Ball-tampering is not part of the West Indies team or regional cricket culture.
That’s the assertion of the president of the Barbados Cricket Association, Conde Riley, in the wake of the scandal that has enveloped Australian cricket and led to the imposition of 12-month bans on former Aussie captain and vice-captain Steve Smith and Dave Warner respectively. A nine-month ban has also been imposed on rookie opener Cameron Bancroft and today, though not involved in the ball-tampering episode, Australian team coach Darren Lehman announced his resignation.
Responding to a query from Barbados TODAY, Riley, a director of Cricket West Indies, stated there was no history of West Indies international players cheating by altering the state of the cricket ball to their advantage. He also noted that it was not a practice prevalent at the regional First-Class level.
“We live in an era of technology…cameras all around…a cricketer would have to be stupid to be tampering with the ball in that situation. Our umpires in the region are also very vigilant in these situations,” he said.
Riley stated that if cricket observers paid close attention to regional officials on the field, they would notice that they often took the ball and routinely examine it during games. He said this was a deliberate practice by West Indian officials.
Today a tearful Smith, rated the best batsman in world cricket with a Test batting average in the 60s, apologized to the Australian public for his actions in the Cape Town Test against South Africa last week. Television footage caught Bancroft taking a piece of sandpaper out of his trouser pocket and rubbing the ball to induce reverse-swing. Smith said the “leadership group” had known of the plan in advance. Cricket Australia’s subsequent investigation revealed that Warner instigated the incident and had instructed Bancroft on how to carry it out. All three were subsequently sent home.
Riley told Barbados TODAY that the individual strengths of the players would determine if they could recover from the career-tainting incident.
“If they are weak-minded then it will be difficult for them to return to the international game as they were previously. But if they are strong mentally I could still see them resuming their careers if selected,” Riley said.
Asked about a pattern developing where international cricketers appear only to be cited for ball-tampering away from home, Riley said he had never contemplated the situation from that perspective but would not want to cast aspersions that home videographers and television personnel do not highlight the practice if observed coming from the home side.
While the Australians have been cited for ball-tampering in South Africa, they have not faced similar charges at home. Meanwhile, South African captain Faf du Plessis was found guilty of ball tampering in the Hobart Test in 2016. He maintained his innocence and lost a subsequent appeal. He was backed by his Cricket South Africa. He has not been cited for a similar offence in South Africa. However, Du Plessis has previously been fined half his match fee for scuffing the ball on the zip of his trousers against Pakistan in Dubai in 2013.
The Australia Cricketers Association (ACA) has charged that the punishment meted out to Smith, Warner and Bancroft by the Australian authorities contained glaring anomalies and questioned the severity and proportionality of the penalties imposed. The ACA said the lengthy bans were disproportionate to previous sanctions on others for changing the condition of the ball. The ACA also said that the players’ punishment from their home board was higher than those of cricket’s ruling body, the International Cricket Council.
Today, the ICC named West Indies bowling legend Courtney Walsh to be part of a committee to review its code of conduct in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal. The ICC’s chief executive David Richardson said the executive body’s punishment would not have been enough and that it was time the ICC’s current rules were examined.
“We´ve come to realise that the world – not only Australia – regards ball-tampering in a very serious light. It goes to the spirit of the game,” Richardson said.
“I must admit this has been an eye-opener for me personally. We need to look at the penalty imposed, specific to ball-tampering.
“Around the world, ball-tampering is considered cheating… I think we need to look at it again, and this is what has prompted this review.”
In addition to Walsh, the other former players on the review committee are Australia´s Allan Border, Indian Anil Kumble and Shaun Pollock of South Africa.
“The reaction all around the world shows us that if we neglect the way the game is played, cricket is itself in danger,” Richardson said.