Sport at the highest level can be cruel. On days, being a sportsman can be as tough as it was being a Wall Street broker on September 18, 2008. The constant glare of the media, the overbearing burden of expectations and the desire as a professional to succeed at any cost are all reasons that could help Steven Smith mount a defense, when probed in detail by the authorities. But is planning to tamper with the ball his biggest crime? There have been instances of ball tampering in the past and players have been sanctioned for their misdemeanor. What sets Smith's act apart is how he failed as a leader on Saturday. What was worse was the way he tried to move on from the incident in a matter-of-fact manner. Sample this -
"We made a poor choice. We deeply regret our actions. Coaches weren't involved. It was purely the players in the leadership group".
"I can promise you it won't happen again. It's the first time this has happened. We will move on from this and hopefully learn something from it. I'm embarrassed. I feel for Cam. It's not what the Australian cricket team is about. I am incredibly sorry.
"It's a poor reflection on everyone in that dressing room and particularly the leaders in the group."
All these lines sound like a well rehearsed speech, said in as unapologetic a manner as possible. Smith wasn't sorry, he was scared and one can't help but compare Saturday's press conference with the Aussie captain's defense during the 'brain fade' controversy.
Smith could have tampered the ball himself. He could have asked another senior player to try his luck. But to choose Cameron Bancroft, who hasn't even played 10 international matches, to carry out the dirty work shows Smith's immaturity. Perhaps the reason why his crime in my book is as big as that of a Hansie Cronje or a Salman Butt. Both these leaders used their position to influence lesser players to indulge in wrongdoing. A cheat is a cheat and Smith used his powers as the team's captain to influence a younger player to do something that could ruin the youngster's career forever.
A former Australian opener and current selector had once told this reporter that Steven Smith could be the strongest Australian skipper since Allan Border, due to the absolute respect he commands from his folks. Smudge it seems has taken that respect a bit too seriously.
Australia vs South Africa 2018bancroftcameron bancroftCape Town Testhansie cronjesalman buttSmith Bancroftsouth africa vs australia 2018steve smith
First Published: March 26, 2018, 3:48 PM IST