Francois ‘Faf’ du Plessis, the current South African cricket team captain, is a fine right-handed batsman whose test batting average is just over 42, an average which would get him into any team on the planet. He is also a part time leg spinner, but despite having bowled some 13 overs in tests, has not taken any wickets1. He also seems to be a fine captain of his team who despite only making his test debut in late 2012, was named T20 captain only three months later, and took over the test captaincy in December 2016.
Despite his denials, du Plessis was found guilty of ball tampering in a Test match at the Oval against Pakistan, in October, 2013. He was caught on video rubbing the ball against the metal of a zipper on his trousers2. This sort of thing is designed to alter the condition of the ball by roughing up one side of the ball to make it reverse swing (away from the rough side of the ball) after leaving the bowler’s hand. His punishment was to be fined 50% of his match fee2.
In late 2016, du Plessis was caught on video rubbing the ball with a mint, and putting saliva on the ball while he had a mint in his mouth2,3. This sort of thing is also designed to alter the condition of the ball by making it sticky so that it is more inclined to pick up dirt and therefore make the ball rougher on one side, again to make it reverse swing. Despite pleading otherwise, he was found guilty and fined 100% of his match fee2,3.
Cameron Bancroft was caught on video using a piece of sandpaper to rough up one side of the ball, and Australian captain Steven Smith and vice-captain David Warner were apparently part of the plan. Smith and Warner have been stripped of their positions and sent home and will also face a 12 month ban from Cricket Australia. Bancroft will face a nine-month ban. Given the punishment meted out to previous transgressors (such as du Plessis), this is vastly out of proportion, as the Australian Cricketers’ Association have pointed out4. Indeed, the International Cricket Council had already banned Smith for one Test match and fined him 100% of his match fee.
Part of the problem with this fiasco was that it came at a time when the government needed some sort of distraction from its own fiascos. The Prime Minister idiotically weighed into the debate, stating that it was a “shocking disappointment”, a “terrible disgrace” and a “shocking affront to Australia” and insisted that Cricket Australia act “decisively and emphatically”. He should have acted with more sense and not have pressured Cricket Australia to act. In addition, calling this a disgrace is an acute lack of perspective from a government which has kept men, women and children locked up for years on Manus Island and in Nauru, a government who has just withdrawn income support from 7000 asylum seekers in Australia6, a government which has just supported a request for a 0% minimum wage increase.
To cap this all off, du Plessis has now said that he suspects the Australian team had used similar methods earlier in the series. This is a little rich coming from a doubly convicted ball tamperer.