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This Is The Shameful Face Of Bad Sportsmanship

Some of it was understandable. Not funny, but understandable.

In the crowd on day one of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, there were guys with little yellow bits of sandpaper, referencing the ball-tampering in Cape Town.

Seventeen months on, the joke's wearing as thin as an overused piece of sandpaper. But OK, fine.

Yeah, real clever, guys. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Some members of the crowd also booed Steve Smith as he reached an improbable century, showing all the grit and skill which has made him unquestionably the world's best Test batsman in the past five years.

That, too, was hardly good form. But whatever, fine.

But the guys who wore masks portraying the famous image of Steve Smith's grief at Sydney Airport after he flew home from the ball-tampering tour of South Africa in March 2018?

They were bloody disgraceful, and a local cricket club and a bloke who does work for the BBC -- as well as numerous other people -- should have known much better than to mock Smith this way.

It's worth remembering that Smith was not the architect of the ball-tampering scandal. His failure was a flaw of leadership. Smith turned his back to the scheme, when as captain, he should have had the fortitude to stop it in its tracks.

It's also worth recalling that Smith never put the blame on others. At the airport press conference, which the grotesquely inappropriate masks capture, Smith said that "as captain of the Australian cricket team, I take full responsibility".

"I made a serious error of judgment and I now understand the consequences," he said.

Image: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

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Yes, In his darkest hour, Smith owned a scandal that was never his in the making. Anyone who was there knows that it was a cocktail of shock, regret and deep, deep pain. His emotions were genuine. These were not crocodile tears confected for the cameras.

To mock that is not funny. It's actually quite sick.

It's also just as much a violation of the spirit of cricket as ball-tampering itself -- an act which, let's not forget, former England cricket captain Mike Atherton was found guilty of in 1994.

And to think, it never even cost Atherton his job as captain, let alone his dignity -- a quality Steve Smith has a lot more of than a certain bunch of lads up in the stands at Edgbaston.