Why I'm glad ball-tampering scandal has clean bowled bully Aussies and Steve Smith

What is shocking is their brazenness.

 |  4-minute read |   31-03-2018
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The Steven Smith ball-tampering incident had me scratching my head for answers.

Apart from the incident being deeply saddening, it made me ask one fundamental question – “Why?” Why would Steven Smith - arguably the best batsman in cricket today, captain of the best team across formats - throw it all away for a minor advantage? Why would a senior player involve a youngster in an offence that could potentially end his career in one fell swoop?

I guess the answer is - because they thought they could get away with it. Which is why the names involved in the match-fixing scandal were some of the biggest in cricket. I have reached an age where following cricket is not about massaging nationalistic egos. I am detached from the game, and so incidents like this make me sadder.

But this incident is cathartic as someone who was once a die-hard cricket fan. For decades, Australia have been the big, bad bullies of cricket. They called upon the “spirit of the game” when it pleased them. And anything that they could not decipher or defeat was called “unsportsmanlike”.

Cricket possibly has the strongest link, among modern sports, to colonialism. In fact, the history of cricket is the story of colonisation. The first Test was played between England and Australia in 1889 and there were only two nations playing the sport for 12 years, till South Africa (then a colony) was added to the party. It would take another 39 years till “West Indies” – a random amalgamation of Caribbean countries - would be added to the fray. When you stop to think about it, it is absurd that an international sport with a history of more than 100 years, should have only 10 full-time participants!

On paper, cricket is a gentleman’s game. But it wouldn’t be wrong to call it the “white man’s game”. England and Australia have bullied and arm-twisted opponents who didn’t toe their line. And yet, when there is talk of “controversies in cricket”, the images that flash are those of incidents by India and Pakistan. Of course, we neighbours have an undeniable chequered history, but Australians have hardly been the torch-bearers of sportsmanship.

aus-690_033118052225.jpgAnd Steve Smith had the arrogance to call an act of cheating “brain fade”. Photo: REUTERS

When the English and Aussie media could not wrap their heads around reverse-swing, they called Pakistanis “cheats”. Today, it is ironic that the Ashes series is often determined by who pulled off better reverse-swing! When the pitches are made grassy and bouncy, they’re called “sporting wickets”. But when they travel to Asia and find different conditions, they complain about “flat tracks” and “dustbowls”.

The Australians have also been the pioneers of sledging, or as their former skipper liked to sugarcoat it – mental disintegration. Aussie players have no remorse in intimidating and injuring opponents and laughing in their face. But when they’re served the same medicine, they crib and go running to their media.

Shane Warne has been involved in several shameful activities on and off the field, and yet is considered an Aussie hero. When Muralidharan looked set to eclipse every single one of Warne’s records, the Aussie crowds, officials and umpires broke him down bit by bit – resorting to everything from intimidation to humiliation, even though his action had been cleared by the ICC.

From the match-fixing scandal to the “underarm incident”, Aussie cricketers are as dipped in murky waters as cricketers anywhere else in the world. And yet, the holier-than-thou attitude of the Aussie press rankles me no end.

What is shocking is the brazenness of the Aussie cricketers. Their coach is a man who boasted about making racial comments against a cricketer. Dean Jones called Hashim Amla a “terrorist” from within the commentary box. David Warner has been in so many scuffles, you can loop his videos in a playlist and study for your final exams!

And Steve Smith had the arrogance to call an act of cheating “brain fade”. And who can forget Darrel Hair – arguably the most notorious man in the history of modern cricket?

The truth is, Australia have, for decades now, walked a few inches above the ground. They have believed in pushing the boundaries of civility, and run behind the curtain of “spirit of the game” when it suits their petty interests.

As a cricket enthusiast, it makes me sad that Steven Smith and David Warner – two of the finest batsmen in the world today – will be missing a year of cricket.

But if you went around the cricketing world and asked them, I doubt many people would be missing them!

Also read: Steve Smith ball-tampering case has ended my love affair with Australian cricket

Writer

Hriday Ranjan Hriday Ranjan @heartranjan

The author is is a writer and stand-up comedian from Hyderabad. His first book will be out when Saudi Arabia becomes a democratic state.

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