‘Seems to be a daily occurrence on the field’
Russell Domingo, South Africa’s coach, is hopeful administrators will either give players a wide berth or crack down completely when applying Law 42 – fair and unfair play – because he believes the application of artificial substances to the ball, especially in the form of edibles, occurs often.
Domingo spoke to reporters about an hour before his captain Faf du Plessis‘ hearing to face ball-tampering charges took place at the Adelaide Oval and could not comment on the specifics of the case but hinted that one of South Africa’s defenses could be that everybody else does it too.
“You see it daily with those types of instances taking place on the field. I don’t want to talk about the [Faf] incident too much but it seems to be a daily occurrence on the field of play so they [the administrators] might need to re-look at that should they feel its not within the spirit of the game,” Domingo said.
Du Plessis was only charged when television footage of him shining the ball with saliva – while also having a sweet or mint in his mouth – was circulated the day after the Hobart Test. By then, the time for the match officials to report an alleged offence had lapsed and the ICC investigated the visuals of their own volition, after being alerted by widespread media reports. After two similar incidents in the last three years (Dubai in 2013 and Galle in 2014), in which broadcasters were also involved in bringing to light South African offences, Domingo said they feel singled out.
“There are other teams that have maybe done similar things and we’ve maybe looked at one or two instances that they have done those things and they haven’t been highlighted. I wouldn’t say we’ve been targeted but we’ve definitely been highlighted,” Domingo said. “It’s definitely been brought to the attention of the world and its definitely been brought to the attention of the ICC and its definitely been brought to our attention. Although it seemed pretty insignificant at the start of it, quite a lot has been made of it.”
“Lolly-line” or “Mint-gate” as it has been dubbed, has been on the front and back pages in the Australian press. And the South African squad have had several run-ins with the Australian television reporters which culminated in an airport scuffle on their arrival in Adelaide. Journalists were trying to get a comment out of du Plessis, who was shielded by the security officer, and has not spoken to the media since the Hobart win. Despite the possibility of a one-match ban, Domingo said du Plessis was holding up well.
“It’s never pleasant when everybody has got an opinion on you and people have judged you before rulings have been made. That’s the nature of the world at the moment, everybody has got an opinion and can air it. When you are constantly seeing yourself in newspapers and have things written about you, I suppose it does weigh you down at times,” Domingo said. “He is a tough and resilient man and the team really supported him and surrounded him to lessen the load on him.”
South Africa’s entire squad stood alongside Hashim Amla at the MCG when he called the ball-tampering allegations a “joke,” last Friday and said South Africa believed their captain had done, “absolutely nothing wrong.” Amla’s address took place before du Plessis was charged, but even in hindsight, Domingo does not think they would have handled it differently.
“We are a unified team. We stand by our captain. We stand by the decisions we’ve made. They might not have always come across as the ideal way to do things but at that time and space we thought those were the right things to do,” he said.
Perhaps surprisingly, South Africa have been buoyed by this fight, even though it has marred their preparation for their first pink-ball Test. Two days ahead of the day-night game, they were not sure whether their captain would be able to take the field with them or whether they would be allowed sweets, when they step on the park. But they were very sure they’re in it together.
“Hopefully these incidents do galvanise the team a bit more. There’s definitely a feeling of togetherness and unity in the group and a lot of support for the current captain,” Domingo said. “It’s been an interesting few days. We’ve had a wonderful tour here, its been great, we’ve played great cricket. We’ve had long discussions and our focus now is purely on cricket. It hasn’t been ideal preparation. I would be lying if I say its been spectacular preparation but our focus is totally on the cricket.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo