Sri Lanka unhappy over tampering furore

Rob Forsaith
Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal has been hit with a one-match ban by the ICC for ball-tampering

The prospect of a judicial stoush between Sri Lanka and the International Cricket Council looms large, with the sport facing its first test in an attempted ball-tampering crackdown.

The Cape Town cheating scandal in March had life-changing consequences for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, who copped long bans from Cricket Australia (CA).

But it also served as a circuit-breaker, with the ICC now wanting to punish tampering more consistently and sternly.

Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal, slapped with a one-Test ban by the ICC when he was found guilty of tampering during the recently-completed second Test against the West Indies in St Lucia, is the first to be booked since Bancroft.

Chandimal's weapon of choice was sweets rather than sandpaper.

The captain's offence has resulted in widespread indifference in Sri Lanka, compared to the nation-wide fury and one-year ban that a tearful Smith copped.

The biggest source of outrage has been Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), but it's been directed at officials. The governing body insists Chandimal is innocent.

The situation is delicately placed.

Chandimal, coach Chandika Hathurusinghe and manager Asanka Gurusinha face Test bans after being charged with "conduct contrary to the spirit of the game", having initially refused to take the field as protest in response to the tampering charge.

SLC is likely to take the case to a judicial commissioner. The protest - and issue of tampering - would then be debated in a legal setting.

There are some parallels with the Oval saga of 2006, when Pakistan were deemed to have forfeited a Test over ball-tampering allegations. That episode led to years of heated spats over the result, Darrell Hair's capacity to umpire and the ICC's governance.

It's understood ICC chief David Richardson has long been a supporter of a tampering crackdown - as evidenced by his charging of compatriot Faf du Plessis following a Test in Hobart.

But the crisis in Cape Town made it a burning issue that demanded more attention.

The topic was raised at a meeting of the ICC's cricket committee, chaired by former India captain and coach Anil Kumble, three weeks ago.

The influential advisory group, which features widely-respected umpire Richard Kettleborough and the ICC's chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle among its members, spoke at length about tampering and agreed there should be harsher sanctions and better policing.

The ICC is yet to change penalties for tampering, but that is expected to happen soon.

Match referees are now telling captains around the world during pre-series briefings that the dodgy practice will be targeted and not tolerated.

The challenge for officials is that broadcasters often find the smoking gun - as was the case with du Plessis, Bancroft and Chandimal. Many players feel touring sides are generally scrutinised by cameras a lot more than their hosts.