By John Lewis, Sydney
Ricky Ponting and James Sutherland, take note. This story is representative of a growing phenomenon in Australian cricket. It was penned by a typical Australian fan who hits out hard at its current team’s lack of sportsmanship and the resulting drop in interest to follow cricket.
With the non-stop entertainment and excitement generated in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, I used to passionately follow cricket. This was back in the days when Clive Lloyd, Vivian Richards and Michael Holding were around and there was enormous interest in cricket.
In those days, there would actually be a genuine contest that enthralled us. In recent years, apart from the 2005 Ashes series, it has become boring. Why bother watching when you know the result is going to be Australia winning by an innings? Sometimes, a win achieved with dubious tactics that leave some of us fans embarrassed.
Cheering for the opposition: Un-Australian?
To make matters worse, as Australia’s dominance increased, so has their arrogance. I found myself on the occasions cheering for any side that was playing Australia. This was partly because I found the displays of triumphalism offensive when Australia mostly won and also because I feared for test cricket. Who will keep watching a contest when the result is so predictable?
Symonds should have walked
I had been feeling this way for years, when it all came to a head in January with the “Bollyline” events of the Second Test against India.
To hear Andrew Symonds admit that his bat had connected with the ball and he had given India a clean catch and not walked, was the first incident of concern. While the umpire did not give him out, basic honesty and sportsmanship should have meant that Symonds would have had no hesitation in walking.
Complaining when we get sledged back?
Then came the “monkey” incident. If (Harbhajan) Singh said it, he deserves censure, but it appears it was only the Australian team that heard it.
This is an Australian team that has made sledging an art form over the past several years. To me there was more than a hint of hypocrisy about a team that repeatedly engages in this behaviour but has the temerity to complain when they get it back.
On top of this there, was the Indian second innings where a number of dubious appeals took place and “catches” claimed where replays showed they had hit the ground. Did claiming dubious catches bother the Australian captain? No way! Win at all costs was obviously on his mind.
High standards of the 1950’s is good enough for me
At other times, Australian fielders who knew a catch had hit the ground first would indicate that, and if given out, the captain would call the batsman back. This is called “good sportsmanship” not living in the 1950’s as Ricky Ponting seems to think when he hit back at one of Australia’s all time cricketing hero’s – Neil Harvey for questioning the Australian team’s lack of sportsmanship. I could not even imagine Ponting’s immediate predecessor, Steve Waugh, who played it pretty hard, thinking like him.
Finally there was the display of triumphalism and bad sportsmanship at the end of the 2nd Test in Sydney when Australia “won”. No handshaking, or any acknowledgement whatsoever of the Indians when the last wicket was taken. To me this is un-Australian.
Ponting as captain sets the tone and attitude of the Australian team and should have been at the least reprimanded by Cricket Australia. Bad sportsmanship at this level reverberates across cricket at all levels within our country and will lead to the same kind of “win at all costs” attitude amongst junior cricket and schools. The Australian team should be setting the example of good sportsmanship. What did we see instead? James Sutherland and Cricket Australia backed Ricky Ponting when they should have been thinking of the game as a whole and its future.
What can be done? Teaching the Australian national cricket team some of the basics of good sporting behaviour and enforcing it through a code of conduct is the first step. Secondly, as it is clear we cannot depend upon their honesty, we need to go down the technology route of third umpires, on field microphones kept turned on, heat-sensing hot-spot technology to show when contact has been made with the bat, embedded sensors that will tell if the ball has hit the bat or the ground. But it should not come to that.
This team carries the reputation of Australia on its shoulders wherever it plays. For me, it was carried with much more responsibly by the Bobby Simpsons, the Neil Harveys and the Don Bradmans than this bunch of players who claim to be professional but actually are doing great damage to the Australian image. Until they do so, I will keep watching the A-League soccer instead of cricket, as many potential fans are doing. At least the soccer players keep within acceptable limits of sportsmanship, whilst still playing the game hard.
About the Author: John Lewis is a respected management consultant in ICT Strategy, Health and Human Services. Prior to that, he was a senior executive with the NSW Government (in Australia) and a Director of a “big 4” consulting firm. John has an interest in most sports but in recent years football (soccer) has taken over from cricket as his passion. John now enjoys the A-League soccer in Australia and is a keen supporter of the Central Coast Mariners. He wrote this article exclusively for CricketCrowd.com (June 2008)
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