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Sandpaper Gate: All You Need To Know About The Australian Ball-Tampering Controversy

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Finally, all the drama and suspense surrounding the ‘Sandpaper Gate’ has come to an end. Steve Smith has been slapped a 1-year ban after being held guilty for having ‘knowledge of a potential plan to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball’ and ‘failure to take steps to seek to prevent the development and implementation of that plan’.

Smith has also been barred from assuming any leadership role in the national team for the next two years. Experienced opener David Warner and youngster Cameron Bancroft have also been suspended for one year and nine months, respectively, by Cricket Australia (CA).

Soon after CA came out with this penalty, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla followed suit and informed the press about the unavailability of both the Aussies in this year’s IPL.

The way this entire ball-tampering controversy unfolded, it has done a great disservice to the game. For decades, the Aussie style of playing cricket – hard, but fair – was touted as the ideal way, but the recent debacle has certainly marred that image. The fact that a young cricketer was thrust into such a malicious environment and entrusted with the responsibility to change the state of the ball sets a wrong example for budding cricketers and fans across the globe.

What Is Ball Tampering?

The season ball offers conventional swing when it is hard and new, but after a few overs, the shine of the ball wears away and it ceases to swing. In such a situation, bowlers try to scuff up one side of the ball and shine the other side, so that weight of the two tiers of the ball becomes unequal and the ball starts to swing in the direction of the heavier side.

However, it is not always that the ball starts to reverse naturally after a few overs, and that is why various techniques are employed for the same. Some of them include crushing the ball under spikes, biting it and picking the seam. The attempt is made to somehow change the weight of the ball on either side, so that it wobbles around more.

What Cameron Bancroft did was that he tried to use a sandpaper to scuff up one side of the ball to help the pacers reverse-swing the ball as Australia were in a dire situation in the third Test match. But as the cameras zoomed in on him, he panicked and tried to hide the sandpaper in his pants. However, he was caught red-handed in the act and had to face a lot of humiliation.

Quantum Of Punishment

The punishment meted out by Cricket Australia to its players certainly seems a bit too harsh as it is unprecedented. Earlier, players were let off after a fine or a ban of a couple of matches, but slapping a 1-year ban in a case of ball tampering is unheard of.

The reason for this stern approach is that the Australian cricket board wants to set an example for other cricketers so that such incidents don’t reoccur. The involvement of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also ensured that exemplary punishment was meted out to the culprits.

Not A New Thing

No matter how unfortunate it may sound, such cases are not new to international cricket. There have been several similar events in the past which have maligned the image of the ‘gentleman’s game’.

Michael Atherton

In 1994, young England skipper Michael Atherton was spotted rubbing dirt on the ball in a match against South Africa at Lord’s. Atherton picked up dirt from the pitch and put it into his pocket, giving the impression that he would use it to keep his hands less sweaty.

The English opener was nevertheless charged with ball tampering. While he managed to hold on to the captaincy and avoid suspension, he was fined $3,700.

This unfortunate incident has been recorded in the history books in black ink and is unearthed every time any ball tampering incident sees the light of day.

Sachin Tendulkar

It was the second Test match between India and South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 2001 when the legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar was handed a one-match ban by match referee Mike Denness. Tendulkar was accused of tampering with the seam of the ball. It created a lot of furore from the Indian fans and the then BCCI president, Jagmohan Dalmiya.

In the same match, five other Indian players including spinner Harbhajan Singh and captain Sourav Ganguly were also fined 75% of their match fees for indecent conduct. However, the charges against Tendulkar were later repealed after sustained pressure.


It was the fourth match of the Test series between England and Pakistan at the Oval in 2006. On the fourth day of the match, umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove accused Pakistani captain Inzamam-ul-Haq of ball tampering.

In an unfortunate follow-up to that verdict, Inzamam told his players not to take the field after Tea. When the Pakistani players stayed in the dressing room for 17 minutes, Hair and Doctrove called the match off and awarded England the win via forfeit. However, Inzamam was later acquitted of the charges by ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle.

 Shahid Afridi

It was a close ODI encounter between Australia and Pakistan in 2010 when another Pakistani captain was charged with ball tampering. In a low-scoring affair played at Perth, Australia found themselves at 178-7, needing 35 runs off the last 30 balls.

Shahid Afridi was clearly seen biting and chewing the seam twice in the overs of Mohammad Asif and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. He was found guilty and banned from playing two T20 matches. This tarnished his image and proved to be the lowest point in his long cricketing career. ​

Faf du Plessis

After being proven guilty of rubbing the ball on the zipper of his pants’ Faf du Plessis was fined 50% of his match fee at Dubai in 2013. Three years later, he was charged with ball tampering.

In 2016, the Proteas captain was accused of using mint saliva to alter the condition of the ball. South Africa had just clinched a resounding Test match victory over Australia in their own den at Hobart, when the footage of du Plessis emerged. As a result, the skipper was handed three demerit points as per the ICC Code of Conduct.​

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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