• All’s fair in love and sandpaper

    It’s sickening how the Aussies know how to dish it out, yet they can’t swallow their own medicine, writes SIMON LEWIS.

    One of the great characteristics of Australian cricket and cricketers is their never-say-die attitude. They just don’t give up. Tragically, this attitude has leaked into how they take their medicine.

    On the table for the Sandpapergate Three was a potential lifetime ban, such was the severity of their crime. However, a more appropriate punishment was the one-year first-class and international ban that was handed out to Steve Smith and David Warner, with the young gun Cameron Bancroft given nine months.

    For the cricketing crime of the century that was appropriate, and no less!

    A year out of top cricket is costly, financially as well as for each player’s record, not to mention the effect it has on the fortunes of their team – and Australia have struggled to win much more than the toss since Bancroft played ‘hide the sandpaper’ at Newlands.

    Instead of manning up to do the time, there have been repeated PR missiles fired by stakeholders close to the trio, all arguing, begging and sometimes even demanding that their bans be reduced. One of the requests has been that the struggling trio be allowed back into domestic Sheffield Shield cricket to help them assimilate into international cricket.

    ‘We can’t get to the point and just say “right they’re back”. It’s not fair on them, it’s not fair on the team, it’s not fair on everyone,’ said Australian coach Justin Langer to a group of reporters last week.

    How can Langer possibly defend them with the words ‘not fair’ after they committed one of cricket’s worst crimes?

    Then there is the Australian Cricketers’ Association (who represent the players, and hence represent the players’ money) who have stated that they would be ‘relentless’ in pushing for the penalties of the Sandpaper Three to be lifted.

    ‘My message to Cricket Australia is a simple one – these contrite men have been punished enough,’ said Greg Dyer, President of the ACA President. ‘Let these contrite men play.’

    Really? Stay on planet earth with us, Greg.

    What’s next? If these bans can be reduced then, perhaps, Cricket Australia might be asked to back away from this fine statement: ‘David Warner will not be considered for team leadership positions in the future.’

    After that? Perhaps the poor chaps will be getting compensation for lost income during the bans. Smith and Warner have already been brought back into the fold for some informal training sessions with the Australian team, which is all part of a slowly-slowly approach to making the bans seem unfair.

    Australia will almost certainly not be in a strong enough position to defend their World Cup title because of the time Smith and Warner have been out of competitive cricket, and that is why certain Australians are driving this ‘reduce the ban’ narrative in the media.

    At the Sandpaper Reveal press conference Steve Smith brushed aside a question asking if he would step down as captain. His arrogant attitude to that suggestion suggests that Australians believe they are above everyone else, superior, above reproach. However, it is that very attitude that has (sadly) led to so many players and fans carrying such hatred for Australian cricket and cricketers.

    The PR campaign by certain Australian stakeholders to Free the Suffering Trio is based on getting the players back into the system as soon as possible, with the sole objective of holding on to the World Cup. Defend the World Cup after ‘serving your crime’ valiantly and Australia will win plenty of new fans, but not if they win after forcing the bans to be reduced. Win like that and the hatred for Australia’s cricketers will rise to all new levels, and that would be awful, because Australian cricket is a wonder of the sporting world.

    It’s sad that Australians think they need to cut corners in order to stay ahead … mind you, that’s what got them into this whole mess in the first place.

    Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

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    Simon Lewis