The International Cricket Council (ICC) have revealed that, in the wake of Steve Smith going unpunished for ‘cheating’, they will henceforth let fans decide the magnitude of punishment for players. Fans are set to be provided uninterrupted stump-cam and stump-mic footage in the latest ICC app.
Starting from Kane Williamson’s seraphic double ton to UAE’s implausible victory over Ireland to India’s historic and heroic showing in Sydney to Dom Bess’ filthy five-fer in Galle, cricket in 2021 has gotten off to an effing-fantastic start. Yet, unfortunately, controversies have continued to mar the sport. Be it Rishabh Pant allegedly faking an elbow injury to evade wicket-keeping duties on a deteriorating fourth-day wicket, or Steve Smith pretending to shadow bat whilst deliberately tampering with the pitch and using his ‘quirkiness’ as an out, or Tim Paine calling Ravi Ashwin a d***head for having scored 4 more Test centuries than him, the actions of professional athletes, over the course of the past week, have left the sport disgraced.
These heinous crimes committed by players brought shame to the gentleman’s game, particularly when all that people outside of the sport (read: fans) indulged themselves in, in comparison, was innocuous offences like racism, sexism, fat shaming, name-calling and bullying.
This disparity in the behaviour of fans and players - with the athletes, on field, behaving like true low-life scum - served as a damning indictment of where cricket stood as a sport, but what was further flummoxing was the governing body’s inability to set things straight. The International Cricket Council (ICC) deemed only one of the three aforementioned offences punishable - Tim Paine’s sledge - and for that, too, all the council did was inflict a 15% fine on the Australian skipper for ‘dissent’. Thus the ICC’s ineptitude to set the right precedent infuriated millions of fans on social media - the moral police officers the sport needs - who had taken to their Twitter handles, in the immediate aftermath of the controversies, to roll out judgements.
“Steve Smith must be banned for life for his actions, the cheating pri*k. @ICC Once a cheater, always a cheater,” wrote one user, while another noted, “So Rishabh Pant is fit enough to score a 97 but not keep? This is the second time India are bending the rules. Dock them WTC points @ICC.”
The International Cricket Council had initially laughed all the mentions and tweets off, but now, in what has emerged as a sensational development, the council have been forced their hand into taking action. On the back of a total of 20 million Indian and Australian fans unliking their Facebook page, the governing body, fearing a Capitol-like march towards their headquarters in Dubai, has released a statement apologizing for its inability to punish the offenders.
“We, here at the ICC, sincerely apologize for our negligence. We acknowledge that by not enforcing stringent punishments on offenders, we have set a bad precedent for the sport. It has come to our knowledge and attention that fans have rightfully been left infuriated over our tendency to ‘look the other way’, thus to set the record straight, we, the members, have decided that, hereon, no stone will be left unturned,” reads the statement from the council’s new independent chairman Greg Barclay.
However, Barclay’s statement does not just end with an apology. In a groundbreaking reveal, the ICC chair elect has revealed that in order to keep the supporters satisfied, and in order to remove bias, the council have decided to hand full power to the fans. By ‘full power’, the New Zealander means that fans will now have the authority to decide the nature of the punishment - ranging from a 10% fee fine to a one-year ban.
“To right the wrongs of the past, we reveal with excitement that, from this very moment, fans will have the authority to in fact decide the nature and the severity of the punishment. What this effectively means is that, once a player is in the spotlight for anything suspicious or otherwise, it will be up to the fans to deem him/her guilty/innocent and finalize the punishment for the same. For instance, in the recently-concluded India-Australia Test, we found Steve Smith innocent and hence let him go. However, under the new regulations, he could very well face a two-year ban should fans deem his actions ‘malicious’.”
But given there are close to 100 million cricket fans on the internet, how exactly will this fans-deciding-the-punishment process work? According to Barclay, smartphones are key. The newly-elected ICC chair from New Zealand has revealed that a rehashed ‘ICC’ app will be rolled out next month, through which supporters will be able to cast votes and decide punishments for player offences.
“It is simple. Once you enter the app, there will be a ‘player conduct’ section. Present in this section will be the complete list of players who have committed any offence in an ongoing or recently-completed match. Users can choose the severity of the punishment they wish to inflict via a drop-down-box and hit the ‘submit’ button.
“In case they find a ‘major incident’ has not been put up on the app, users can always send a direct message to us on the app, with the attached video of the said event. Upon review, should we find the evidence satisfactory enough to be deemed an offence, we will put it up immediately on the app. Should we, by accident or otherwise, reject the plea, it is still not the end of the world: in the case of us finding hundred or more tweets directed to @ICC requesting to deem the incident ‘offensive’, we will put it up on the app.”
Barclay also has said that the ICC will help the fans in every way possible to help spot ‘incidents’ that go unnoticed.
“Six months ago, we opened the archive for a few days, but now we’ve decided to go a step further. Complete stump-mic audio and stump-cam footage of all games will be put up on the app to make it easier for fans to analyze and report offences. By this way, anyone can screen-record and upload it to Twitter, after which one retweet from a ‘big account’ will be enough to make the incident go viral.”
But won’t this method obviously work in favour of, say, a country like India, which has approximately a hundred times the number of fans as the other teams? Will justice not be thrown out of the window due to the disparity in numbers? According to Barclay, the ICC ‘couldn’t care less’, for they believe in democracy.
“The option that garners the majority of votes wins. There are no two ways about this. We are providing an open and transparent platform, so we really cannot bear the blame or fault the process if someone feels hard done by. Isn’t that precisely how the world works? The person - or the party - who attracts the most votes sits atop the ladder. Even on a cricket field, the decision of the third umpire stands final, right? Likewise, the option with more votes will be the punishment for the player. It doesn’t matter if Virat Kohli is to be let go freely for blatant ball-tampering or if Babar Azam is to be banned for a year for slow over rate - we will leave it to the fans to decide the course of action, and we will give them what they want.”
Not just this, the app, Barclay says, extends beyond what everyone perceives it to be.
“The beauty of the app is that we will also be integrating a ‘chat’ option, which means cricket fans vying to uninstall whatsapp can shift to our app instead of ‘Signal’ or ‘Telegram’. Here they can discuss cricketing conspiracy theories knowing very well that there is no one tapping into their conversations, and take out their frustration on players on ‘hate threads’ - instead of at the ground, in person - which will be created during matches for every player that under-performs.”
But shouldn’t the players also be able to express their side of the story? Doesn’t a Krunal Pandya deserve to let the world know his version of events before he is judged, vilified and punished? Or doesn’t a Steve Smith deserve to walk free if his opponents themselves vindicate him of any wrongdoing? “No”, according to Barclay, for the simple fact that it’s time to clean up the sport, even if it means innocent men and women getting caught in the crossfire.
“We’ve given far too many players a pass in the past for there to be any kind of leniency from now on. There needs to be outrage. Every fan needs to outrage on social media and make a mountain out of a molehill in the first opportunity they get - this will instill fear in the players. Even if the reputation of a couple of players takes a hit wrongfully, it will all be for the greater good of the sport.”