Australia Today

We Watched Cricket Fans Tamper With Balls for Steve Smith

A tiny but furious mob gathered in Melbourne for a kind of pro-cheating protest.
11 April 2018, 1:40am

You’ve probably heard the words "ball" and "tampering" a lot recently. That’s because Australian cricketers Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith tried cheating by rubbing a cricket ball with sandpaper, which made people angry. And people have stayed angry, including a subset of cricket fans who actually seem to believe that rubbing balls with sandpaper is a-okay.

Or at least, that's what we think they think. A bunch of these people held a protest in Melbourne called Ball Tampering at Fed Square, which promised "a show of solidarity for the greatest ball tamperers this great country has seen."

A 23-year-old guy named Jack Cahill, creator of the Facebook page Smart and cool cricket memes that don't toe the line, organised the event to ridicule what he described as "hyper sensationalism" of the event by media. “Because if old media wants to sensationalise it," he said, "I’ll turn it into the greatest meme possible.”

Jack claimed there was nothing more integral to the game than ball tampering—from the grassroots level all the way to test cricket—and it was time that we embraced it. He seemed to be serious, and Jack is a man who knows a lot about cricket so we took him seriously.

Then we went and talked to about 12 people who'd shown up in support.

Ben, 27

VICE: Ben mate, did you really come all the way from Adelaide?
Ben: Yeah mate, if you don’t tamper for something you’ll fall for anything.

I see you’re tampering as we speak. It’s like you just can’t stop tampering.
Look either you’re born with it or you’re not. It’s something to do with a natural rhythm. It’s an art form in the same way that all the world's a stage—in the words of the great Willy Shakespeare. Tamp on… Tamp on through the dark night.

And how many hours a day do you practice your tampering?
It’s not something that requires practice. It flows out of the core of your spirit… and from the spirit of Australia.

Do you follow any specific diet to keep your tampering in top form?
Well obviously Sanitarium Weet-Bix. Thrice daily. And just a steady diet of Channel 9 viewed through OLED TV. And of course the VB is there to hydrate me when I extinguish my resources.

Seb, 14

Seb, you’re starting your ball tampering career quite young.
I don’t really play cricket or like it that much. I saw a couple of my friends were going and I thought it would be funny. They haven’t showed up yet.

Your ball looks very new.
Yeah I just bought it, and also brought along two types of sandpaper. I figured if I was going to stick around here for a long time I’d go with the small grain, or the larger grain if nobody showed.

What does ball tampering mean to you?
I just have a lot of respect for the guys who did it. It represents the freedom of Australia. They’re heroes.


Nick, 23

Hey Nick, I see you're attacking your ball with an angle grinder. You must be pretty mad huh?
Nah look, I’m not into cricket, but I guess this makes Australia look bad and that’s why there’s been a lot of chiming in from other countries blaspheming our country, even though it was just a couple of players that did it. So we’re just out here to make the lighter side of it.

Why do you think 5,000 people clicked “attending” on the Facebook event page and then 4,988 of them didn't show?
It also happens with things as simple as 21st birthdays or like club events and whatnot. People click "attending" to stuff they'll never attend. You could go so far as to say some people click "attending" to events that seem cool, just so they can look cool to their mates.

James, 22

James, why are you here?
I’m just here to support a good cause mate. I think you've got to see the good side of bad things and as Jack said earlier today on the radio, it’s a comparison to the feats of Ned Kelly. And we want to recognise it.

How long have you been a ball tamperer?
Many years my fine friend. I haven’t been caught yet.

Jack, 23 (organiser)

Jack, it’s past 6PM and you’ve just been approached by security. What did he say?
They’re like, "Look, it’s time to wrap it up mate." He told me that if I kept playing music they'd get the cops involved. I said, "Fine, go get your friends mate, I’d love to have a chat with them, I’ll keep playing the music." They won’t come.

Are you willing to get arrested for this?
I’ve been arrested that many times it doesn’t bother me. I’m not doing anything wrong. They say this is the cultural capital of Australia—if what we’re doing today doesn’t epitomise Australian culture than I don’t know what does.

Turns out the cops never appeared, much like the majority of the people who clicked "attending." Also Jack and his mates got bored and went out for beers.

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