By March 28, 2018

Ball tampering – is there all that meets the eye?

Recent turn of events left cricket lovers shocked, when two cricketers from the Australian cricket team were questioned on why they used ball tampering tactics to influence the game. Surprisingly, the duo admitted to be guilty as charged. And yet, when one looks closely at the two players during the press conference, there are significant observations to be made by paying attention to their body language while they are speaking.

The nature of the press conference demands that they be highly stressed, which is what we see right from the start of the interview. Here are the two, showing compressed lips and hard swallows, a sign of stress.

Bancroft appears highly under confident and sad as he starts answering, with hands hidden under the table, elbows turned inwards into his body frame, eyes looking down while he speaks, and eyelids drooping more than usual for him.

As the press conference progresses, Bancroft shows a signal which would be taken to be suspicious of lack of commitment to the words, which is the single sided shoulder shrug. This is when an individual moves just one of his shoulders up and down quickly while speaking. Generally this single shoulder shrug would mean that the person has no confidence in what he is saying. Bancroft moves his left shoulder up and down several times when he describes what he did during the match. Does that mean he is not sorry?

A look at his previous interviews where he is relatively more relaxed and converses naturally reveals that this left shoulder shrug is perhaps a habitual movement. So one cannot conclude that he is not apologetic during the press release.

When one hears Smith speaking, there are noteworthy body cues. Here are a few of them:

Eyebrow raise is missing in his speech. In all previous interviews, even when his team had lost the match, when he would be conversing, he would use the up and down movement of the eyebrows very naturally and without effort. The eyebrow raise is a movement of eyebrows against gravity, not possible unless one is committed to what one is saying. So while in previous interactions he appeared rather genuine, during the press release of ball tempering he appears highly watchful since eyebrow raise is missing.

When Bancroft is speaking about how he tampered with the ball, one can see Smith show his dislike for his team mate rather openly by displaying the sideways lip purse, where one shifts the lips to the side, indicating that he does not like what is being said.

Even when he is referring to Bancroft during his answer, Smith neither looks at him, nor orients himself towards Bancroft in any way. This is dismissive and shows the team captain to be having less respect for his team member.

The interesting behaviours start once Bancroft is asked about whether anyone from the leadership team had asked him deliberately to tamper with the ball. What you see Bancroft doing, is licking his lips with his tongue atleast thrice. A signal of very high stress, not seen even when he is admitting to his own wrong doing. Perhaps he is being watchful about how he would respond to this.

The more interesting displays are seen in the captain himself. Just seconds before Bancroft is asked this particular question, Bancroft is admitting that as his captain had mentioned, he was not proud of what he had done. At this point we had seen Smith look up such that he exposed his neck. Exposing the neck during a high stress situation can be a significant observation. Perhaps Smith felt the sword was being taken off his head by Bancroft using just the right words.

However, as soon as Bancroft is asked the question on co-ercion, here are the body movements observed in Smith:

  • He not only compresses his lips, like several times previously during this same interview, but rather presses his lips together rather tightly
  • He makes minimal movement, like a freeze response where one tries not to be noticed when he feels threatened
  • Takes a deep breath as soon as Bancroft mentions that he was not told specifically to tamper the ball by the leadership team
  • Suddenly scratches his nose not once or twice but rather four times. Scratching the nose is not a sign of lying, but one of very high stress. This action is seen abruptly and only when this particular question is being discussed, which makes the captain look super stressed with what Bancroft could have said, but did not.

All of Smith’s behaviours when Bancroft is answering about the possibility of being co-erced into taking this step are highly suspicious and one would want to take his inputs with a pinch of salt.

Takeaways from #pressrelease of #BallTampering - a #bodylanguage analysis #Bankroft #Smith #Australiancricket Click To Tweet

Food for thought:

  • In the more recent press conference, Smith appears much more genuine than in the one describe above. Can you spot the differences?
  • Also, why are there so varied changes in Smith’s body language in different media interviews, not too spaced out in time? What makes one change one’s body signals unconsciously?

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Posted in: Personalities

About the Author:

Khyati Bhatt has trained for mastery in Nonverbal Communication with retired FBI special agent Joe Navarro. She founded Simply Body Talk in 2013 to help individuals and corporates fine tune their nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication. Khyati believes in taking a scientific approach to body language. Her experience as a wealth manager, currency trader, and family entrepreneur has helped sharpen her nonverbal instincts. She is a fervent reader and has explored the work of many psychologists and anthropologists in her field of work.

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