On the day of the underarm bowling incident, I had worked hard all day. My cab driver was full of shocked disbelief and disgust. When he told me, I started laughing. This upset him. ‘What else do you expect when you sell your soul for lucre?’ Then The Age reported on one tight one-day game under the headline ‘Come on dollar, come on.’ Creighton Burns told me he feared that they might go under. I can’t recall if the article quoted that great line from The Great Gatsby.
It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people – with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.
As the smoke clears after the disaster at Cape Town, and as the pendulum swings back, we might reflect on two fallacies. One is that sporting bodies can be run as a business in the same way that any business can be run. That’s just wrong – for reasons that Donald Trump is finding out. The other fallacy is that at the top professional level, people are playing games as part of a sport. In some sense they are, but they are also leading figures in the entertainment industry, and that industry is a significant source of business for broadcasting and gaming companies. The so-called players are as integral to the economy as widget-makers. Hence their outrageous pay.
Next, with one possible exception, none of us is infallible. We all make mistakes. And thank God – the contrary is unthinkable automation. Some of our wholly fallible young men in Cape Town made a big mistake. They are paying a hideous price.
People say that the underarm job was lawful and that this case is worse. I disagree. I don’t think that you can measure moral culpability by degrees of lawfulness. Our whole legal system is predicated on our capacity to review the ‘equity’ of the case. If you break the rules, you face the sanctions imposed by the rules. But if you evade the rules and by doing so you hurt the game, then in my view you are the more toxic and culpable agent. It’s like tax evasion. For that reason, I regard the conduct of Trevor Chappell and his brother, and that of Stuart Broad in refusing to walk, as doing a lot more harm to the game than the breach of the rules admitted in Cape Town. For that reason too, I regard our young men as far less blameworthy.
Now for hypocrisy. Let’s start with ‘we the people’. We may be outraged, but we can’t say that we are surprised. We tolerated a hopelessly outmoded administration – dominated by an old god with a gong – treating our champions as medieval serfs and making them ideal prey to Kerry Packer and the gods of television. Then we supported those ludicrous pyjama games that have so debased our own coinage – and character. Then we turned up to cheer an even sluttier version. And for about a generation, we have sat idly by while a patently weak body, Cricket Australia, just allowed things to get worse and worse. We should be ashamed of ourselves. But, no, we had to have our ritual humiliation, and on Good Friday eve.
The hypocrisy of the ICC is unspeakable. They are inept and bent.
Mr Sutherland’s position is untenable. At its most polite, he has been standing too close to too many accidents. He and the board are responsible, not just in the sense of being answerable, but because their failures of governance have led to this mess. And the whole nation knows it. If Mr Lehmann had to take responsibility, so must Mr Sutherland.
Then there are the corporates who talk about ‘core values’. That is pure bullshit. Did the CBA even have the gall to stick up its head? People are already comparing our cricketers to our bankers. The bankers committed their crimes over time, and directly for the thirty pieces of silver. Will any of them be punished as hard as Steve Smith? Not on your bloody Nelly, Mate.
As for the mockers elsewhere, do you really think that you are well placed to cast the first stone? At least our boys came clean and are taking it down the front. Your turn will surely come.
There is something very, very wrong when a good young man like Steve Smith must take all this pain, while those responsible walk free. The whole body needs cleansing – the whole of it – and every player must have seared into his being the proposition that when he puts on that jumper, he stands in a position of trust to me because that jumper is mine.
And remember this. Bodyline was lawful. Who says that Smith is guiltier than Jardine?