Ball-tampering: Been there, done that, deep insights!

Former India wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta, one among the six Indian cricketers penalised in the Mike Denness saga in 2001, says that such acts on the field are impossible without proper planning.

Steve Smith has stepped down as captain for rest of third Test.   -  Getty Images

Mike Denness. That’s one name an Indian cricket fan remembers every time the allegations of ball-tampering surfaces. After all, 17 years ago, Indian team on tour of South Africa found itself in middle of a tampering controversy in Port Elizabeth, where Denness, the match referee sanctioned six Indian players for their alleged involvement in ball-tampering.

The players and the Indian cricket Board, however, maintained that the allegations were untrue.

The outrage Denness’ decision prompted have become an interesting part of cricket history, but as the fraternity gets divided over Steve Smith and his players' involvement in ball-tampering incident on Saturday, one of India’s former cricketers, Deep Dasgupta, who was one of the six ‘victims’ of Denness in 2001, is shocked to see such planned efforts.

Read: Smith, Warner step down as captain, vice-captain for rest of third Test

“If you ask me if it brings back memories, I would say no, because, two cases are different. In our case (in 2001), it was an allegation and this time, a team captain is openly admitting his involvement. It is shocking,” Dasgupta, who is presently doing commentary at the World Cup Qualifiers in Harare, tells Sportstar.

Dasgupta is convinced that such acts are impossible without proper planning, however, the former India wicketkeeper-batsman also feels that the touring Australian side could face heavy sanctions from the International Cricket Council (ICC) once the match gets over. “I am shocked to see Smith involved in all this. I will not single out Cameron Bancroft, because the poor chap cannot be blamed alone. Such things don’t happen without the team leader’s consent,” Dasgupta says.

What hurts Dasgupta more is the fact that someone like Smith, getting involved in such a disgraceful act. Having seen Smith from close quarters during his stint with the Sahara Pune Warriors — Dasgupta can’t believe that Smith could agree to be a part of all this. “People criticized him for the 'Brainfade' moment last year, but I backed him, thinking that was an instinctive reaction. But now I am surprised. A group of five or six players may have plotted this. I am sure this will have a great impact on captain Smith and his image,” Dasgupta says.

Also read: Clarke not ruling out Australia return

In 2001, six of India’s players — Dasgupta, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh and Shiv Sundar Das found themselves in a spot. While Sehwag, Dasgupta, Harbhajan and Shiv Sundar were hauled up for excessive appealing, to which the players deny the claim. Tendulkar was suspended for tampering the ball and Ganguly, the captain, was suspended for one Test for his inability to control the behaviour of the team. “None could believe that such a decision could come our way. It was challenging but seniors ensured that it never affected us. Even in those times, we would go out together. This helped to bond better,” Dasgupta said.

However, it will be a different case for the Australians. With two more days left for the third Test and another couple of weeks for the series to get over, the players will find it really tough to survive the challenge. “Now, it is the entire South Africa versus those 15-16 players. Wherever you go, they will raise fingers at you. You will be thoroughly monitored all throughout. It would be tough,” Dasgupta says, and adding: “But the flipside could be, it would also unite the guys together. They will have to bond really well over the next two weeks.”

The two incidents may not be similar, but even then, the evening at Cape Town has certainly evoked memories of an afternoon in Port Elizabeth.