Cricketers Without Pockets

The question is now, “how will we play the game?”


We all know that ball tampering has always been a part of our game, whether it be player’s sweat rubbed on the ball or a piece of yellow sandpaper. The difference with Australia’s unholy trinity is that the captain sat in front of cameras and broadcast to the world that this was a plan. A preconceived plan. It was not just a one-off incident involving a single player, it was thought out and pre-determined.


Added to this has been the lacklustre ICC consequences which have slapped players wrists with affordable fines and minimal match suspensions. This has perpetuated the culture that a player can manipulate the rules and if caught, it will get a minor punishment. Carry on.


But when the Australian captain says it was an orchestrated plan, the stage changes. Despite the scant regard of Smith, Warner and Bancroft, Australians at large have never condoned cheating in any way. We didn’t like the underarm bowl and despised Bodyline. Smith’s plan struck a chord in the Australian psyche that only his heartfelt remorseful speech could slightly soften. That said, punishments had to be handed out. Responsibility had to be taken. Darren Lehman has accepted his part in this team – his stewardship has encouraged the culture that has developed. He should have seen that certain players were stepping over the line and should have taken pre-emptive steps. He didn’t and has fallen on his sword. In a similar vein, James Sutherland as CEO of Cricket Australia should follow suit. He is in charge of cricket in Australia and therefore oversees this team. That he devolved responsibility to the team personal is similar to Smith allowing Warner to hatch and carry out the plan with Bancroft. Smith took responsibility. Sutherland must do the same.


How do we begin to recover our reputation? How do we get other countries to step onto the cricket field and know that the Australians will not cheat?


We begin by instigating serious consequences for anyone on the team involved with the current ball tampering incident. Three-year bans on those three players would have told them and any aspiring baggy cap wearers that cheating will not be tolerated. Loss of earnings? Bah! If these players haven’t managed the enormous amounts of earnings so far received, then they are bigger fools than they look at present.


A clean sweep is the next requirement. The coach has acquiesced. The CEO of Cricket Australia should be next. Those in a position to influence the players should also move on. Managers, coaches, physio … if they have played a part in this current fiasco then they need to go. To what degree would Michael Clarke engender or change the culture? Other countries must be shown that we are serious about resurrecting our reputation and that we are sincere and thorough.


Punitive, small time measures could include trousers without pockets. Overt gestures of goodwill on and off the field; before, during and after each game. They do shake hands at the end of the game but does it mean anything to this current ‘win at all costs’ state of mind? Make it mean something! Does it require the Australians personally inviting the visitors into their change rooms for a beer at the end of the day? If this shows a change of spirit, then do it. They used to do it.


The time-honoured tactic of sledging needs to end. Personal comments, intimidating gestures and bullying tactics should be publicly repudiated and personal/team sanctions applied. This will go to the core of every cricketer as it is now part of cricket DNA, it is their right to sledge. “It is part of our cricket culture” … oops, um, … that is exactly what we are trying to change.


I believe the media have an equally moral and responsible part to play. The screen media has gone to extraordinary lengths of viewer engagement since Kerry Packer became involved. Beforehand there was a gentle introduction to the upcoming match using uncomplicated music and simple titles on the screen to inform the viewer of the match details. It is now incumbent on the TV station to bombard the screen with loud jingles and tunes. Player clips showing them smashing balls and breaking wickets. Successful players screaming out. At this point a standard has been set, the next game or series promotion must be bigger and better!


Even at the current Commonwealth Games we hear comments such as, “we are OWNING the pool!” Or the Australians are “dominating.” When a Canadian wins the gold medal over an Australian silver, the commentary is bland. In the next event the Australians take out the quinella and the commentary turns near hysterical. This coverage engenders and supports the win at all costs attitude. There are hundreds of examples from a myriad of sports where this over the top media influence can be varyingly seen as quiet, subtle, strong and even perverted.





Cricket is at a crossroads


So, we are left with an not-so-simple task: Cricket Australia has the responsibility of restoring our sporting reputation on the cricket field. It must set the example so that opposition teams play a hard but a fair game of cricket knowing that that the team of players before them will not cheat to win. It cannot do this unless strong measures are taken. The media must play their part and tone down their rhetoric and coverage.


The bottom line is twofold: the first that it is just a game. Enjoy yourself. Take pride in a victory but be humble. Learn from defeat and let it strengthen your character. Secondly, personal and humanitarian values are more important that any bat, ball or goal. Simply said, at the end of one’s sporting career and indeed, one’s life … will the epitaph read ‘here is a sporting cheat or here is a person of great sporting character’.

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