A NATION obsessed with sport, where cricket is the unifying game, has been shaken to the core this week with the irreverent cheating by its Test players leaving Australians dismayed and sponsors considering their position.
Pulling on the baggy green is an honour afforded to only a very select group and brings with it an elevated status amongst Aussie society due to the sport’s national reach.
Unlike other games, such as football codes or rugby, cricket transcends Australia’s class system, making it an unrivalled attraction for sponsors.
This ball-tampering incident took place on the third day of a test match in Cape Town between South Africa and Australia last week.
Television footage showed bowler Cameron Bancroft remove yellow sticky tape from his trouser pocket before rubbing the ball.
More embarrassing to the Australian nation though was the admission by Captain Steve Smith that his team's "leadership group" had hatched a plan to deliberately tamper with the ball during a Test in Cape Town.
It wasn’t one player, it was a pre-meditated plan to deceive the rules and blatantly cheat, led by the captain and vice captain David Warner!
Expect their personal sponsorship deals to come under scrutiny, while those players involved will also rightly be punished as Cricket Australia see fit. Coach Darren Lehmann is expected to leave his position too as it seems unfathomable he wasn’t aware of this premeditated plan by his players.
But while the upper echelons of Australian cricket battle to contain this undoubted crisis and issue suitable punishment, they’ll be desperately distracted by issues out with their control.
Cricket Australia’ biggest sponsors, including Qantas and the major Commonwealth Bank, are reportedly reviewing their commitments.
The cereal maker, Sanitarium said it was reviewing options as it “does not condone cheating in sport.” The brewing giant, Lion, mirrored the sentiment saying: “Like the rest of Australia, we’re deeply concerned. This is not what you’d expect from anyone in sport at any level.”
The affair will have far reaching ramifications, which will hit Cricket Australia in the pocket and impact future deals.
They’re currently embroiled in negotiations with broadcasters over the next raft of television rights. Cricket chiefs had been targeting a fee around $150 million (£81.5 million) a year for the next six seasons.
However, even before this story had emerged from South Africa, the unpopularity of some players in the Australian Test side due to their behaviour had already resulted in lower bids.
Networks were told to resubmit higher offers, but judging by the reaction on social media – where many disgusted fans have pledged to never watch the team again - the ball may just have bounced back into the broadcaster’s court.
Aussie cricketers always pledge to win at all costs, but this time they may be left footing the bill.