The ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town is being seen as much more than just that. Australia’s team culture has come under the scanner, with suggestions that such a fall was inevitable in a win-at-all-costs side. Outgoing Australia coach Darren Lehmann even said New Zealand might be a good example to follow for on-field behaviour, and Cricket Australia ordered an independent review into the team culture.
However, former Australia captain and a possible candidate for the role of coach, Ricky Ponting, believes the talk about the team culture is out of proportion.
Ponting, currently in India as head coach of IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils, addressed the issue for the first time at a press conference on Thursday. Ponting expressed shock at the events in Cape Town, and said the reaction from Cricket Australia was befitting. However, he didn’t necessarily feel the team culture had deteriorated drastically.
“The cultural issue for me is really an interesting thing because if we wind the clock back to just a couple of months, when Australia won the Ashes like they did, there was no talk about cultural problems or issues whatsoever,” Ponting said. “I honestly feel on this occasion the cultural stuff that’s been spoken about has probably been blown out of proportion to a certain degree.”
Ponting, however, did not play down what a big disappointment the ball-tampering incident was for him and the rest of Australia. “As a past player and past captain, I was quite shocked to see what actually took place out on the field,” he said. “The pleasing thing for me is that now it seems the issue is starting to come to an end. We hear this morning that David Warner also accepted his sanction, means all three guys have accepted the sanctions before them.”
Ponting said the country was jolted by what they saw. “Look, when I was back at home a week and half ago, if you think it was big news over here, it was astronomical how big the issue was in Australia, and rightly so,” he said. “As Australians, we like to play the game hard, we like to play the game fair. Our fans expect the Australian player to play that way. I think the reaction back in Australia was as big as it was because the Australian public felt the Australian players had not played the game in a fair way.
“It seems it’s like coming to an end, it’s a good thing for the game’s sake, it’s a good thing for the player’s sake as well, that they can try and get away from it all now. As hard as that’s going to be for them, it’s also a good thing for cricket in Australia as well. Now that the Test series is over, the guys have got a few weeks to get away from it all and then start rebuilding what has sort of collapsed for them over the last couple of weeks.”
When asked how he would have reacted to the incident if he had been in a position to act, Ponting said it would be unfair for him to say, but did acknowledge that Cricket Australia’s sanctions were pretty much necessary.
“There’s a very big picture there for the world game’s sake, and Cricket Australia, I think, have reacted to what the world game pretty much demanded,” he said. “The world game and the Australian public demanded that these players were dealt with and treated in a certain way.
“Now it would appear that 12-month bans would appear to be a very severe ban. If you go back to what the ICC sanction was: one-game ban for Smith and nothing for the other two. You can understand the gap is vast between what the ICC deemed fair [and what CA handed out]. I wouldn’t comment on what I would have done. It would be unfair.”