For quite some time now, Sports as a whole, has largely contributed in defining the idea of Legacy and History. It has transformed careers in a manner, that have shaped ordinary individuals into world renowned heroes, or what many call it nowadays, ‘role models’. However, while Sporting history has given us some of the most memorable instances of excellence, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that it has also presented some of the darkest revelations and unpleasant culminations, that sportsmen have sometimes resorted to. A recent and relevant example that comes to mind, is David Warner and Steve Smith’s ball tampering scandal that came to light, during the Test series against South Africa, last year.
There are so many versions and viewpoints that have erupted since two of Australian cricket’s prominent names were found guilty of tampering with the ball, during the Cape Town test match. If one had to purely go by the laws of the game, ball tampering by its very nature isn’t the worst possible crime that a cricketer can commit on the field. This was obviously reflected when the ICC gave them both, along with Cameron Bancroft, (who was involved in orchestrating it) a one match suspension. Thereafter, the fate of the issue was left in the hands of Cricket Australia, that decided to impose a harsh ban on David Warner and Steve Smith, by giving them a 12 month ban from all forms of the game. Cricket pundits and experts have debated and excessively analyzed if whether it was right to impose such a mighty ban, despite every possible evidence suggesting that it was an act committed against the spirit of the game. There is no doubt that a punishment was in order, to justify such an action, especially when it was the captain and vice-captain of one of the most celebrate teams in world cricket, that were responsible for it. However, both the players decided to serve their time, without appealing for a reduced ban.
The intention was not only to straighten an increasingly arrogant culture within the Australian dressing room. A huge part of such a decision, was because the captain of one of the most powerful teams in the game, had let a generation of fans and cricket lovers down. It was almost like an insult to many past Australian and international cricketers who’ve consistently described Cricket to be a gentleman’s game. Now that the ban has been lifted, it is only right that the team management does everything to ensure that they feel like a part of the squad, as far as the comfort factor is concerned. More importantly, with the Cricket World Cup currently being played in England, Warner and Smith are incredibly vital if Australia have got any chance at retaining the champions label.
Another instance in sporting history that adds relevance to its magnitude, is the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. The game changer in this particular case, was just how upfront and bold Armstrong was, while being interviewed by Oprah. When someone as incredibly accomplished as Lance Armstrong, who served as a role model to so many across the globe, openly confesses the fact that his entire cycling career has been a lie cause of drug indulgence, it is bound to create a reaction of shock and heartbreak at the very least. The severity of the outcome that resulted in a life ban for Armstrong, was justified, as Cynthia perfectly articulates in the podcast, by saying “in fact it was a carry along, so people were very shocked. I think it was the kind of scandal that made people feel that drugs can be a real issue in the world of sports.” An ideal parallel that compares itself to Lance Armstrong, is Hanse Cronje being caught for match fixing in Cricket. Being a South African and a well known ambassador of the game, Cronje’s revelation of match fixing came at a time where Cricket fans were witnessing something ugly as this, for the first time ever. As the investigations took its course, it was obvious that his involvement and the evidence going against him, were enough to give Cronje a life ban.
Every sport has its boundaries in relation to how much is it willing to forgive a player for the crime committed. What worked in Steve Smith and David Warner’s favour, is their relentless record of being disciplined and playing fairly, prior to the ball tampering incident. One would agree that an example as significant as Tiger Woods, adequately describes just how much Golf as a sport was willing to forgive him after being involved in multiple affairs. A legend as iconic as Woods, was faced with the harsh reality of top brands such as Nike, Accenture and Tagheuer, immediately terminating their contracts with him. In a sense, it was a strong indication suggesting that once you reach a certain stature in your sporting career, you are indirectly setting an example outside your profession as well. Cynthia highlights just how disgraceful a dent it caused to Golf overall when “after his inappropriate relationships with women, his doctor was accused of using and selling drug products. Years later, he started playing again and he was back on the GPA tour which was a huge surprise for everyone.” Ryan’s take on the fact that “Tiger Woods has completely been forgiven for his past sins”, goes to show just how much of a second chance, a sport is willing to give you.
There have been many that have committed disgraceful and regrettable acts in Sporting history, much before David Warner and Steve Smith found themselves in trouble. While every bit of the life ban given to Hanse Cronje for match fixing or Lance Armstrong for doping throughout his career, was justified, Warner and Smith don’t fall in the same category. They deserve to feature in the Australian squad. It goes without saying, that their time outside the game during these 12 months, would have certainly helped them grow through the pain, and in the process helped shape their character. However, their return back into the international arena will satisfy the critics only when their personal performances does the talking, once again.