(Adds quotes from MCC Laws Manager Fraser Stewart)
LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - A major shift in “attitude and culture” is needed in cricket in the wake of the Australian ball-tampering saga that has engulfed the sport, according to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
The sole authority on the laws of cricket since it was founded in 1787, the Lord’s-based MCC reacted to the swirl of criticism for Australia captain Steve Smith by saying his behaviour had fallen well below the standard required.
Smith, who admitted instructing team mate Cameron Bancroft to tamper with the ball during the third test against South Africa in Cape Town, has been banned for one test and faces a fight to save his career having agreed to step down as captain for the remainder of the match.
“The behaviour of some of the players in the current South Africa/Australia series, and other incidents in recent times in the game we all cherish, has fallen well below the standard required to inspire future generations of cricket-loving families,” John Stephenson, MCC Assistant Secretary (Cricket), said in a statement.
“The time has come for a major shift in attitude and culture of all those with responsibility for leadership within the game, to give young players the kind of role models who will uphold standards, preserve cricket and, vitally, the Spirit of Cricket for future generations.”
MCC Laws manager Fraser Stewart told Reuters TV that Saturday’s incident may turn out to be the watershed moment in the sport which will help to stamp out bad behaviour on the pitch.
“It may well be that this is a moment where people say perhaps enough is enough, we need to set the right examples for the kids. That is the most important thing,” Stewart said.
“These people are role models and we have got to get the kids who are playing the game in 20 years time, we have got to get them seeing the right example.”
The MCC said it welcomed the “swift action” of the match officials, the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Cricket Australia in responding to the latest ball-tampering scandal to hit the game.
“Changing the condition of the ball is prohibited under Law 41 concerning Unfair Play,” Stephenson said.
“Law 41 also places upon the captains of both sides the responsibility for ensuring that play is carried out in accordance with the spirit of the game as well as within the Laws.”
The MCC introduced a new law, Law 42, last year covering “unacceptable conduct” to counter a rise in poor behaviour such as excessive appealing, dissent to umpires and violent acts.
Stewart added: “The captain is responsible for the conduct of his or her players, and that is really important.
“We changed the laws in October 2017 giving the umpires more power to deal with poor behaviour but the responsibility very much still rests with the captain.
“The captain is responsible for the conduct of the team and for setting the level of behaviour. And if the captain is saying that is not how we do things in our team, then we should see standards improve.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced last week that it was adopting Law 42 in county matches to give umpires increased power to send off guilty players and impose five-run penalties for serious offences. (Reporting by Martyn Herman and Pritha Sarkar Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris)