From ‘I didn’t do it’ to ‘I don’t remember’ – the ball-tampering saga

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‘Cricket is a gentleman’s game’, the most popular tagline for the sport which is being played by thousands and watched by millions. But in recent times, there have been a few unfortunate instances where cricketers around the world, including in Sri Lanka, have not adhered to the Laws of Cricket and have been penalized by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

This brings out a valid question, do these players not know the basic laws of Cricket?

It is fair to say, at a time where broadcasters play a vital role in monitoring any would-be unwarranted incidents, it is best for all cricketers to skim through the ICC playing conditions, MCC rule books and get educated on the laws of cricket.

The latest scandal to hit the headlines happened in St. Lucia, when the touring Sri Lanka Test Captain, Dinesh Chandimal was fined 100% of his match fee and suspended for one game for altering the condition of the ball. In short, he was caught ‘ball-tampering’.

Read: Chandimal, Hathurusingha and Gurusinha charged for conduct contrary to the spirit of the game

Within three months, at least four players including two captains from Test playing nations have suffered sanctions from the ICC or their respective boards for ball-tampering.

Law 41.3 of the ICC Standard Playing Conditions clearly states, “applying any artificial substance to the ball; and applying any non-artificial substance for any purpose other than to polish the ball,” will be deemed unfair.

The Australians admitted their crime eventually and faced the consequences, with the heaviest sanctions coming from their Board itself, but the amusing factor with the Chandimal’s case is that despite initially pleading not guilty to the charge, he admitted to the offence in a very Sri Lankan way (‘I don’t remember’), after the video evidence was aired.

It is simply unacceptable to say that Chandimal did not know what he was doing on day two in the field. He went to his left pocket, took out what we assume was a sweet, put it in his mouth and almost immediately began shining the ball with saliva.

“During the hearing, Dinesh admitted to putting something in his mouth but couldn’t remember what it was, which I found unconvincing as a defense and the fact remains it was an artificial substance. In the pre-series briefing held on the back of the ICC Cricket Committee recommendations, both the sides were explicitly told that the match officials would be extra vigilant towards all aspects of fair play, including changing the condition of the ball and as such it is disappointing that this has happened.” Match Referee Javagal Srinath stated in a press release.

Yes, ICC took a strong stance in suspending Chandimal, seeing as they did not hand a match-ban to Faf du Plessis for pretty much the same thing in Hobart in 2016. But this comes on the back of them changing their policies on ball-tampering following the incident involving the Australian trio Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith and David Warner in Cape Town this March.

The punishments related to ball-tampering are soon to be upgraded from a Level 2 offence to a Level 3 but is not related to Chandimal’s incident for his own luck as it is expected to come into effect later this year.

Read More: Sri Lanka captain Chandimal suspended for Barbados Test

Should Chandimal be stripped off captaincy?

This whole incident gives a bad impression of Sri Lanka Cricket which is already going through many issues such as delayed board elections and domestic match-fixing claims, pitch-fixing allegations, former legends rejecting to join administration, low rankings and so on. So, should the Sri Lankans go the Australian way in banning Chandimal for a longer period and stripping him of the captaincy?  

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is already in a unstable state with the Sports Ministry controlling matters hence the Minister, Faiszer Musthapa, Competent Authority Kamal Pathmasiri and Chief Executive Officer, Ashley De Silva are unlikely to take stern action. However, Chandimal might well be banned further than one Test along with Coach Chandika Hathurusingha, and Manager Asanka Gurusingha for a level 3 offence as they were charged by the ICC on Tuesday for “conduct contrary to the spirit of the game” after the team refused to take the field for almost two hours on the third day morning incensed at the ‘ball-tampering’ charge.

Soon after the incident, the board issued a press release stating, SLC advised the team to take the field to ensure the continuity of the match and wish to commend the decision taken by the team to continue with the game ‘under protest’ to ensure the upholding of the spirit of the game.” but the seriousness in which the ICC has taken the act of protest by Sri Lanka will mean that the charge of acting contrary to the Spirit of Cricket will not be easy to overturn.

Under Chandimal’s leadership, Sri Lanka has been very successful in the past year, especially in the longest format of the game, winning against Pakistan and Bangladesh away from home and competing well to draw a couple of Tests in India. As Captain, Chandimal averages over 50 with 3 centuries and 5 fifties in 12 games and is no doubt the best Test batsman in the current setup.

With Chandimal at the helm, Hathurusingha as the think-tank with the backing of Gurusinha, Sri Lanka had formed a fighting, stable combination in Test cricket but it could all take a serious turn in the coming months.

Sri Lanka has always taken pride in their cricketers because unlike Australia, the island nation has no other sport to be proud of in the international level rather than cricket but ‘The game is bigger than any individual’

Fair to say, Chandimal will be remembered not for the right reasons in this game, despite scoring a magnificent back-to-the-wall century in the first innings under difficult circumstances to give his team a chance of levelling the series, but as the first Sri Lankan captain to be suspended for ball-tampering.