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29 Mar 2018

Sanctimony over ball-tampering does no one any good

Picture credit: Stephen Parnell

It’s often said there’s no happier human being on the planet than an Englishman with something to whinge about. While I’m well aware of my northern brethren and their penchant for a good old-fashioned gripe, I’d suggest that the happiest human being on the planet is, in fact, an Englishman with the opportunity and means to be sanctimonious and smug.

Nowhere else is this more evident than in cricket and in that regard, the current Australian team and predominantly deposed skipper Steve Smith, the man previously his deputy David Warner and that fresh-faced, suggestible Cameron Bancroft, have handed every sanctimonious Englishman a lifetime worth of ammunition.

For most Australian cricket fans, this whole sorry episode has been a genuine disappointment. Not for the first time and, I dare say not for the last, our Australian cricketers have let us down. The highest institution of our game, the captaincy of the Australian Test side has been tainted with a black mark. The mark is not irremovable. With time and distance, I have little doubt that Steve Smith will seek and find redemption in the sport and return to lead Australia.

From heroes to pariahs

For the other two who have gone done in the fallout, I am not so sure about their future in the game. David Warner seems to have gone from idol to pariah overnight while Cameron Bancroft might just not be talented enough at the highest level to recover.

I digress.

The point of this piece is less a reflection on the broken and burned remains of the famous ‘leadership group’ and the current players than it is a long, drawn-out thought about the almost tangible differences between what it means to be Australian or English at either a time of crisis or a time when your great enemy is wounded.

I have little doubt a large part of the volatile Australian fan base would revel in any scandal or issue that engulfed the England setup. Ben Stokes anyone?

That said, there’s a certain smugness that has gripped a number of high-profile former England players and the media and it seems less driven out of concern for the integrity of the sport than pettiness and one-upmanship.

Distasteful approach from rivals

Whether it’s Johnathon Trott taking shots at his old nemesis David Warner via Twitter or the insufferable, self-congratulatory tones of Michael Vaughan, I suspect there are more than a few hardened Aussies a little annoyed. That’s fine, one could even say that’s what the Ashes is about.

For every winner, there is a loser. The Ashes is the ultimate zero-sum game.

The English don't like the Aussies and the Aussies don't like the English and the history and tradition of the little urn stand as a testament to just how ingrained the dislike runs.

Sometimes, however, mere rivalry should be put aside. There are moments that transcend the sporting aspect of cricket and stand more as an opportunity for all sides to come together and band around the need to defend the greater good.

Former England captain Andrew Flintoff said it best when he tweeted about the incident: