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Sledging to ball-tampering
Why the shock and consternation over the actions of at least three Australian cricketers, inclusive of captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner to hatch and carry out a plan to use a foreign object, against the rules of the game, to induce exaggerated reverse swing?
Over the last couple decades, Australian cricket teams have adopted an attitude of winning “by all means necessary.” The Australian players have been uncouth and verbally abusive to their opponents. Steve Waugh christened the abuse on opponents “mental disintegration.”
The ball-tampering, said to be planned and executed by the three, is the natural follow through to the verbal abuse the Australians dumped on cricket.
It is pure hypocrisy for James Sutherland, president of Cricket Australia, to be adopting the attitude of shock that his players could have reached this stage. If not hypocrisy, Sutherland’s attitude is submerged in ignorance of consequences that follow original action.
Cricket Australia stood on the sidelines over the period and did nothing about the bullying and ugly behaviours of Australian teams on and off the field.
Winning “at all cost” resulted in large crowds, big sponsorship money, with all sharing in the loot. Only recently in the current South African series, Warner was found guilty of picking confrontation with South African wicketkeeper, Quinton de Kock.
On-the-field behaviours of Warner and off-spinner Nathan Lyons directed at South African star batsman, AB de Villiers, were representative of the “Ugly Australian.”
Remember their champion fast bowler, Glenn McGrath, whom Steve Waugh referred to as his “enforcer,” and his abuse of West Indian batsman, Ramnaresh Sarwan in a most vulgar way?
Typical of bullies, when Sarwan responded in kind, McGrath got all emotional to the point of seeming to want a brawl out in the middle.
Elements of that kind of behaviour, sanctioned by the players, have been passed on to the crowds. The great Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan, was barracked series after series in Australia for an alleged illegal bowling action, notwithstanding the fact that he passed several tests by the International Cricket Conference which found his action to be fair, according to the rules of the game.
Most naturally, teams playing Australia came to adopt behaviours to match those of their opponents.
The Australian administration moved the dominating ethic to the point of proposing, along with India and England, that the trio should take charge of all administrative and financial arrangements for cricket worldwide.
And what of the weak-kneed attitude adopted by the ICC, through it all?
The game’s governing body said little and took no serious action against what was developing on the field. This columnist predicted more than a few years ago that Australian bullying on the field would eventually lead to physical encounters as players on other teams reacted.
It happened recently as South African fast bowler, Kagiso Rabada, not too innocently bumped into Australian captain Steve Smith.
Although freed by an ICC investigator, Rabada’s hostility against the Australians was a clear attempt to play them at their own game.
What a difference in Australian player attitude to that experienced by the West Indies and cricketing world in the 1960-61 series Down Under (still rated as the greatest Test series ever) when captains Frank Worrell and Richie Benaud managed their teams to play unrelenting cricket but without rancour and ill-mannered behaviours.
But Australia have not been the only proponents of such “un-cricket like” behaviours.
A generation of Pakistani fast bowlers was charged for ball-tampering.
A couple of the great WI fast bowlers kicked down stumps and bumped into umpires in New Zealand when they felt robbed by umpires.
The time is right for the ICC to take off the blinkers and recognise and treat with that Australian need to dominate, and to do so notwithstanding. It should not be thought that this incident will end Australian bullying.
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