A few years ago a highly esteemed cricket journalist, who writes for some national newspapers and famous cricket titles, called me an old granny. Yes, an old granny. This writer, who I readily acknowledge has far greater understanding of the game than I, and writing abilities than I could only ever dream of possessing, was not passing this observation based on my age or any penchant I may or may not have for wearing ladies clothes or knitting short-sleeve jumpers. No, this was a reaction to my writing an article which highlighted my long held belief that cricket should be played in a certain spirit and that players should conduct themselves in a sporting way. At all times.
Clearly this was deemed to be old fashioned. Antique. A hankering for days long gone. Talking like an old granny.
But that is the way I view the game and always will. Indeed it is why I fell in love with cricket. I look back at my early playing days and cricket taught me to respect the umpire and the opposition – win, lose or draw. It instilled manners; to always thank the tea ladies, the groundsman and shake the umpires hand before heading home.
Compare that to football where I and others were often encouraged to cheat.
So I, more than most I suspect, was very disappointed with the events in Cape Town this weekend and I think it really is time for the game to get clean.
First things first stop the chatting. It was in 1964 that a bespectacled Geoff Boycott was called a four-eyed so-and-so by the Aussie fielders (or words to that effect – you can fill in the blanks). There is no place for such gross language on a cricket field. The Aussies decided that showering a batsman with abuse was an art form, mental disintegration Steve Waugh called it. Rubbish – abuse is abuse. End of. And there is no need for it in the modern game.
David Warner has sledged his way round the world but when Quinton de Kock gave him a little of his own medicine the Australian cried like a baby claiming the South African was crossing the line. Talk about hypocrisy. It opened conversations as to what was or was not acceptable on a cricket field. What is crossing the line? I don’t care – just end all such conversations altogether. Why do players feel the need to pass on feedback to the opposition anyway? Bowlers should bowl, batsman should bat and fielders should field. And keep quiet. Of course the fielding side should encourage their team-mates but – let’s get this straight – there is a million miles from geeing up your bowlers to informing a batsman of his mother’s sexual preferences. It is not banter. It never will be.
And then it is time to take on those that cheat. I was appalled at Cameron Bancroft’s actions that were so clearly seen by a watching world. And, again, let’s focus on what cheating is. Bancroft’s actions were attempts to alter the course of a game using illegal tactics. A game that his team were losing heavily. Again, it is not comparable to a batsman choosing not to walk when given not out by the umpire. That is another discussion.
The punishments handed to Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith following the Cape Town controversies are best described as derisory. This when cricket’s governing bodies could have made an example but instead they bottled it. Shame on them.
This is not anti- Aussie as I admire so many Australian sportsmen, most notably some of the great names that have represented Somerset. Woods, Alley, Chappell, O’Keefe, Waugh, Cox, White, Langer. All legends who wore the Wyvern. And there’s others. In fact I even quite liked Tom Cooper.
But this is a group of players who have been pushing the boundaries for far too long. If you’re not an Aussie then it is highly likely you will hate this Australian team. Is there a more loathed player in world cricket than David Warner? I can’t think of one. And Steve Smith is not far behind. Both are universally acknowledged as fabulous batsmen – for good reason – but their inability to behave could ultimately see their careers cut short.
The behaviour of some players is throwing the game into disrepute at a time when it enjoys it’s highest ever profile. It is time for action and for cricket to reinstate the values that made it the game it used to be. And still can be.
I truly believe that and, if that makes me sound like an old granny, then pass the knitting needles and wool. I need a new tank top anyway.