All is forgiven — it’s time for cricket, the sports world in general, to welcome back Steve Smith and David Warner. We need them, and they deserve another crack.
I certainly hope the two great Aussie batsmen are back when the high-flying New Zealand side travels across the ditch for a test and ODI cricket tour which will include the prestigious 2019 Boxing Day clash.
Should New Zealand manage the near impossible, a test series victory, that long-awaited win would feel hollow if the two best Australian batsmen aren’t playing.
Okay, they stepped over a murky line, but Smith and Warner are the only current batting reminders of what made Aussie cricket so great – the fighting spirit, the skill, the sandpaper-free grit.
With their ball tampering ban expiring in a couple of months, a return looks very likely thanks to encouraging words from Australian coach Justin Langer, although there may be more turbulent water to flow under this bridge.
It is time for cricket to view the ball tampering scandal involving Smith, Warner and the sandpaper wielding Cameron Bancroft in better context, rather than via the inevitable but shocking bloodletting which went on last year.
Illegal ball doctoring went on long before poor Bancroft was encouraged to use a little help in South Africa from a hardware store. To pretend otherwise, by over-punishing these players, would be a form of a lie.
There’s a huge irony about the current series in Australia, where India are poised for its first away series victory over an Australian team minus Warner and Smith.
Like the Australian team before it, Indian cricket is leading the game in a dazzling new direction which will safeguard its future, this time via T20 cricket.
And like the Australian team before it, there are two sides to this coin.
Last year, Indian cricket’s outgoing anti-corruption chief Neeraj Kumar, a former policeman, could only say that said the Indian Premier League was “by and large corruption free”.
By and large actually means match/spot fixing is occurring, and if it is going on in this T20 hotbed, the new centre of world cricket, it will be going on elsewhere.
At least Smith and Warner were trying to win.
Yes, the Australians may have taken the win-at-all costs mentality too far. But that very Australian attitude, allied to incredible skill advances, was the heart and soul of cricket for many years.
The game, left in the hands of the wishy-washy brigade, would have been stuffed without those belligerent Aussies.
The current Australia-India series feels like a nervous dance by a sport which is struggling to behave naturally.
The “banter” between the opposing wicketkeepers said it all, the way it was followed by some PR garbage to do with babysitting. Watching Aussie cricketers trying not to be Aussie cricketers is excruciating.
Give me Dennis Lillee steaming in towards a hapless batsman or Shane Warne twirling and talking his way towards another wicket or Ricky Ponting fighting to the death. The game seemed more above board then, without the nice-guy pretence and confusion.
And cricket has a lot of itches far more difficult to scratch than a cricket ball.
In the fascinating Mumbai Mirror interview, the Indian investigator Kumar said cricket boards around the world didn’t understand the level of corruption occurring, and suggested they didn’t want to.
Every now and then, for the sake of appearances, someone has to pay.
Representing as they did a crumbling Australian empire which had arrogantly punished opponents for so long, Smith and Warner were easy and convenient targets. They have taken a lot of blows on behalf of the game.
The cricket clean up won’t go much beyond that.