Australian cricket's great betrayal



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.

Australian cricketer Cameron Bancroft caught tampering with ballI 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 this had become an article of faith with the current Australian cricket team."


I'm disgusted and aghast, too. And I'm gripped by the psychology of the matter as well. What makes people think that the end (winning) justifies the means (ball-tampering)? What makes people so arrogant and narcissistic that they believe they have the right to behave so wilfully, and that they will get away with such behaviour? And what makes people so downright stupid? My mother used to mutter about the 11th commandment: 'Thou Shalt Not Be Found Out.' It looks as if this had become an article of faith with the current Australian cricket team.

And it's not even as simple as all that. Whether you stay in your native land or leave it, as I did long ago, you have to accept the inevitability of change: that's human history. All of life is a constant process of adjustment as population composition changes, as expectations about work and lifestyle become, in a sense, more ambitious, as people live longer. I was born, for example, into the amateur era, but sport as a whole has changed tremendously during my lifetime, most notably under the influence of commercialism, gambling, and immense amounts of money.

I think one of the most painful and disappointing areas of adjustment concerns values. Call me naïve, but I believe I grew up in a world in which it could be fairly safely assumed that a gentleman's word was his bond. That latter notion is long gone, and now I wonder about the concept of gentleman as well.

The idea of cheating at sport, of setting such a bad example to the young, was quite simply unthinkable then, but now this cricketing episode, I fear, is a disgrace from which Australian sport may never recover. Something ethical, almost spiritual, has gone, and I am left with an acute sense of loss, as I have sadly to accept that the Australia I grew up in has vanished.

It's not easy being a sweet, old-fashioned thing.



Gillian BourasGillian Bouras is an expatriate Australian writer who has written several books, stories and articles, many of them dealing with her experiences as an Australian woman in Greece.

Main image: Australian cricketer Cameron Bancroft caught tampering with ball.

Topic tags: Gillian Bouras, Cricket Australia, Steve Smith, ball tampering



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Existing comments

Just as it is the young people in America who are challenging the power of the NRA I am hopeful that young cricketers such as my grandson playing in the U13's will challenge this 'win at all costs' mind set. From another 'sweet old fashioned thing'.

Joanna Elliott | 26 March 2018  

Acceptance of "sledging" as distinct from humorous banter as a characteristic of cricket etiquette is a relatively modern phenomenon. How often do we hear of sledging, "It's always been part of he game." Not so: good sportsmanship gave substance an meaning to the saying "It's not cricket" as an expression of disapproval for on-field behaviours incompatible with due respect and integrity. Distorted rationalisations of conduct unbecoming will no nothing to redress the image of "the ugly Australian" that has infiltrated this honourable game and the culture that surrounds it in recent times.

John | 27 March 2018  

In my view the rot set in when 'sledging' became an accepted part of the game. It was never 'cricket'. The Australian team seemed to revel as masters of this new aspect of cricket and with a tendency to behave in an 'unsportsmanlike manner' in my view ended my 'support' of the Australian team many years ago. Its acceptance is not a good look for younger cricketers growing up. Perhaps there is the chance now to outlaw 'sledging' completely and bring back the best values of the game for all concerned? I can only hope.

Peter | 27 March 2018  

There is something much worse than losing and it just happened, an Australian test team cheated. I think what sickens everyone is that they wanted to to cheat. It was a wilful act. I really hope it's not just the 'sweet old fashioned things' who are upset. All Australians should be outraged. Thanks Gillian.

Stephen Hicks | 27 March 2018  

There is no one who was at least a teenager then who does not recall the deep sense of embarrassment when Trevor Chappell was ordered by his captain and older brother to bowl underarm to the NZ batsman - and not even contrary to the rules - as it turned out - simply to avoid a possible - not even certain - loss. The arrogance of this present ball-tampering incident - with a piece of yellow adhesive tape to scratch the surface of the ball - leaves us all dismayed - and there are a good half-dozen commentators i have read or listened to on the matter and the national shame being experienced. But the best was a piece by Van Badham - who drew the comparison of the matter with the treatment by our successive recent federal governments of asylum seekers languishing - abused and murdered - out on Nauru and Manus - in particular referring to the incident of a 10-year old boy five years on Nauru who has already tried several times to end his life - and nothing from the monsters who sit in our national house of laws! Values. Our "leaders" have shown the cricketers that to win is all!

Jim Kable | 27 March 2018  

The death knell for the Australia you grew up in, Gillian, was I fear sounded long before this debacle. SIEV X, Tampa, Children Overboard, Mandatory Detention, Stop The Boats, Nauru and Manus (they ask us to limit these comments to 200 words, 2k would barely cover it). 'Something ethical, almost spiritual, has gone...'; it left some time ago, but it is only when cricket is affected by our 'unAustralian-ness' that we even begin to notice what we have become. "We all woke up this morning shocked and bitterly disappointed" lamented Prime Minister Turnbull. If there were a shred remaining of the integrity that you identify with your father, and many like him, we would wake up 'shocked and bitterly disappointed' /every/ morning.

Richard Jupp | 28 March 2018  

I agree Gillian that something very basic and special has been lost and this shocking incident typifies it. What are we teaching children if we can ignore morality and fair play in return for winning at all costs.

Maggie | 28 March 2018  

Without honour, how can there be glory?

Jena Woodhouse | 28 March 2018  

Well said Gillian! Perhaps all those in the public spotlight, adored by millions of fans, should take a 101 in 'Basic Respect for Self and Others'. Our elite sporting heroes represent our nation, whether they like it or not, and it is apparent that being gifted in their chosen field is but one aspect of what their job entails. From the comments we saw in the immediate aftermath, it seemed the seriousness of what had occurred was not understood; the captain believing he was still the 'best man for the job'. He simply did not appreciate the enormity of what had transpired. A comment by another famous Aussie cricketer many years ago has always stayed with me; something like, 'The only thing I did wrong was I got caught'. It's apparent to me through this behaviour and comments that there is a fundamental lack of understanding that what they have done is wrong. What leaves most of us scratching our heads with incredulity is simply not processed this way by the perpetrators. Gifted people come from a wide range of backgrounds and I think it only fair they receive training on the responsibility that goes with representing your nation.

Fiona Douglas | 28 March 2018  

Perhaps they need to appoint a chaplain to the team? They needed one before and they certainly need one now!

Peter | 28 March 2018  

A system has to be tested occasionally to confirm that it works. 3 out of 18 players surrendered to the immorality of cheating. 84% of the team were uninfected by this vice. Hell broke out and the 3 were put into Coventry to undergo very substantial penalties. The corporate supporters of the sport are taking this incident as an opportunity to screw some savings in sponsorship costs out of Cricket Australia. The disincentives to sinning, individual and corporate, being quite onerous, and the impediment to sinning, camera coverage, ubiquitous, a repeat moral lapse is unlikely for a long while. If people need to catch one cold every winter so they know their bodies can beat the bugs, what’s there to complain about Australian cricketing’s ability to disinfect itself?

Roy Chen Yee | 30 March 2018  

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