The ICC has said it does not agree with Cricket South Africa's assertion that law 42.3 is unclear in its definition of what constitutes an artificial substance and is "disappointed" with Faf du Plessis' decision to appeal his guilty verdict for ball-tampering. Although the ICC cannot comment about the matter in detail until the appeal is heard, CEO David Richardson addressed the media in Adelaide and emphasised his organisation's understanding of the fair- and unfair-play laws.
"These state that a player should not use artificial substances to shine the ball," Richardon's statement read. "The ICC understands that to include, but is not limited to, sunscreen, lip ice and residue from sweets."
He confirmed that the ICC "does not wish to prevent players from using these substances for legitimate purposes. However, any deliberate attempt to apply such substances to the ball, as was the case here, will not be acceptable."
Richardson did not rule out the possibility that the law could be changed, but stressed that until such an amendment, the laws in their current form will be applied. "This will continue to be reported and the ICC confirms that unless the Laws are changed, the current practice of charging players when the evidence shows an obvious breach will continue. ICC Umpires will remind all teams of the Laws as they stand."
While CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said he hoped to engage with the ICC at their next cricket committee meeting in May - and said it was due for discussion even before the du Plessis incident - Richardson confirmed it could be put on the agenda in light of the recent saga. "I think he (Lorgat) jumped the gun in saying it's on the agenda. But I think that in light of this incident and of other comments being made by players around the world, I think it's fair to say it should be discussed by the cricket committee going forward."
Any discussions would be part of what Richardson called a "two-stage process", the first of which would concentrate on the appeal. A date has not been set but the ICC said the appeal would be heard at "the earliest convenience". Although the ICC recognised du Plessis' right to appeal, Richardson maintained that CSA's conduct, in particular the press conference at the MCG when Hashim Amla stood with the entire squad alongside him and dismissed the allegations against du Plessis, was disrespecting the process.
"I think it's fair to say I'm disappointed that they don't respect that the laws are there. They are there and the process is not necessarily respected. I was disappointed in the initial sort of comment that this is a joke - that kind of comment," he said. "But full marks to them, subsequent to that they've acknowledged we attend the hearing, go through the process and follow it. So perhaps that initial reaction I thought was uncalled for but subsequently it's within their rights."
Richardson did not read too much into the role broadcaster's play in bringing transgressions of this law to light, comparing it to instances when the stump microphones pick up players bringing the game into disrepute. "I don't think the players - or we - should be too worried or concerned about that (the broadcasters). It's a similar argument when it comes to bad language used around the stump microphones. If you're going to use bad language and somehow it is picked up by somebody - you've got to live with it. So decide what kind of behaviour you want to show and behave accordingly," he said.
And, because it is not easy to monitor which artificial substances are being used, Richardson maintained that if someone is caught, they will be punished.
"This has always been an issue that's been quite difficult to police," he said. "Even before we spoke about using mints and sweets, lip ice - and we've been using lip ice and sunscreen on our faces for years - we understand that inadvertently in shining the ball there's a potential for it to get onto the ball. And for that reason we're not going to go around wildly accusing players of cheating and using the lip ice, sunscreen or sweets. We've taken the approach that we will only really charge someone if it's obviously being done for that particular purpose.
"There's two examples in the past. One was Rahul Dravid where he actually took the sweet and rubbed it on the ball, you probably couldn't get more obvious than that. And in our opinion this instance. So if anyone does something similar we will hopefully get to see it, treat it in exactly the same way we've treated Faf in this case. These decisions are not taken lightly because it was just so obvious under the current laws that we thought we had to report him."
Asked what he thought about Steven Smith's acknowledgment that all players shine the ball the same way, Richardson distanced himself. "I'm not sure he exactly went that far as to say the same way he was talking about shining the ball."
He moved even further away when asked to respond to Lorgat's comment that Richardson himself was part of the South African brigade that shined the ball.
"I thought that comment was probably inappropriate but I can speak for myself and I can confirm I never - probably because I was the wicketkeeper and had no real need to shine the ball in any way, but I can confirm I never used - and I used lip-ice and sunscreen religiously for 30 years - and never put it on the ball."