Cheating at cricket: acceptable standards; forgiveness and the false equivalence of #MeToo

Tuesday 27 March

Today I ask myself why it is that I watch cricket; or any professional sport.
This ball tampering business is such a shame.
So disappointing.


Central to sport is respect. Respect for self and respect for opponent. We shake hands with our opponents both before and after a game, for we acknowledge that without each other, there IS NO GAME.


In this way, sport imitates life. Respect for self and respect for each other. Without each other, there is no LIFE as we know it.



D Lehmann: I think it’s been disgraceful. You can have banter but they’ve gone too far. It’s been poor. (On crowd abusing Australian players)


D Lehmann: “From my point of view I just hope the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and he goes home.”




The level of hysteria voiced across the world over this issue, when countless other issues of broken trust and misplaced values exist, is interesting in itself. This is probably to do with what we deem to be acceptable boundaries. On the sporting field, rules are explicit. And yet in regular life, rules change with societal expectations. What is now deemed to be acceptable conduct may not be regarded as acceptable in the future.


In this way, as lazy and sub-standard as it is, and in the increasing absence of organised religion and social connection, many of us learn and navigate the ways of the world through the context of sport. Fairness, justice, equality of opportunity; the idea of teamwork. Through the context of sport we can also see the present-day rise of the worshipping at the altar of the individual.


This cricket cheating is another saddening example of a win-at-all-costs attitude to sport.
It seems to escape many that win-at-all-costs is a zero-sum game.


In a zero-sum game, when I win, you lose.
If we follow this logically, and assuming that I want to win all the time:
If you lose enough times, or with enough frequency, you will stop playing.
I will lose you.
And if I lose you, I lose my reason for competing; my reason for being.
I lose myself.
So pursuing a win-at-all-costs path makes no sense.


The win-at-all-costs view is most prevalent in professional sports; in which money dominates. In which reputations dominate.
Big reputations.
Big reputations.
Ooh, you and me we got big reputations, ahhh…
(Endgame, Taylor Swift)

Power corrupts.





The win-at-at-all-costs paradigm is also visible in regular life, pitting as it does, individuals against each other (I earn more than you earn; my superannuation package is bigger than yours; my school is a high achieving school and yours is not; my country is not at war and yours is; I was born into a secular culture and you were born in a religious minority being rounded up and killed, etc). Again, it is a zero-sum-game, for as people fail (or “lose”), we all lose. There are no winners in a world built on the mirage of winner-takes-all.




Cheating is a part of the human condition. Virtually everybody has cheated at something.


“The path to forgiveness always begins in the same place: with the recognition of one’s own sinful nature. Certainly one may never have done this or that truly dreadful thing upon which one’s sense of outrage currently rests. But, so the forgiving attitude insists, one has done something, indeed many things that are on a continuum with, or in some ways related to, the horrors one is currently condemning with force. One might never have cheated on a tax form, physically hurt anyone or directly stolen someone’s property, but one has – inevitably – told lies and hurt, deceived and humiliated, bullied and evaded; one has been guilty of a thousand everyday sins endemic to us all. A clean conscience is only a possibility for the callously unimaginative. To get by, we all need to rely on the forgiveness of countless others – ex-partners, parents, colleagues, friends – people who did not at a variety of moments exact the full revenge that might have been their due. Our survival is predicated on a great many others having – at key moments – cut us some slack.”
The Book of Life


Why a person would feel the need to cheat at cricket is an interesting question. Perhaps their sense of self is threatened if they lose. Perhaps their sense of self is so intrinsically tied to on-field performances, that to lose would be to fall into a pit of self-loathing. Alternatively, perhaps financial enticements exist; money certainly corrupts. This question will be for later investigation.




So what happens next following this cricket cheating?


I think all individuals involved with this plan to cheat should be removed from cricket. The veritable old game of cricket is bigger than any individual or group of individuals. And by choosing to cheat, certain individuals have chosen to remove themselves from relevance to the future of Australian cricket. They should be offered no commentary spots, no after-dinner speaking gigs, no further places from which to feather nests. And they should close the door on their way out.


I forgive them; recognise their human failings. And I do not wish ill upon them. But they have forfeited the chance to fill the roles assigned to them. Just as any of us forfeit particular rights after certain behaviours.


Questions need to be asked about the role of “Integrity Officer” in an organisation. The implication that if an organisation fails to employ an Integrity Officer, that organisation must be bereft of integrity, is patently daft. Integrity of any organisation is only as strong as the integrity of individuals within it; Officer class or not.


Personally, I have lost faith with Australian Cricket. Scheduling, BBL, win-at-all-costs and now this ball tampering are enough for me. I aim to pursue people with the ideals of Roger Banister, John Landy; individuals who see themselves as small parts of a much larger society; a world. Cricket, Test cricket really, has been an enduring interest in my life. During the “mental disintegration” years I watched from the periphery with less than pride. During the “break your arm” years I retreated further. But this episode will see me out for a while.




I’ll finish here with two final comments. Firstly, on the comparison between cheating at cricket and all other woeful behaviours, such as human rights abuses, carried out in Australia’s name. And secondly, on the unfortunate false equivalence that seems to have been drawn between the outpouring of public scorn around cricket cheating with the amazing and empowering #MeToo movement.


There is simply no comparison between, say, Australia’s inhumane policy of indefinite detention of refugees and this trifling matter of cheating in an old colonial game. There is no comparison. As Tom Clarke of the Human Rights Law Centre (@TomHRLC) tweets:


“If you’re a suicidal 10 year old refugee boy, then our Immigration Minister intervenes to prevent you getting medical attention in Australia, but if you’re a fancy nanny, he personally intervenes to let you stay.”


The boundaries of what society deems to be acceptable behaviour seem to slip all the time. Comparing matters over which Cabinet Ministers in past Commonwealth Governments have opted to resign, compared to today’s lowly standards, is a telling example of this (


On the global scale, very few people give a jot who Steve Smith is, let alone Darren Lehmann. And fair enough. In this regard, the sense of entitlement and inflated ego around the Australian cricket team is staggering. On the same day as this minor brouhaha, we have #marchforourllives making real differences to the lives of tens of millions in the USA.


Similarly, there is no comparison between the public outcry over cheating at cricket and the #MeToo movement. The issue of rich cricketers cheating at sport is worlds removed from that of disempowered women or minority groups being targeted for exploitation or systemic abuse by those in positions of power. Others have tried clumsily to invoke a link, but perhaps what was meant was this: our small and humble sport of cricket stands now with an opportunity to learn from other movements of grassroots social action, such as #MeToo and #NeverAgain. We stand now ready to learn, directly from supporters, about what is acceptable and what is not.


Today I ask myself why it is that I watch cricket; or any professional sport.




My answer is that I watch for the wonder of chance; for the wonder of watching evenly-matched opponents struggle; search for a way past; a way through. I watch to see people do things I cannot do. I watch for the looks on the faces; for those who treat triumph and disaster just the same. For those who realise, even in that moment of disappointment, or in that moment of ecstasy, that it is a mere game that they play. That they are ever-so-fortunate to be playing. For those people; that is why I watch.


Long may they play.


The sun rises again

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Yes, the false equivalences are just as degrading to debate as the what aboutism. People spending so much time in various races to the bottom. Which is part of the problem – so much of the series has been focused on where one draws a line, which is exceedingly difficult when you’re already on a slippery slope. I don’t support the idea of removing them entirely, just removing them from leadership positions. I certainly won’t be attending any international cricket this summer if Smith or Warner feature in leadership roles.

  2. ER – interesting thoughts. And yes the sun will rise again.

    I find it fascinating that, almost simultaneously, we have a State Government that admits ripping off taxpayers to the tune of $300,000 (that we know of), and the Australian cricket captain caught instigating a cheating move on the cricket pitch. And the most outrage is directed to the cricket captain.

    I hope what comes out of this ball tampering incident, is that large sporting organisations (take heed AFL) finally realise that they do not own the game in question. They are but trustees. And the trustees of Australian cricket are currently failing. Hence the public backlash.

  3. ER (and Dips) – I think the first part of your argument, answers your second. Sport matters a lot to people not just for the excitement and distraction, but also because it is a comparatively simple set of rules and consequences in an increasingly complex world. It is one of the few common mirrors we have in a fractured society. The furore over the planned cheating says we care, and are lucky to be wealthy enough to care about such frissons.
    I try hard but I don’t really understand economics, markets, trade wars, global warming and the consequences of confronting/not confronting nuclear expansion. I think I agree with you about global warming, but not refugee policy. The reasons would be complex, confusing, and bore everyone rigid.
    But at least we can understand and agree about the Eagles and Collingwood (both shit).

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    well, i think you’re a bit of a genius writer

    so there

  5. Yvette Wroby says

    Agree with Matt Zurbo David. I find it healing to read your thoughts and take. You have a wonderful mind and writing skills that bring your mind to us and expand us as u do so. Thank you.

  6. I am torn by this entire issue and the responses to it. The outrage, the indignation. As a cricket-lover I am saddened. The is a sorry, sorry episode – but is it the blackest in Australian cricket history? I am not so sure.
    What does it say about us as a nation that the shock can be so loud and so prolonged, the condemnation so fierce, yet asylum seekers are dying on our door-step, thousands of people live on our streets, the lot of our indigenous peoples is not improving? What does that all say about this country?
    And these:
    Malcolm Turnbull: “Cricket Australia must act decisively” (even though as prime minister that is something I have never done).
    Faf du Plessis (twice convicted of ball-tampering): “Ball shining versus ball tampering, they’re two very different situations”.
    Mike Haysman’s holier-than-thou commentary pronouncements: Haysman once took lots of coin to tour as a “rebel” in South Africa during the apartheid era.
    And the list goes on.

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great piece ER. Glory at all costs trumps the win. Glory in the world of social media has crossed the threshold into the hyperreal. Easy money, short term gain, the seduction of immortality, the lasting image of triumph.
    At Croxton CC , we used to cheat. Stones under the matting, zinc cream on one side of the ball, bottle top scraping the other. Did it help us win? Not really, but it was a young working class club’s way of defying authority, rules. Ethics ? Who needs ’em when your in a dead end job with a dead end future and cricket is your chance to taste some glory.
    Hypocrisy and false equivalence on every second Twitter click.
    No excuses for those involved, but the outcry and moral grandstanding has far outweighed the so-called ‘ball manipulation’ . It’s not just elite sport that is corrupt. Some clubs take pride in rorting the system and outsmarting the goody-two shoes.
    In Greece, if you paid taxes you were considered an idiot. Good people turned because they didn’t want to be seen as fools. Now an entire generation is lost with little hope for work unless they leave for abroad.
    I lost faith in cricket after the Hanse Cronje scandal. Around the same time I left Croxton CC for good. Footy still keeps me watching the telly and listening to the radio. A meaningful distraction with too many parochial and historical roots. If that goes, too it means I’m meant to be doing something else with my time, money and energy. An yes, the sun will rise tomorrow even though I might not.
    Thanks for this Dave.

  8. Michael Viljoen says

    You speak here about forgiveness. But you’re not yet ready to extend forgiveness to the cricket players and officials in this particular scandal. You say you want them thrown out. “Do not pass Go; do not collect $200.” And close the door on your way out.
    Perhaps it’s too soon to talk about forgiveness. The investigation into who really did what hasn’t even taken place. It’s all still too raw. But remember, nobody died here. It’s just guys sailing too close to the wind, who bent the rules too far.
    Bancroft, Warner, and Smith are all still young men in their twenties. Still time to mature. There’s still opportunity for us to see them at their best, both athletically and ethically. I remember how immature I was in my twenties. Life is all about second chances.
    I think even about Hanse Cronje, who was banned for life; playing, coaching, commentating; the whole works. The punishment made a big statement, and set a standard going forward. But the life ban was also a little out of proportion to his crimes, especially when you compare what he actually did to the actions of Mark Waugh (current Australian national selector) and others of his era, who also had fallen under the bookies’ spell.
    But in the months and years after the punishment was given, the SA authorities did discuss whether they should relax the life ban somewhat, perhaps even for compassionate reasons. That Hanse died so soon after his last Test match meant that any relaxation of the life ban served no purpose anyway.

    Forgiveness has a price. Extending grace to others costs us something. If we’re going to talk about forgiveness, we have to be prepared to give something of ourselves. That’s what it’s about.

  9. It’s good seeing Steve Waugh commenting on this sad, sorry saga. A nuanced perspective acknowledging the damage done to the players, the team and the game, by this behaviour. He moved the discussion beyond the usual banalities of those who constantly criticise the Australian team (players.)

    It often appears there are those who hanker for a reason to criticise the Australian team. Here there is a huge reason and criticism is required,along with the appropriate punishments.

    Let’s allow the full process of investigation to take its place, showing who was involved, with the actions described . Only once the evidence is presented and dissected can we honestly determine the punishments for those involved.

    Time to go beyond opinions and beliefs, let’s use an evidenced base approach here.


  10. G’day all.
    Many thanks for your comments.
    Such an interesting topic. To have raised such concern.

    Michael V – I think you are right. I think I had not forgiven these guys in writing that they should be removed from cricket. Forgiveness is quite an incredible thing. A powerful thing. I recommend that “School of Life/ Book of Life” link in that article above. I’ll get there. And we each walk our own road on that score.

    This event is not an isolated event – there is much context around the lead-up (hours, days, weeks…), circumstances.

    And stage-managed press conferences and media grabs are part of the equation now.
    Interesting times.
    In this small sport.

  11. DBalassone says

    I read that the leadership group is Smith, Warner, Starc, Hazlewood & Lyon. Hmmmm – all New South Welsmen, I believe. That’s got “boys club” written all over it. And more seems to be coming to light about the massive role Warner played. Amongst many other things, I wonder if this sad event could also signal the end of the NSW power base of the national team?

  12. Rick Kane says
  13. Shock, sad, disgraceful – yes, all of those David, but not sure about “The sun will rise again”. It’s been there all along, but we’ve been so distracted, we’ve hardly noticed. Thanks

  14. James Sutherland Press Conference:
    “I am shocked. Shocked to find ball tampering going on here”.
    “Round up the Usual Suspects”
    “Here is your salary bonus Major”

  15. E.regnans says

    Thanks Trucker.
    BB McCullum such an interesting figure.

    Thinking back to the recent clearly displayed toxic masculinity by DA Warner (, he was ready to blow.

    As I commented after that piece – MJ Crowe’s article is salutary (even commenting on DA Warner’s 2012, 2013 conduct).

  16. Peter Crossing says

    Thanks for this Dave. Some random thoughts.

    “The Integrity Officer …… the Integrity of any organisation is only as strong as the integrity of individuals”
    It’s the same with the spirit of cricket which relies on the “integrity” or moral fibre of the participant – to respect the opposition, the laws, the game and react accordingly. It shouldn’t just be “I have to do this because of the spirit of cricket”.

    Interesting that both the sons of S Waugh (he of the “mental disintegration” who has made recent Damascus statements about the spirit of cricket) and James Sutherland were members of the recent Australian U19 team. Probably quite nice blokes. However, Citrus Bob was moved to comment recently (Feb 5 , ….. “As I mentioned about the Under 19 team we seem to be breeding a race of arrogant, self-important and aggressive young group. The behaviour of both the Indians and Australians during that final when they obtained a wicket was arrogance at its best.”
    This would would suggest that the culture is in-grained and that CA and the grass roots cricket fraternity has much work to do.

    Who was the last Australian cricketer to make a speech such as that by Brendon McCullum? (see Rick K comment above).

    In terms of the overview. You are correct, Dave. It all pales when compared to what has been done (and is still being done) to asylum seekers in our name, to the treatment of the indigenous peoples etc etc. The Pope cartoon from The Canberra Times of 27 Feb sets it all in some perspective.

  17. Thanks P Crossing.
    Very interesting observations.

    Mike Hussey has this just now on “The Player’s Voice”

  18. The McCullum lecture is one of the finest and frankest articles I have read. Speaks to life and character as much as to sport and cricket. The Martin Crowe article is also outstanding.
    Thanks to the Almanackers who brought them to our attention. The humility and perspective of New Zealanders makes me feel like migrating (except for the weather).
    Played, all those men.

  19. Punxsa-and-the-rest-of-it Pete says

    My humble two bobs worth is England’s 58 brought the game more into disrepute than the business in Cape Town

  20. E.regnans says

    Mike Atherton, former England captain, voice of reason (and convicted ball tamperer) with this one (In which he references your Casablanca, Peter_B. He might have read your comment).

  21. E.regnans says

    Mickey Arthur writes about the inevitability of this. “the truth about Aussie culture”

  22. Verity Sanders says

    Noticed a video game called Don Bradman Cricket 17 – it has a specific search engine ‘Career Cheat’ that provides ‘cheats, hacks, tricks’, etc to accompany the game and make it easier to win. Includes a YouTube for afficianados. Interesting language and concept for youngies developing an interest in the sport. Are Don Bradman’s family or legatees aware of this use of his ‘brand’ I wonder ?

  23. Michael Viljoen says

    Thanks for the link you posted to what was said by Mickey Arthur. This is probably the most revealing thing about the whole subject that I’ve come across.

  24. E.regnans says

    Here’s Alex McFarlane in Saturday’s Age arguing that dubious cultural conditions were allowed to grow under the leadership of the Cricket Australia executives.
    And yet so far, only the players have been penalised.

  25. e.r.
    Gideon has penned a couple of brilliant articles in which he eviscerates the “suits”. His piece on Saturday(?) in which he drew an analogy between Peever and Harpo Marx was excellent.

  26. E.regnans says

    Thanks Smokie.
    I see that.
    Article title: “Review needs someone who knows the ropes but isn’t tied to them”

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