Ball tampering row: We will get old waiting for ICC to act, says ex-Australia captain Kim Hughes

Updated: Mar 28, 2018, 13:22 IST | Clayton Murzello

Former Aussie captain Kim slams governing body for handing out ludicrous punishment to Steven Smith and for not tackling problems with alacrity

Steven Smith with former Oz captain Kim Hughes during a training session at Adelaide in 2015. Pic/AFP
Steven Smith with former Oz captain Kim Hughes during a training session at Adelaide in 2015. Pic/AFP

Turbulence is nothing new to Kim Hughes. But the former Australia captain, who led his country during the final stages of Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket and beyond when the big guns of Australian retired in the early 1980s, reckons the ball tampering controversy is a watershed moment in cricket.

'Poor umpiring'
"Firstly, the standard of umpiring is poor all around the world. I'd get rid of the Decision Review System (DRS). Then, the International Cricket Council (ICC) handed out just a one-match ban on Steven Smith which is ludicrous for an act of cheating," Hughes, 64, told mid-day from Perth yesterday. The classy middle-order batsman, who led Australia on their 1979-80 tour to India, felt quick action from Cricket Australia was commendable and could send out a message to other countries. "The ICC has an obligation to step up to the plate. Their handling of this has been pathetic.

If we wait for ICC to do something, we are going to get old very quickly," he said, pointing to the methods cricket's governing body use to fix problems. He cited sledging: "The umpires need to step up. The umpires have got to get the captain and say, 'One more word from him [the offender] and he's out of this ground.' That's the way to sort things out. The umpires have got all the powers. They just don't use them. What more powers do you need?" Cricket Australia's alacrity notwithstanding, Hughes is not pleased with the way things were handled on Saturday in Cape Town after Australia's Cameron Bancroft was caught with tape by the television cameras.

"Darren Lehmann as coach of the team should have been with Smith at the press conference and not Bancroft. After that press conference, the Cricket Australia CEO (James Sutherland) should have spoken to Smith straightaway and he didn't do that until the next morning. He could have asked Smith three questions:

1. Who was in the (leadership) group that discussed the matter of tampering with the ball?
2. Bancroft's involvement? Did he offer his services or was he coerced into it?
3. Were any coaches involved?

"At least he (Sutherland) could have been able to say at his press conference that, 'Look, I've spoken to Smith and he said two or three players and no coaches or these coaches were involved' whatever it may have been. I think that was a mistake," said Hughes, wondering which players constituted the leadership group. "Look, there could have been some blokes there who would say the group includes me and I wasn't involved. Those blokes would be filthy. In that case, Sutherland, by asking Smith, at least would have been able to say, 'Look, there were only two involved —the captain and vice-captain and no one else."

'Keep the guilty out'
Hughes reckoned that the game will take a while to get over this controversy and the best thing for Australian cricket would be to keep the guilty out of cricket for a while. "Cricket is a great survivor, but this will take a while [to settle]. Maybe, it's best for the players involved to have a six to 12 months sabbatical and we can make a fresh start," he said.

Also Read: Steve Smith, David Warner, Cameron Bancroft to be sent home; clean chit for Darren Lehmann

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