It’s just not cricket

 

Before you lay a foundation on the cricket field, there should be a solid foundation in your heart and you start building on that.

Sachin Tendulkar

 

When thinking of the current ball-tampering scandal burning itself through Australian Cricket like an out of control bushfire I am reminded of other episodes of cheating throughout history.

Perhaps this is a way of maintaining some degree of perspective.

Of course, Test Cricket has for many years been on rather shaky ground as to its commercial viability and scandals such as these could be seen as being detrimental to the long-term future of one of the most popular and graceful of team sports.

One could also argue that the controversy and resulting ire built up from such incidents may even add some beneficial interest to the game. The intensity of the rivalry between such nations as South Africa and Australia is always tinder dry and only awaiting a spark to set the flame going.

It’s very easy, particularly on this side of the Tasman, to jump on the bandwagon when the Ockers are down for the count. But I believe no one really needs reminding that every team in Cricket is guilty of cheating at one time or another, ours included.

No. If Test Cricket is to flounder and ebb away in the future it will not be because of episodes such as these but by a far more insidious and destructive activity. This, of course, being ‘match fixing’.

While I would never condone cheating of any form in sport it does at least lend some colour and inventiveness to the game. It could even be argued that if you can get away with it then should it even be sanctioned.

Think of the times Ritchie McCaw managed to turn a ball over in a ruck at a pivotal point of an All Blacks game.

The way I see it, there is a world of difference between cheating in a game and fixing it for personal profit. No other illicit activity in sports can erode the public confidence as quickly as match fixing. Ask Pete Rose from The Cincinnati Reds when he was found out for betting on games he played in. Or the 1919 Chicago White Sox scandal which very nearly destroyed the game of Baseball in the United States altogether.

The advent of such competitions as the Indian Premier League and other such events throughout the world are prime breeding grounds for the type of corrupt behaviour that could ultimately destroy the public’s faith in the hearts of the players they love to watch.

Indeed, we’ve already scratched the surface of this fetid swamp of excess with the shady dealings that Lou Vincent and others got caught up in.

And in the end who really wins from this activity? Certainly not the fans and certainly not the players either.

In reference to the White Sox players of 1919: very few were ever even paid the money that was promised to them and many died prematurely through the shame and inevitable plunge into drug abuse which followed.

“Who is he anyhow, an actor?”
“No.”
“A dentist?”
“…No, he’s a gambler.” Gatsby hesitated, then added cooly: “He’s the man who fixed the World Series back in 1919.”
“Fixed the World Series?” I repeated.
The idea staggered me. I remembered, of course, that the World Series had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as something that merely happened, the end of an inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people–with the singlemindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.
“How did he happen to do that?” I asked after a minute.
“He just saw the opportunity.”
“Why isn’t he in jail?”
“They can’t get him, old sport. He’s a smart man.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald ‘The Great Gatsby’

I am not for one moment condoning the actions of the Australian Cricket team in their attempts to alter the state of the ball on the third day of the recent test match.

What I am saying, however, is that if the same level of media interest was focused on match-fixing in primarily the shorter forms of the game, then the long-term future of Cricket would be much better served.

 


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ORANGE

  • A large round juicy citrus fruit with a tough bright reddish-yellow rind.

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ORINJAMBA

  • Fifth generation Kiwi, social-political writer who left the Left sometime back and turned right. Heavily reliant on spell check with hopefully the intelligence to admit when he’s wrong and the humility to see the truth, irrespective of where it’s found.

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