Is Australian cricket losing its moral compass?

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The Australian team thought that they were bigger than the game of Cricket and could get away with everything. At Cape-Town, the match point is the “ball-doctoring” getting the reverse.

By discounting for years of bad behaviour — cowardly sledging, vulgar tantrums on-and-off the field — the sport has created a climate whereby they can perceive such predetermined ball-tampering a legitimate tactic, “a way to get an advantage” as disgraced Aussie captain Steve Smith so pathetically put it.

“Give an inch, take a mile”, goes the saying. Because Cricket has not been tough on some of the players, with miserly penalties for indiscipline and malpractices, the sense has grown in the Australian dressing room that they can pretty much do as they please.

Watching Smith admit to the disgraceful plan at the press conference alongside team-mate Cameron Bancroft, who enacted the nefarious design by haphazardly taking some yellow substance to the ball before pushing the foreign object back down his trousers like someone trying to hide incriminating drugs during a raid, it appeared that Smith thought that he and his team could simply move on.

Ball-tampering, which is only a ICC-coded level two offence, itself is as old as the hills, with players deliberately throwing the ball on to the ground in an effort to scrape it up, but this episode, discussed by the “leadership group” distinctly highlights the team’s ignominious cricketing culture.

Smith’s reputation is in shreds, his position indefensible, and by his actions, distanced himself from the sport. That the “group’s” predisposition to take such a risk by blatantly cheating in front of myriad TV cameras shows how divorced from reality Australia’s cricket have become. Strangely, there was more honesty when there was no technology.

It was not long ago that Australian coach Darren Lehman encouraged Australian fans to make Stuart Broad’s life a misery after Broad himself “cheated”, in some people’s eyes, by failing to walk after edging to slip.

Steve Smith, David Warner, Nathan Lyon – all these players will be remembered for their negative impact on the game, as well as their magnificent achievement, a sadly tarnished legacy. We have admired their cricketing prowess. Hence, it hurts.  By their actions, “the leadership group” established that the Australian cricketing culture embraced an irrevocably tainted brand.

Form is temporary, cheating is permanent

Supporters can eventually laugh-off bad results, shocking though they may seem at the time.  No one forgets cheating.  We can forgive and forget failure, but cheating is for life.

Recall the “brain fade” episode.  Hardly a year ago, it was again umpire Nigel Long, who dissuaded Steve Smith from taking recourse to inappropriate help in the DRS (Dressing Room Review?) referral in the Second Test at Bangalore.  Virat Kohli stopped short of accusing the Australian captain of cheating, but made it clear it was unfair.  While Cricket Australia (CA) CEO James Sutherland staunchly defended the integrity of Smith saying that Steve is an “outstanding cricketer and role-model to many aspiring cricketers…”, its all now open that systemic unfair tactics are employed. And, do you have any new defence theory?

In the past, Faf du Plessis used the trouser zip for tampering with the cricket ball.  Some enthusiasts had tried Pepsi bottle caps, dirt in the pockets, finger nails and even teeth.

Coach fails

Like it or not, a coach is expected to play a central role in influencing the moral terrain within the team. Though it’s all rotten for quite some time, the sports regulators have done nothing much about it.

Fact is, we can’t even know whether the runs and wickets are real or a sham.  If a team or a player throws matches, then the historical rankings are not reliable records we had assumed them to be.  We are not any more witnessing something pure and fair.  We are being sold a product.  Yes, it’s time we re-employed the rational corner of our brain which is telling us we’re being conned.

Where is ‘self-accountability’ to the idea of sportsmanship, or simply to one’s own integrity?  The question is if the dishonesty is ingrained into the culture that we become unaware of what we lost.  The moral imperative of sport is derived not from the specific rules or laws associated with it but from its intrinsic nature.

Is it true that Golf is the only unique sport, where players call penalties on themselves and report their own score?  I have heard it many times: “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching”.  That definition relies too much on habit.

Play the game with style and smile, why cheat?

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)