Zaheer Abbas: 'Crying doesn't change anything’

Zaheer Abbas, a former Pakistan captain and an erstwhile president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), believes that the guilty has been rightly punished.

Zaheer Abbas came down heavily on Steve Smith for going against the laws of the game.   -  G. Ramakrishna

Even as the cricket fraternity stands divided over Steven Smith and David Warner’s quantum of punishment for involvement in the ball-tampering row, Zaheer Abbas believes that the guilty has been rightly punished.

Abbas, a former Pakistan captain and an erstwhile president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), makes it clear that Smith’s tearful press conference on Thursday doesn’t change the fact that he cheated.

In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, Abbas speaks up on the game and the mess that it’s into.

How do you see the entire ball-tampering saga? Do you think things were handled the way it should have been?

Being the supreme authority, the ICC has to take some decision. It has done that. Also, Cricket Australia has taken a decision. From both sides, it was made clear that these guys were guilty and they were punished.

READ: Australia's ball-tampering scandal - A timeline

But many feel that a one-year suspension for ball-tampering is too harsh a punishment for someone like Steve Smith — who is considered one of the most talented captains of the world?

So what? It doesn’t make any difference. Cricket is bigger than a player and it should be supreme. Obviously, if you have become the top batsman of the world, it is definitely good; everybody will appreciate that. But being the best, you should not have done something like this. You are the best player of your team and are carrying the flag of your country, so you should have understood that.

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But then, Smith admitted his mistake and then there was that tearful press conference yesterday…

It doesn’t change anything. You are guilty and should not have done it. Is it written in any book that ball tampering is allowed?

"Cricket is bigger than a player and it should be supreme. Obviously, if you have become the top batsman of the world, it is definitely good; everybody will appreciate that. But being the best, you should not have done something like this."

 

Being a former ICC chief, what do you think should be done to keep a check on ball-tampering?

They should keep an eye on the shape of the ball all the time. It is a bit difficult, I know, but now cameras can catch everything. Nobody can get away with tampering the ball. So, with technology becoming so powerful, every cricketer should realise that there’s no way to do all such things. They will be caught.

This is not the first time such an act came into the limelight. In the past, teams from Pakistan and India have been in middle of Tampering row…

This should be stopped. It is an illegal way of dominating the game and it is not the right way to do things. When the ICC has made a law, you have to follow it.

But how would you describe ICC’s decision to let go of Lehmann despite him being the coach of the side? It’s a different story that he quit later…

It is up to them, because they know what happened and how it happened. They also know who were hundred per cent involved. But in the end, being a gentleman, Lehmann decided to quit as the coach of the team. I think it is a right thing to do. This is a gentleman’s way of going out. I also hope, after this episode, no player would dare to do something like this.

READ: Five contenders to succeed Darren Lehmann

Not just the ICC, even the Australian Prime Minister was annoyed with the whole issue. Australia is one of the key members of the game, and maintaining that status, they should not have been involved in all this. For that matter, nobody should even think of tampering with the ball.

Do you think that it’s the "win at any cost" attitude that’s causing the trouble for teams?

Of course! If you are on the field, you don’t want to lose. We all want to win, but not illegally. There are so many illegal ways that can be practiced — like rubbing the ball with banned substances or changing its shape. But this is not cricket. This is not ok.

How do you think should Smith handle this tough situation in the next one year?

It was not match-fixing and he should definitely be allowed to play for his country again. He should be shown this much of sympathy.