Opinion Are the ball tampering penalties too harsh?

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GET A GRIP: Are the penalties meted out to our cricketers too harsh?I’ve finally had enough of the cricket ball tampering hysteria that continues to sweep our nation. It is time to put the whole sorry saga into perspective.
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Firstly, I will never condone the actions of ’s Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft in the South African test match’s “sandpaper-gate”.

What they did was an act of cheating, a word some of our sporting heroes and administrators have been very reluctant to use.

At the same time, I will never excuse the same kind of cheating by South African skipper Faf (“Zipper Ripper” or “Sticky Finger”) Du Plessis who was also caught on camera (twice) or former England captain Mike Atherton, who used a pocketful of sand to rough up one side of the ball so it would reverse swing.

But what has clearly emerged when comparing these cases, is that the penalties meted out to Smith, Warner and Bancroft by Cricket are far, far too harsh.

Faf and Athers received fines and demerit points from the International Cricket Council and so did Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

But then Cricket jumped in and hit the three Aussies with 12-monthand nine-monthbans from playing the game.

It seems to me to be a huge over-reaction by Cricket ’s faceless decision makers in attempting to show the world that n cricketers will never cheat again.

Whatever happened to the good old idea of giving first offenders a second chance. Sure, exile them for two or three Test matches but don’t wreck their lives by making them the “patsies”.

I defy anyone who watched their tearful admissions of guilt on television to say their confessions and heart-rending apologies were not genuine.

The other thing that has not been made clear to the non-cricketing fraternity (and I include some‘holier than thou’ commentators) is that the actions of Du Plessis, Atherton, Smith, Warner and Bancroft form only the tip of the ball tampering iceberg.

As anyone who has played the game at a high level will tell you, ball tampering has been going on for many years.

A former international once told me how a Pakistan fast bowler had surreptitiously used a bottle top in his trouser pocket to rough up the ball.

I was lucky enough to play grade cricket from the age of 13 to 46, and I can also tell the uninitiated that many other nefarious methods have been used to get results in the grand old game.

Another one was to scuff up one side of the ball by making sure it hits the rough on the wicket area first when it is thrown back to the wicketkeeper.

The most common way to shine a ball is to lather it with spit or sweat and then rub it vigorously on trousers or shirt.

I knew of a first-grade bowler who used a little vaseline from behind his ear to add to the sheen.

Perhaps we will never get back to the good old days when a bowler, smacked for four, will say “good shot” to the batsman, or a batsman will say to the bowler “nice ball” when his stumps go down.

Nevertheless, Cricket needs to rethink its harsh decision as soon as it can.

It would be disastrous for cricket and sport in general if these fine young players are condemned to spend the rest of their lives suffering from their actions when the same offences have virtually gone unpunished by other nations.

Vic Levi is a former journalist who lives in Lake Macquarie

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