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Cricket cheats blind to the common good

  • 26 March 2018


Cheating in sport has a long tradition. A junior cricket team I played with was in trouble at the end of the first day, needing quick wickets to win. A block of ice on the pitch overnight did the trick.

But it was a cold night, with the result that the ice block had not melted by morning. First innings points were won, but in our team's second innings every throw from fielders was directed at the batsmen's head. In an under 16 football final, too, many of the opposition team drove their cars to the ground. And English village cricket was something else again, although less crude.

With a past like that I find it hard to condemn the Australian cricket team's latest stratagem in South Africa too harshly. People in glasshouses ...

But we did then expect better of first class cricketers. We saw them as playing in a competition that was clean, gentlemanly and played according to the rules. They played the game in its ideal form to which we sometimes aspired but accepted that we would fall short. They were custodians of its standards and good traditions. And by and large state and national teams accepted that responsibility, at least in public.

The most striking feature of the events at the Newlands ground was the lack of recognition of any responsibility, other than that to win the game. As with any activity that involves many people, cricket is shaped by multiple relationships — with other team members, with those in opposing teams, with cricketers at every level of the game in their own and other nations, with the public that supports them, with the media that feed off the public that supports them, with the technology involved in the game, and so on.

I would not expect that cricketers be able to articulate what is entailed in these relationships. But I was surprised that some dim awareness of their importance did not make the players responsible hesitate before launching on such a daft adventure.

The interesting question is why this blindness. I believe it reflects strands in the wider culture that emphasise competition and narrow self-interest and mistakes group loyalty for the common good.


"Unlike the senior players in the Australian cricket team, the boards and CEOs of banks have insulated themselves from the tricks played in the name of their team."


The royal commission into the banks which has run concurrently with the