The neo Don Bradman no more. It might not be the end of his career, but his reputation has gone and the Australian captaincy should follow. That Steve Smith judged structural cheating from top to bottom not to be a matter for resignation tells us how far from the moral tree he and his leadership cohorts have fallen.
And if he believes the ICC sanction of a one-match ban and fine is the end of the matter, he is a fool as well as a fraud. The outrage has reached the highest office in Australia with premier Malcolm Turnbull expressing his disappointment, which is shorthand for “bring me his head”, and the chief of the Australian Sports Commission, the government body responsible for all Aussie sports, calling for Smith’s sacking.
The land of fair dinkum eh? The Australian way, hard but true? Square that with the image of the doltish Cameron Bancroft trying to shove the ball-tampering tool of choice, adhesive tape, down his jockstrap, all captured by the television cameras, while the scheming Smith and vice captain David Warner squirmed in the slips. In conception and execution this whole episode is so bad as to be comic. What kind of dope accepts or volunteers for the role of fiddler-in-the-field? Bancroft is a professional athlete. An order is an order, but surely the brain can sieve through muck like this.
That said he did not authorise the scam. That buck stops with Smith, Warner and coach Darren Lehmann. The line spun is that Lehmann knew nothing of the ruse. Really? This was not a rogue act randomly played out. It was the expression of a culture that runs throughout the team.
Smith, pictured, failed to identify other members of the brains trust, presumably adhering to some kind of honour code. But it does not take Miss Marple to identify who the accomplices might be. If I were investigating this masterpiece of subterfuge I’d be knocking on the doors of those who might benefit from having a ball in their hands that behaves perversely. You got it, the bowlers.
In truth none are exempt. This came right from the top, the decision-makers, those who lead, who give the instruction. It cannot happen without their sanction or the collusion of every member of the playing and coaching staff. Quite why the best bowling attack in world cricket should need to nobble the ball is anyone’s guess. Again it reflects a certain attitude, a way of seeing the world, an arrogance that, in the deportment of key figures is never far from the surface of this team.
It was there in Warner’s vile sledging of South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Koch, allegedly describing his mother and sister as bush pigs. It was there in the Smith and Bancroft show, the giggling at the expense of England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow during the Ashes. Yes Bairstow was the architect of his own embarrassment with the boorish head butt greeting, but that was just stupid. The cynical manipulation of the incident via the controlled media space shone its own light on the mentality of Smith’s cocksure regime.
It was there, too, in Nathan Lyon’s charmless promise that Australia would seek to end English careers with their pace onslaught during the Ashes. This stuff would be signed off as laddish banter were it not for the layering of sneering ridicule, epitomised by the characterisation of Bairstow’s predecessor Matt Prior as yellow during a previous Ashes mauling.
And now this, the point at which power and entitlement pumps a man so full of hubris he believes not that he is above the law but that he is the law. Alas it’s over for Smith, even if he can’t see it.