The recent gnashing and wailing from the high priests of cricket ethics has had a great effect on me. It’s given me an A-grade case of the roaring shits. Every town clown and crier has joined the chorus. Chief Tool, Malcolm Turnbull says it ‘beggars belief”….this is from a man…no too strong a word…a person who has abandoned every principle in the book to retain power. He even chipped in $2M of his own cash to ensure that his simpering self could retain leadership of the liberal confederacy of dunces.
Sure you’re disappointed about the lack of fair play. Disappointed by the cheating. I’m profoundly disappointed that they got caught. It shows a complete lack of skill. My good mate Schotty wouldn’t have got caught. He and I went to a fibro hen-house that passed for a school in industrial Newcastle in the 1960s. There blokes punched holes in the wall for fun. The bleak and black arts were core curriculum at Jesmond High back then. We learnt how to conceal smokes, home-made knives and feelings. It was cauldron of confusion. One had to knuckle down, ignore the noise, expect no quarter and simply survive. Within this sharp environment however their were civilising souls – teachers of the arts and humanities that created pockets of relief that put a soft foil to the hardness of our day. We came out the other end, partly mad, mostly unworldly but at least we were prepared for the battle ahead.
Our current crop of cricketers have come through a different system of education and it shows. They have been raised within a fawning, soft crib. Their only mentors are stupid, somewhat limited, old cricketers. Cricketers without experience beyond the crease. The measurement of their success is simply a set of numbers. Complexity is rare. Those within the Australian team and support group that have above average intelligence are rare too. It is no wonder then when under pressure they panic. They have no default for difficulty.
In no way do I wish to diminish the act of cheating. I just don’t think some of the bleating people know the full extent of the problem. Spend a bit of time watching first grade cricket on any summer Saturday. Anywhere in this brown, beautiful land. You’ll find some flanneled fool fiddling with the ball. It’s what they do. Throwing it on the rough ground, accidentally spiking it, Dencorubbing it, armpitting it….a host of techniques, too many to mention. But when a bloke pops into Cape Town’s Bunnings and gets a bit of Number 9 Sandpaper we blow up …big. Is it the premeditated action that stirs us so? Or do we attach other things to our national teams’ performances that goes beyond just pure sport?
In 2016 the current South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was caught sucking mints and then using his saliva to polish the ball on one side. ‘Mints’ was later fined his match fee. Bugger-all compared to the 12-month ban and pillorying that Smith and Co are copping.
So why such a response to something that goes on all of the time?
Waleed Aly intelligently proffers the idea that this is much more than a reaction to one offence. That it is a reaction to how we have seen ourselves historically. Aly says in his SMH column today:
“Perhaps the Australian cricket team’s gravest sin is to have cheated on the international stage as the team that most fully represents the nation. Australian cricket has just debauched our foreign policy, by which we construct our place in the world. And that’s why we’ve reacted so viscerally. Not because it is proportionate to the offence, but because this taps something existential in us. We’re responding instinctively as a form of rehabilitation. We’re raging because our indignation is the only way we can put back together the mythology of who we are.”
I think Aly is correct. I also think that this is a delayed reaction to a backlog of appalling behaviour within the Australian team. Led by David Dick Warner we have seen the brutal, unthinking, ugly side of Australian elite cricket. The dim-witted prose of Warner and Co seemingly used to unsettle opponents is profoundly puerile. It is a tactic used only by the stupid and the insecure. Those who have genuine self-belief have little need to belittle their opponents in the sporting arena. Thy are confident in what they do. When Warner’s family values were questioned he reacted angrily. Such is the limit of understanding and ability to self-reflect. Additionally the fact that the current crew struggle to maintain performance averages overseas is an ample reminder that they do not have the mental toughness to survive without the soft cocoon of local comfort and adoration.
Within the Executive and Support Team of CA little appears to have been done in the last five years to correct behaviours or to provide self-belief and resilience training for our cricketeers. A coven of convenience seems to occupy these roles. I learnt today that there is a Head of People and Culture within Cricket Australia. Well I’ll be bowled over, really?. Job well done champ!. But who is this person? Well apparently it’s David ‘The Invisible Man’ Peever. Ex- Rio Tinto, Peever seems the perfect man for the job. Fresh from stints of bashing unions Peever has so far stayed out of the glare. Obviously he prefers to work under the cover of darkness. Down holes, behind the scenes, Peever has been beavering away – no doubt with a strategic cultural plan stuffed down the front of his gravy stained pin-stripes However he was very happy to be in Cape Town sucking on the teat when the bomb went off. This horrible little man let an unprepared Smith and Bancroft face the music. No doubt while he sucked on a brew and fiddled in his hotel room.
The end result in my view is. The roaring, chest beating ‘Dick’ Warner should be consigned to Pappadam League never to return. Peever, Sutherland and other Dicks within CA, that have been compliant through neglect must also go, now!. They have shown little capacity to lead change for the better.
Lasting cultural change will only achieved through strong, thoughtful leadership. You can only change this culture from the top – not from the bottom and sadly we have far too many bottoms running cricket in Australia today.