CAPE TOWN - Where to now for Cricket Australia? The famed Baggy Green, worn by giants such as Sir Donald Bradman, Keith Miller, Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, was forever sullied on a dramatic Saturday afternoon at Newlands of all places.
Border, for one, believed the Baggy Green carried an “iconic status, the aura and historical significance which gives Australian teams a psychological advantage.”
Steve Smith was the man handed the responsibility of carrying on this proud tradition. Play the game hard - harder than anyone else - but always remember to play fair!
Considering Smith’s batting average is only second to the legendary Bradman, it was believed the blond Sydneysider had the mental make-up to occupy the office which is only second of importance to that of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s in the minds of most Australians.
So what persuaded a man, so highly regarded by his employers, peers and compatriots to commit a pre-planned act of treason that has betrayed his nation?
If accepting Smith’s pitiful plea that it was “the first time it’s happened I promise you”, then the only sane reason for this gross misjudgement can be absolute desperation. The belief within his heart of hearts his team were not good enough to get the job done in a legal manner.
I don’t belong to the vast majority of South Africans who believe, with Easter around the corner, that Smith needs to placed on the nearest cross and publically hung out to dry in the centre of Green Market Square.
I will leave that to the Australians who are vilified by their captain’s actions.
Smith will have to live with the fall-out of resorting to cheating when the pressure was at its most intense, but no South African can claim the moral high ground when it comes to ball tampering.
The Proteas have had three convictions of the same offence over the last five years, and we always have good ol’ Hansie to keep our lines of morality in check.
But that’s why the ball is in Cricket Australia’s court now. The United Cricket Board of South Africa - Cricket South Africa’s predecessor - showed a zero tolerance approach to Cronje after his tearful admission.
Ball tampering may not carry the same weight as match-fixing, but CA have to make a definitive statement in the way they handle the Smith saga.
The ICC have already issued the Australian captain with a one-match suspension, but James Sutherland and his Executive Board have an opportunity to show the world they are serious about how the game is to be played Down Under.
This entire series has been marred by controversy. All the way through Australia have turned up their noses and deflected the attention away from their poor performances in the last two Tests and blamed everyone from Quinton de Kock to the boorish Newlands crowd.
At the heart of the staunch defence was “the leadership core” of Smith, coach Darren Lehmann and vice-captain David Warner.
Although Smith insists Lehmann had no part in the skulduggery out on the field that saw a panicky Cameron Bancroft try to hide the evidence in the front of his trousers on live television, it would be grossly unjust if it was only Smith who was singled out for this national shame.
The spotlight is firmly on Cricket Australia. They now have the mandate to finally draw the line in the sand.