Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, says he was “shocked” by the Australian players’ attempt to alter the behaviour of the ball with sandpaper, insisting he had never experienced such a premediated plan in any team he has represented.
But while he accepted such behaviour could damage the reputation of the game, he felt the severity of Cricket Australia’s punishments – on Warner and Smith especially – sent a firm message that such tactics will not be tolerated and could improve the way the game is played around the world.
“The sanctions imposed by Cricket Australia have shown how serious the actual mistake was, how seriously they are taking it and how seriously they regard the values, principles, spirit and laws of the game,” Morgan said.
“For the last two weeks, the game has been battered. But I’d like to think that the balance [between the damage done to the game and the benefits brought by the suspensions] changed when the sanctions were imposed, because they were serious sanctions.
“It’s one thing to say something is wrong. But to back it up with such a sanction says a huge amount. This isn’t two of their worst players, either. It’s two of their best. One is possibly one of their greatest ever.
“Naturally this will pull the leash [on the way Australia play].”
Morgan accepts there are some “grey areas” around the issue of ball-tampering. The use of sugary saliva, for example, has been prevalent for years (albeit with a distinction around whether mints and sweets are directly transferred to the ball), as has the practice of fielders returning the ball to the keeper on the bounce to scuff up one side. But, the way he sees it, Cricket Australia’s actions have “gone a long way” to “saying none of it is acceptable”.
“I was shocked there was a premeditated plan,” he said. “I’ve never heard talk like that in a dressing room.
“Throwing the ball in, one bounce, is fine. But if you throw to the keeper from long-on or long-off, the umpires will monitor how often the ball hits the playing surface and tell you they’ll change the ball if you do it again.
“Things have changed. The LED lights on the advertising hoardings around the ground have little bulbs that stick out and they can take a huge chunk out of the ball. We have forced our bowlers to chuck it to the umpires [after it hits the board] so they don’t think we have done something to the ball.
“So, yes, there are grey areas but I think Cricket Australia have gone a long way to saying none of it is acceptable.”
It might have been relevant that Morgan was talking at the 2018 launch of All Stars, the ECB initiative aimed at introducing a new generation to the game. Confronted by dozens of enthusiastic children aged between five and eight, Morgan and his fellow ambassadors (Michael Vaughan, Sarah Taylor and Isa Guha) might naturally have been keen to focus on the more family-friendly aspects of the game.
But Morgan, like so many in England cricket, was deeply impressed by the example of Brendon McCullum’s New Zealand side at the 2015 World Cup, in particular. Seeing New Zealand play so effectively – they thrashed England so quickly in Wellington that the game ended before the lights were turned on for the day-night fixture – without resorting to any of the posturing or ‘mental disintegration’ that had started to become a feature of England’s Test cricket in 2013 and 2014, made a big impression.
“I massively endorse the way New Zealand play the game,” Morgan said. “Just look at the Test series in New Zealand. You have two fantastic ambassadors for the game – Joe Root and Kane Williamson – playing hard but enjoying the game. Nothing has come close to being controversial. And people have enjoyed watching it.
“You can talk about it [playing the right way] all the time, but living it and breathing it is a different thing. You have to recognise when it’s veering too far the wrong way. And it doesn’t stop you winning.”
Parents wanting their children to take part in this year’s All Stars sessions can register now via allstarscricket.co.uk .