On the 24th of March 2018, Australia and South Africa were three days into a five-day test match in Johannesburg, South Africa. The events that transpired on this eventful day sent shockwaves through the cricketing world sending the game into disrepute. Cameron Bancroft, a relative newbie to the Australian test line-up was involved in a process known as ball tampering with the intent of giving an unfair advantage to his side. He was caught guilty in the process and himself, captain Steven Smith and vice-captain David Warner were handed immediate suspensions by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the heavy-handed Cricket Australia (CA).
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) March 25, 2018
Of course, my first reaction was similar to many other Australian cricket tragic’s where I rejected all proof of the matter through my belief that nothing was wrong. Definitely the confirmation bias at work … but was I wrong to let patriotism cloud my judgement?
To look at the matter from a strictly ethical standpoint, it was wrong. According to established ethical beliefs this act is still to be considered wrong and unethical. One form of judgement commonly used is normative ethics which is split into two separate belief systems.
1. Deontological theory where actions are determined by what is morally right and wrong. This is where an action is morally right independent of the good or evil generated. This informs judgement and would determine the ball tampering to be wrong.
2. Teleological theory or consequentialism focuses on the outcome of an action. The right action is determined by what has the most positive or desired outcome. In some twisted way this may be used to somewhat justify the action as if performed successfully and unnoticed, the Australian team may have gained an advantage … may have.
The situation has a lot of variables and even if everything went to plan there may have been no competitive advantage handed to the team due to the nature of cricket and all the other factors such as wind, humidity and pitch surface affecting the ball and conditions of the game. This somewhat hedonistic approach was obviously a big issue.
These ethics are used to generate law in society and also the laws of cricket. The relevant laws located in section 4.1 of the MCC’s Laws of Cricket are below:
According to the laws of the game this is indeed a prohibited act but you can’t help but question the reasoning behind the players decisions.
What followed this event was a total media shitstorm for the following week where no other news in Australia mattered. It was just cricket. But it’s just not cricket. The Australian cricket captain which former PM John Howard often stated was the most important job in the country was disgraced. The truth in this is that PM Malcolm Turnbull had to come out and contribute to the discourse surrounding the situation, he’s obviously playing second fiddle here.
This is definitely not the first-time cricket has been involved in a huge scandal as three Pakistani internationals were caught match fixing whilst on a tour of England in 2010 with two of them given prison sentences. But this raises the question regarding ethics in sports, how far is too far? How does Australia compare to the rest of the world? Are we all cheaters? What is right and what is wrong? Ethics are subjective and due to that nothing can be objectively right or wrong. Although, what the general populous believes to be ethical is the precedent to which everything is compared to.
Cricket Australia’s brand image was tarnished and so was Steve Smith’s. But interestingly in a complete turn of events, Smith’s press conference upon arrival back in Australia improved his personal image, maybe even beyond what it originally stood at. Through an emotional and personal presentation many began to empathise with Smith and increasing public trust in this person who had only days before cheated them. A study by Bodet & Bernache-Assollant showed that loyalty in sports team was through individual identification. If the public can identify or find commonalities with their team or sportsperson they will indeed develop some type of loyalty which is more than evident in Smith’s case. Breaking down when asked about what the children would think of him showed his heartbreak which built rapport with the audience and the general populous of Australia. Of course this does not make up for his actions. What they did was wrong by the laws of the game and wrong from a subjective ethical standpoint.
It was a sad day for Cricket, for Australians and for me. To take one positive … it has impacted a nation and the minds of cricketing youths. Hopefully they know better and have learnt from their idols mistakes. The reason I say this is because if my little brother ever does this … I will bowl bouncers at him next time (and probably get hit for six).