Ball-tampering saga, Australian attitude must lead to fundamental changes in Baggy Green camp

Steve Smith and his leadership group went ahead with a blatant decision to cheat in Cape Town on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2018
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Ball-tampering saga, Australian attitude must lead to fundamental changes in Baggy Green camp

CAPE TOWN: In January 2004, Clive Lloyd, the International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee, fined Rahul Dravid 50 percent of his match fee for using a cough lozenge to alter the condition of the ball — inadvertently, said the Indian legend — during a one-day match against Zimbabwe in Brisbane. In the aftermath of that incident, Ricky Ponting, Australia’s captain, said: “I don’t know what (applying a lozenge to a ball) does . . . they might not have known what it does either, they might have been just trying that.
“It’s certainly something we’re very aware of. There have been a lot of these issues come up over the last couple of years. Different players from different countries have been suspended and fined and things . . . I don’t think you’ll see us doing anything like that.”
Four years later, in Sydney, after several dubious umpiring decisions had contributed to an Australian victory in the Test subsequently remembered for the Monkeygate racism scandal, an Indian journalist asked Ponting about a low catch he had claimed, which had not been given. “If you are questioning my integrity, then probably you shouldn’t be sitting here,” said an incensed Ponting.

A similar holier-than-thou attitude was in full view on Saturday when Australia coach Darren Lehmann spoke of the abuse his players had copped from the Newlands crowd. “There have been various incidents throughout the Test series but this one has taken the cake,” he said. “I think it’s been disgraceful. You’re talking about abuse of various players and their families and personal abuse. It’s not on at a cricket ground anywhere around the world, not just here, it shouldn’t happen.”
During his playing days, Lehmann used highly offensive, racist words about his Sri Lankan opponents. As coach during the 2013 Ashes, and talking about Stuart Broad, he exhorted Australian crowds to “give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and he goes home.” Broad’s crime? Not walking after nicking a ball. Lehmann’s captain at the time, Michael Clarke, had done exactly the same during the controversial 2008 Sydney Test, though the umpires did send him on his way.
It is understandable, then, that every Australian remark about “playing hard, but fair” or “not crossing the line” has been greeted with sniggers and derision by their opponents and fans alike. This is a team that has made a beeline for the moral high ground while systematically stretching the limits of the laws.
But blatant cheating has never been the Australian way. They were at the forefront of pushing “chuckers” out of the game in the 1960s, and no Australian had ever been cited for ball-tampering before. In the 1990s, as the rest of the world rushed to emulate the reverse-swing exploits of Pakistan’s Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, Australia relied primarily on quality new-ball bowling and leg-spin to see off every opponent.
In fact, a quick glance at the statistics from the past two years illustrates just how much Australia have struggled to get the old ball to deviate through the air. That might have triggered the utterly bone-headed plan that Steve Smith and his leadership group went ahead with in Cape Town on Sunday.
In the past, players have used everything — from strips of Vaseline and bottle tops, to Murray Mints and trouser zippers — to rough up one side of the ball. Few, though, did it as blatantly, and in full view of dozens of high-definition cameras.
Smith’s “we’ve not done it before, won’t do it again” defense was straight from the toddler-cookie-jar school, and it is no surprise that the ICC have handed down the strictest punishment possible according to the laws. “The game needs to have a hard look at itself,” said Dave Richardson, the ICC’s chief executive. “In recent weeks, we have seen incidents of ugly sledging, send-offs, dissent against umpires’ decisions, a walk-off, ball tampering and some ordinary off-field behavior.”
Cricket Australia, under pressure from the prime minister and disgusted fans, has to do more. Last year’s antics in Bangalore — Smith looking to the dressing room for review advice after being dismissed — was characterised as a “brain fade” and brushed under the carpet. This was an audition for a “Dumb and Dumber” sequel, and it has dragged the hallowed baggy-green cap through the gutter. Unless steps are taken against every one of the so-called leaders, the muck will stick.


Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

Updated 23 September 2018
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Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

  • The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title
  • Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2

CAIRO: Al-Ahly coach Patrice Carteron has warned his players against complacency in their forthcoming African Champions League semifinal clash against Setif of Algeria, even though his side swept through with a 4-0 quarterfinal second-leg victory over Guinea’s Horoya in Cairo on Saturday.
The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title with the win against the Guineans after a goalless first leg. From the moment Walid Soliman opened the scoring after 32 minutes at the Al-Salam Stadium, the result was never in doubt as the Reds put in a dominant performance.
Second half goals from Islam Mohareb, Salah Mohsen and Ahmed Fathy confirmed the win.
“It was a good performance, especially as the pitch was poor,” Carteron said. “We are happy to go through but we controlled the game, especially in the second half when we were at our best. We adjusted our offensive strategy at the break and that made a difference.”
Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2.
“We know that the game will be very tough as Setif are a strong team but this is the semifinal of the Champions League, you know that any game is going to be tough,” added the Frenchman.
Setif defeated defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate and will host Al-Ahly in Algeria in the second leg on Oct. 23.
“Setif were the champions in 2014 and we know that we are going to have be at our best if we are going to the final,” said the 48 year-old, who also coached TP Mazembe of Congo to the 2015 title. He is aiming to deliver similar success for Al-Ahly, who last lifted the trophy in 2013.
“When I took the job three months ago, the target was clear: to win the Champions League. That is still the objective and we have taken a big step toward that today.
“Standards in the competition are getting better all the time and results in the quarterfinal show this,” Carteron said, adding that he and his players had taken note of how Mazembe had been knocked out at the last-eight stage.
“Now we are in the semifinal and we have to prepare as well as we can to face Setif. It will be a big challenge but we are looking forward to it.”
Setif reached the semifinal after a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Morocco on Friday to take the tie 1-0 on aggregate following a win on Algerian soil a week earlier.
Goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba was the star of the show in Casablanca and made a number of fine saves to deny the defending champions.
It was a feather in the cap for coach Rachid Taoussi, a Moroccan who coached Wydad from 2002 to 2003.
“We managed this game very well,” Taoussi said. “We withstood the pressure. It is not easy to keep out such a team, especially with their fans behind them. In the end they had to play long balls and that made it easier for us to defend.”
While Morocco may have lost its sole representative left in the competition, Taoussi is flying the flag for his homeland. “I am proud to be Moroccan. I respect Wydad and the supporters a lot. It’s not easy for anyone to come here and play like we did.
“It is also a demonstration for those who constantly criticize the skills of Moroccan coaches. I’m so happy. That said, the most important thing for us now is to think about going even further in this competition, that is, reaching the final. We have one more step to go; we will give everything until the end.”
The other semifinal sees a third North African team trying to reach the showpiece event as Esperance de Tunis take on Clube Desportivo de Agosto of Angola.