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Australian cricket's great betrayal

  • 26 March 2018


I like to see myself as a sweet and calm old-fashioned thing with firm, well-reasoned ideas about right and wrong. Well, that's the theory, but every so often my ostensibly calm surface is shrouded in the red mist of anger.

I also like to tell myself that such anger is simply righteous indignation. Which, of course, is not always true, but is this time.

The trigger is cricket, of all things, and one reason for this intemperate reaction is that my dad was the complete cricket devotee. 'A game of infinite subtlety and finesse,' he would intone at intervals to a largely indifferent audience.

In the summer of 1960-61, he and his mates spent long days at a packed MCG on the Test occasions when the legendary West Indies team was playing Australia. It was an epoch-making series, not least because Frank Worrell was the West Indies' first black captain, and because of the almost magical atmosphere of goodwill and camaraderie that prevailed during the whole competition.

Australia won the series, but when Worrell and his team left Melbourne they were given a farewell more usually accorded rock stars. That season lingers in many minds as one in which sport gave of its best, and players were gentlemen in every sense of the word.

Dad would return in a state of euphoria. 'An unsurpassable day,' he would chortle illogically, and go on to burble about bowler Wes Hall and mysterious concepts such as an umbrella field. Mum, having been left to mind three kids, was not impressed, but sat patiently through many a slide night as Dad showed off his new-fangled colour transparencies of the matches. But now Dad and his heroes (Bradman, Woodfull, Miller et al.) must be turning in their graves.

I first learned of the ball-tampering scandal via the BBC World News, and you can just imagine what the Brits are making of the whole matter. I'd never heard of ball-tampering before: all I could remember was the habit bowler chaps had of polishing the cricket ball on their trousers. I emailed my brother in Australia, who emailed back immediately with all the technical details about altering the surface of the ball on either side of the seam, and added the comment that he is disgusted, and that everybody from Malcolm Turnbull down is aghast.


"My mother used to mutter about the 11th commandment: 'Thou Shalt Not Be Found Out.' It looks as if