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Ball-tampering scandal: Lack of leadership spreads rot through the nation

Editors Note: Patrick Smiths hard hitting article in the Australian called “Ball-tampering scandal: Lack of leadership spreads rot through the nation” has more than a ring of truth about it and deserves to be read by more people. Hence we publish it here on the Justaman blog.

Don’t cry for once-upon-a-time Test captain Steve Smith. He seems to have that under control for himself. Stick a hose on him and he is a fire truck.

Don’t cry for Cameron Bancroft. The eight-match newbie went out to field against South Africa sponsored by Bunnings hardware — no job too small — in the third Test. He is not without a quid yet is just a kid in the multimillion-dollar kingdom of Australian cricket. Supporters for David Warner might be harder to find. The left-handed hit-man of Australian cricket finally picked a fight he could not win. That appears to have evoked both cheers and tears. Make that very few tears.

Warner took time to lasso his thoughts before meeting the media. For Warner more time to think can be unhelpful. A case of giving a man enough rope … and Kaboom! Warner Kaboomed himself to irrelevancy.

Coach Darren Lehmann looked at the damage, saw the raw grieving of Smith and Bancroft and announced he was quitting. Don’t drain your tear ducts for him either. He has been on duty since 2013. Plenty of time to shape a team in his image.

Smith wept from deep inside, from a part of the soul roused only by the loss of loved ones. He selfishly, cynically put at risk the precious bond with his father and mother, so lovingly and impressively nurtured by all three and calculated to make him the best batsman in the world and his nation’s captain.

As Smith sat before the media after the third day’s play at Cape Town, an overconfident, naive and hardly contrite captain all but dismissed the ball-tampering charge against Bancroft levied by the ICC. It was a mistake, the work of the leadership group and his captaincy would withstand this dropped catch because, in reality, he was the best man for the job. Such reckless and unsophisticated talk.

Bancroft had it that, having offered to breach the rule on the field, he used yellow tape from the cricket kit, harvested granules from the pitch to put on the extra sticky tape and, hey presto, invented a tool to damage the surface of the ball.

If that had been an accurate and faithful retelling of the lunchtime conniving between Warner, Bancroft and Smith it could fairly be said to have been a spontaneous decision to cheat. But the yellow tape was, in fact, sandpaper, so cheating was now masked by a preposterous cover-up. Bancroft was told to get rid of the evidence when commentators started to take an interest in the fieldsman’s actions.

Here’s a good idea. Bancroft, with a magician’s delicate sense of misdirection, stuffed the sandpaper down his undies. And to his horror he was going commando by tea.

This post-day three press conference is important when considering the culpability of the players. They all thought they could get away with it.

As the news broke, the story spread across the globe marginally quicker than reports that Kim Kardashian gorged on two sticks of celery that morning. But rightly, most of the cricket reaction was outrage. There were some outliers in nincompoop land. One commentator said the hysteria made no sense to him, it was only ball-tampering after all and then followed that up with a question along the lines of, by the way, “what is ball-tampering?” Out, caught credibility, bowled pomposity.

This was more than a single example of ball-tampering: for example, Mike Atherton. This was the captain and the vice-captain conspiring and instigating a serious, hopefully clandestine, breach of the rules. It was a treachery to defraud the game of cricket, to win by cheating. To shame a nation. To disrespect the game. That is the very top man Smith, down through the second most important team member in his vice-captain Warner to the bottom of the batting order of power, Bancroft, the latest man added to the Test team. From the very top to the very bottom. Culture, what culture? Play Vide

We have said before that Australian cricketers greedily went on strike to win big pay rises. These blokes thought they owned the game and it owed them victory whenever they so desired. The seriousness here is that not one man cheated, but a nation did. Three out of Australia’s third Test side did; that’s a quarter of a team. So rightly Australia are ridiculed as cheats.

But there was a glaring problem. Put the money to the side if you had the muscle. The players also thought that it was their right and role to mould a new, tougher spirit of the game. It was, of course, beyond them because they didn’t understand the idea of a philosophy and its use in setting standards which to abuse was to abuse the game. Australia’s Test cricketers thought denigrating an opponent, his family and his country was nothing more than playing uncompromising elite cricket. They sold such gibberish within the tell-no-tales changeroom walls.

Yet the players were unlucky in their timing. They have played, with an assistant for every one of their fingers and toes, but no leadership. No one who could set boundaries just by his respect for the game and an acknowledgment of what makes it tick and what makes it tock. They led the way, talked of its history and planned its future.

Apart from the money, in bundles so big it could not fit in their travel bags, the players seemingly had no role models, no one to show how mature men and women handle themselves in deteriorating circumstances. In truth, Smith and Warner had no idea how to lead. Not a twig of an idea and we said so the day before the last Test. Voila.

But that paucity of leadership has gradually rotted just about every team in every sport. The way our federal and state politicians act points to a few tracks of redemption but none are reliable and certainly none trod by our pollies.

Watch the so-called leaders of this nation and you will see only this: a group of gluttonous men and women who flip and flop, not on principles but the search for power. Vanity and self-importance. Two days in the news.

All this is creating a very ordinary nation. Timid, without vision but prepared to get what they want with no consideration of the ramifications. That is the Australian cricket team; perfectly shaded representatives of modern Australia.

It is time for us to set the future parameters, to uphold standards the politicians are too scared of just in case it might lock them out of power. In this we could all lead the way, demand change and seek honesty from those who represent us in politics or in sport.

Smith’s visible grief represented what he had lost in reputation and what he had put at risk, the devastation of his family. His Thursday night news conference would have meant something valid and inspiring if it bemoaned the lack of opportunity to begin the new Australia. His sobbing was misplaced.

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