Cricket is like religion in Australia as much as it is in India and when Steve Smith and his men hit the depths of disgrace, it shook up the entire cricket-mad country. According to the Economic Times, India, it affected no less than the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull himself, who said that this was a “shocking affront to Australia.”

What every cricket fan around the world is wondering about, is why did a team like Australia have to do this? It’s a great team that recently had a great home series against England and in the present tour of South Africa, had drawn first blood by winning the first test.

Yes, they lost the second test and were under pressure in the third, but it isn’t the first time Australia faced such a situation. They have won from worse situations not too long ago.

Actually, it all boils down to the individuals of the leadership group within the team which includes Steve Smith, the skipper, David Warner, the stand-in skipper, both batsmen, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood, the fast bowlers, Nathan Lyon, and the off-spinner and coach Darren Lehman.

Smith implicates whole leadership group

According to what Smith narrated on the afternoon of the fateful day when TV cameras picked up young Cameron Bancroft using an object to rub and rough up one side of the ball, the leadership group knew about it but said the coach wasn’t involved.

Starc and Hazelwood are furious that their names have been dragged into this sordid affair but what everyone’s asking is how could they have not smelt the rat for so long?

Just a day after this incident, footage of the Ashes (England-v-Australia) Series showed Bancroft up to his old game of tampering with the ball although that wasn’t as conclusive as the one that nailed him and his seniors at the Cape Town test last week.

As for Starc and Hazelwood, their anger may be justified and they may not have been aware of what was going on.

Tampered balls favour fast bowlers

However, this whole business of ball tampering that involves the use of a foreign object to rough up one side of the ball is to provide an unfair advantage to fast bowlers like them.

After all, it’s proven that the one side roughed-up ball produces lateral movement fractions of seconds later than batsmen can anticipate. When that happens at bowling speeds ranging from 135-145 kms or more, it becomes almost unplayable even for the best batsmen.

Now, no other member of the fielding team watches the ball as closely as the fast bowlers do. Whether Starc and Hazelwood as well as the other fast bowler, Pat Cummins missed what would have been tell-tale signs of tampering on one side of the ball after Bancroft gave it the rub, is an open question. At the end of the day, it didn’t help Australia in any way as the South Africans piled on the runs and left them with a huge 400+ run target to chase in the fourth innings.

It must have been an intimidating target for Australia as they folded up for a mere 107 runs, thereby losing the match by a huge margin of 322 runs – a painful end to a shameful ordeal.

Smith has been banned and warner faces the same

Smith has already been banned for a year from all formats of cricket and Warner will face the same fate. Prime Minister Turnbull is gunning for strict action and he has turned the heat on Cricket Australia, the governing body of cricket in that country, to clean up the mess ASAP.

He even questioned the Aussie cricketers’ legendary use of ‘sledging’ that involves the use of intimidating verbal assaults against the rival team’s batsmen to keep them off balance. Steve Waugh, Australia’s most successful captain ever, once described it as ‘psychological disintegration’ of the rival team’s players.

What prompted the Aussie PM to ask his cricket team to dump this tool they have been using since the earliest days is not clear, but it’s true that these days, Aussie batsmen get some special treatment from rival teams when they come out to bat.