Controversies in cricket? In 2018? Surely not ...

28 December 2018 - 09:55 By Telford Vice
Cricketer Steve Smith reacts at a press conference at the airport in Sydney on March 29, 2018, after returning from South Africa. Distraught Australian cricketer Steve Smith on March 29 accepted full responsibility for a ball-tampering scandal that has shaken the sport, saying he was devastated by his "big mistake".
Cricketer Steve Smith reacts at a press conference at the airport in Sydney on March 29, 2018, after returning from South Africa. Distraught Australian cricketer Steve Smith on March 29 accepted full responsibility for a ball-tampering scandal that has shaken the sport, saying he was devastated by his "big mistake".
Image: Peter PARKS / AFP

“Cricket’s greatest controversies this year‚” the editor says he wants chronicled in this piece.

And that’s hard to do.

Not because it’s difficult to find a rumpus that ripped through the game in 2018‚ but because it’s tricky to remember any others gnarly enough to hold their own next to the biggest and best story of the year in all of sport.

Like the Highlander‚ there can be only one.

And I know‚ you know‚ we all know what that one is. But what the boss wants the boss gets. So …

1) “Sandpapergate”

That’s a lame descriptor for what happened at Newlands on March 24‚ especially considering the explosion that followed and still rumbles around cricket’s furthest corners.

What was Steve Smith thinking? What was David Warner thinking? What was Cameron Bancroft thinking? Scrap that: Bancroft doesn’t think‚ clearly.

“I didn’t know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued really; as simple as that‚” Bancroft said in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

“The decision was based around my values‚ what I valued at the time and I valued fitting in ... you hope that fitting in earns you respect and with that‚ I guess‚ there came a pretty big cost for the mistake.”

The Newlands Test was Bancroft’s 76th first-class match. He had‚ by then‚ also played 41 list A games and 25 T20s at senior level.

Since he turned out for Western Australia’s under-17 side in January 2009 he had walked onto a cricket ground 245 times.

Every time he stepped over the boundary he would have done so‚ knowingly‚ under the auspices of what the game calls its “laws”.

The 41st of them makes plain that “it is an offence for any player to take any action which changes the condition of the ball” and that a fielder is allowed to “polish the ball on his/her clothing provided that no artificial substance is used and that such polishing wastes no time”.

So it is patent crap that Bancroft “didn’t know any better” when‚ under Warner’s direction and with Smith’s knowledge‚ he rubbed sandpaper on the ball.

Not only did he fail as a cricketer‚ he failed himself as a person for wanting to “fit in and feel valued” in an environment toxic enough to allow the hatching of the plot and to nurture it‚ unbetrayed‚ to execution.

“I was disappointed with a few things and I don't think he had to say some of the things he had to say‚” Ricky Pointing said in another television interview on Wednesday.

“Even the way he presented himself … he’s trying to rebuild his brand and that sort of thing‚ and I think some of the things he’s had to say have actually done more damage to his brand than what had happened before.”

For Micheal Slater‚ “In terms of a respectful comment on Dave Warner‚ there's been none of that. So to me‚ it is untenable. [Smith and Bancroft have] buried him very quickly.”

An important fact about those statements is that Bancroft’s was aired on Fox Sports and Ponting and Slater spoke on the Seven Network: in Australia’s tabloid televisionland‚ channels consider it their duty to criticise what their rivals put out there.

Also‚ Australia’s media-trained players are exceptionally adept at bending the narrative to fit and further the agenda of current and potential employers.

But what Ponting and Slater were really questioning was Bancroft being treated like a victim and survivor — Bancroft will have served his ban by Saturday — of a system to which Ponting and every other Australia cricketer owe everything they are and everything they have.

Suits all look and sound the same: pathetically whiney and out of touch. So whether it’s the prime minister‚ cricket bosses or some slimy estate agent shouting at you‚ it doesn’t matter.

But when the light on the rotten world that made you is being shone by someone who opened the batting for Australia’s mighty‚ glorious‚ inviolable cricket team‚ it matters more than anything.

2) Warner v World

David Warner has a bloody good life. His partner is a pillar of success and‚ it seems‚ support.

His children are lovely. Warner is among the best in the world at what he does for a living. The family do not struggle for material comforts and‚ apparently‚ happiness.

So why is the man such an idiot?

Warner’s behaviour on the field at Kingsmead last season‚ when he was more like a rabid animal than Australia’s vice-captain‚ should have earned him a fine at least.

What happened in the stairwell‚ where he couldn’t deal with Quinton de Kock’s retaliation‚ crass and unfair though it reportedly was‚ should have seen both of them banned.

What happened at St George’s Park‚ where spectators wore face masks demeaning Warner’s partner‚ proved it takes an idiot to know an idiot.

3) Al-Jazeera and all that

The integrity of 15 matches played mostly by England‚ Australia and Pakistan in 2011 and 2012 was impaired by 24 instances of spot-fixing‚ the network claimed and detailed in October.

Cue outrage in cricket. Not because there was evidence that corruption was rampant but because an organisation from outside cricket had said so.

The International Cricket Council fussed and fumed about Al-Jazeera’s refusal to cooperate with the suits’ investigations.

Journalism 101 — if you reveal your sources‚ why would anyone who has sensitive information talk to you? And administering 101 — if you run the game properly fixers won’t find it this easy to infiltrate the dressingroom.

The mainstream cricket media made miffed noises about the way Al-Jazeera had prevented their story. Pissed off you didn’t get there first‚ né?

The fans said … Hello? Fans? Not a peep. Perhaps they were busy placing a bet when the documentary was broadcast.

Fixing has and always be part of cricket. We can either live with that get on with watching professional wrestling in pads‚ or aim to change the reality.

That means making match venues WIFI-free zones‚ eradicating online ball-by-ball scoring platforms‚ not taking betting shops’ money for advertising and sponsorships‚ banning gambling on cricket‚ and throwing the guilty out of the game forever for a first offence‚ no matter how apparently trifling.

What are the odds on any of that happening?

4) When clever people do stupid things

“I don’t think you should live in India‚ go and live somewhere else. Why are you living in our country and loving other countries?

"I don’t mind you not liking me‚ but I don’t think you should live in our country and like other things. Get your priorities right.”

That was Virat Kohli’s response‚ which he posted in a video on social media‚ to a tweet‚ which‚ helpfully‚ he read before issuing the above: “[Kohli is an] overrated batsman and personally I see nothing special in his batting.

"I enjoy watching English and Australian batsmen more than these Indians.”

Why does Kohli confuse sport with patriotism? Who is he to tell anyone where to live? Priorities? Clearly his are dangerously confused.

This kind of quasi-fascism should earn someone as influential as Kohli — he has 27-7-million Twitter followers — a visit from the police. Is he trying to engineer someone’s death?

You’re an intelligent person‚ Mr Kohli. Don’t be an idiot. Cricket has enough of those already.

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