Thursday the 25th of February

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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Chaplain appeals for cricketers to take the pledge and not cheat

Cricket must take drastic action to rid itself of cheats, Westminster’s Diocesan Chaplain for Sport has demanded, as he condemned “idiots” who have brought the sport into disrepute.

Mgr Vladimir Felzmann, who is also CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, has even suggested that players sign written statements confirmed by oath or affirmation that they will not cheat, for use as evidence in court.

His strong words come following the revelations that Cameron Bancroft used sandpaper to tamper with the ball during Australia’s third Test against South Africa.

David Warner was the ringleader behind the scandal which has rocked the sporting world and has seen him, captain Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft hit with lengthy bans.

Bancroft was caught on camera rubbing the ball with a piece of yellow tape – which CA revealed was sandpaper.

“When I heard of the ball tampering, my first reaction was ‘what an idiot!’” admitted Mgr Felzmann. “With all those telephoto lenses around the ground, to assume no-one would notice, beggars belief.”

Describing the scandal as “a very sad day for cricket, Australia and sport in general”, the chaplain suggested that others in the team must have seen Bancroft loading his pockets before performing the ‘ball-enhancing’ procedures and ‘stayed schtum’.

“Had Australia won, knowing they had cheated, how proud would the team members be as they age, retire and talk with their grandchildren about the ‘good old times’?” Mgr Felzmann said.

“Events like these make it ever harder to convince parents that sport can and in so many cases is a very effective instrument in character development of their children, to which the John Paul II Foundation for Sport is committed,” he continued.

“I am not a lawyer but might it be possible for players to be requested to sign a legally binding affidavit stating they will not cheat, so if they do the civil law can take its course?

“If players are no longer gentlemen, something drastic needs to be done,” he concluded.

Vice-captain Warner and Smith have been banned from international and domestic cricket for 12 months and Bancroft for nine months by Cricket Australia following the Cape Town controversy.

Smith, captain since 2015, spoke of a “leadership group” making the decision to tamper with the ball.

In announcing the severe punishments, CA revealed Warner, 31, had been charged with devising the plan, instructing a junior player – Bancroft – to carry it out and even demonstrating how to do it.

Warner and Smith had stepped down from their roles as skippers for Indian Premier League sides Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals.

All three players, sent home from South Africa, will be permitted to play club cricket to maintain links with the cricket community.

In addition, all three players will be required to undertake 100 hours of voluntary community service.

Picture: Australia’s Cameron Bancroft (left) celebrates as Steve Smith takes a catch to dismiss England’s Alastair Cook during an Ashes Test match at the Adelaide Oval. (Jason O’Brien).