rough up the ball is far worse than any previous ball-tampering incident – and I agree that the authorities had to send a strong message – a year long ban does seem a touch disproportionate.
Although what Smith and the Australians did was much worse than using sweets and gum as aids to shine the ball (as shining the ball is legal), it’s worth remembering that Faf Du Plessis once rubbed the ball on his trouser zip in a brazen attempt to gouge the leather. There wasn’t the same level of conspiracy involved, and Du Plessis didn’t try to cover up his actions, but the disparity between the respective punishments is huge.
Personally, I would have banned Smith for 5 or so test matches (as banning him for a period of time seems silly when Australia aren’t scheduled to play many games in the coming months). I would have banned Bancroft – who admitted in his presser that he was indeed using sandpaper rather than ‘tape’ – for the same amount of time. As for David Warner, who appears to be the main architect of the plan, I would’ve banned him for 5 matches and kicked him in the bollocks too for good measure.
In other news, and I hope you understand why I don’t want to say too much about this subject, it’s being reported that George Dobell, who I consider to be one of the best cricket journalists out there, is being sued for defamation by the ECB for recent articles that criticised Colin Graves.
I find this development absolutely remarkable and cannot see how it will end in anything other than a PR disaster for the board. After all, two prominent members of the board have just stepped down because they’re concerned about the ECB’s direction of travel.
I’m no lawyer, and I don’t know which parts of Dobell’s recent articles have enraged the authorities, but if prominent suits are resigning because they’re concerned about the governance of the ECB, I’m not surprised that dedicated journalists are finding fault too. Overall I think this is a really sad development.