It’s just not cricket to tamper with your balls.
As far as balls go, none commands as much awe as that used in a cricket test match. It is a mix of technical wizardry and traditional substance. At its most basic form it is a cork nucleus encased in layers of tightly-wound string, covered by a waterproof plastic casing, and a leather outer comprised of two halves sewn together.
But at its heart it is so much more than that. In the hands of a skilled bowler, with an intimate knowledge of wear and tear, it can do wondrous things – ricochet, curve, swing, twist and turn. And like a fine wine, it can age particularly well, developing extra character, even a hint of mischief.
What it doesn’t need, though, is a helping hand, or a piece of sticky tape dipped in dirt.
On Saturday 24th March, during the third day of the second test match against South Africa in Cape Town, Australian opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was seen on TV cameras rubbing such a piece of tape against the ball, presumably in an attempt to affect its performance. In doing so he broke a cardinal written rule of the game: do not tamper with the ball.
But the game of cricket is more than the sum of its written rules, it is preserved by centuries of unwritten rules around sportsmanship; for cricket-mad Australians, those rules, like the seam of the cricket ball, are interwoven into the very fabric of their character.
Perhaps that is why Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was so savage in his condemnation of his nation’s cricket team. That, or the fact that they were caught.
[This article originally appeared on the mindofafox Growing Foxes app in the week of 26 March 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. The app serves to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more]