‘The authorities let it happen’ – Steve Waugh on Cape Town ball-tampering scandal

Former Australia captain Steve Waugh believes the previous lack of stringent punishments for ball-tampering manifested itself in things getting “out of control” with the Newlands controversy that led to the suspensions of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
The trio were handed severe sanctions by Cricket Australia earlier this year after sandpaper was used on the ball during the Cape Town Test to try and extract reverse swing. At the time, the ICC handed Smith the maximum penalty they could under the code of conduct – a 100% fine of his match fee and a one-match suspension – and gave Bancroft three demerit points and a 75% fine, but did not come down at all on Warner, although he had already been removed as vice-captain.
Ball-tampering was classed as a level two offence under the ICC code of conduct when the Newlands incident unfolded, but it has since been elevated to a level three category which carries a ban of up to six Tests or 12 ODIs. Players have long-since tried to stay just inside the line of laws and playing conditions while ‘managing’ the ball, with any breaches dealt with reasonably low down the ICC’s scale of misdemeanors.
“You know they push the boundaries a bit by throwing the ball into the rough on the ground, which they shouldn’t do and then it’s escalated from there. It’s a shame how it got to the point that it did but I guess the authorities let that happen,” Waugh told ESPNcricinfo at a Laureus event in Paris. “There have been captains in the past who have been done for tampering with the ball and the penalties have been very lenient so there was no penalty for doing something wrong and it was always going to get to the case where it got out of control.”
Waugh labelled Australia’s attempts to sandpaper the ball as “stupid” and “ridiculous” and suggested the players had “lost touch with reality” in an environment that had become fraught over the preceding few years. It threw a spotlight on the entire Cricket Australia set-up – from the boardroom to the national men’s team – and led to two reviews being set up, the findings of which will be released in Melbourne on Monday.
“They are in a bit of a bubble and they are protected, you know they are insulated from a lot of things. They’ve got a lot of people around the side that protect them and tell them how good they are and how everything’s fantastic and sometimes you can lose touch with reality and I think that was best summed up when Steve Smith said that ‘we won’t make that same mistake again and we’ll just get on with it’. They just didn’t realise how big a mistake it was and what they’d actually done. So that, to me, just summed up that maybe they were out of touch with what the average person thinks.”