Media Monitor: The more thieves change in Australia cricket, the more they reverse the swing

“One seta friggin tief!”

Amen, brother! More than 15 years ago in July 2001, Valentino Singh, former QRC cricket captain and later Guardian sports editor, headlined his regular Thinking Things Out column, “Best ‘cheats’ will continue to rule.”

Photo: A 2001 column by then Guardian sports editor Valentino Singh knocking Australia’s unsporting behaviour.

The “cheats” referred to were the Australian Test cricketers who, according to Singh, “intimidate the authorities and get away with a lot of things for which players from other countries are sanctioned.”

Talking to me yesterday about the recent goings-on in the South Africa vs Australia Test in Cape Town, Singh unapologetically used rather stronger language than “cheats.”

And who can blame him?

“How can our team be engaged in cheating like this?” Aussie Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked publicly. “It beggars belief!”

And former Aussie captain Michael Clarke tweeted that it was “a bad dream.”

A dream? Really, Mr Clarke?

“Who could forget Ian Healy’s “run-out’ of Brian Lara in 1992?” asks Singh’s 2001 column. “And what about the infamous Steve Waugh catch against the very same Lara in 1995?”

“I will never forget Brendon Julien barging into Sherwin Campbell,” he adds, “and causing him to be run out.”

“During the last series against West Indies, Mike Holding’s check revealed that there were some 17 questionable decisions—13 of them in favour of the Australians.”

Photo: West Indies cricket star Brian Lara sweeps for four vs Australia at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 20 April, 2003.
Behind the stumps are Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist (left) and Mathew Hayden.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Robert Taylor)

And Singh arrives at the conclusion that “the team which can […] cheat the best will continue to rule the roost!”

Well, I have good news for my old friend who, like every born Trini, knows that the longest rope have ah end: Australia just hang dehself on dem own.

What happened in Cape Town was no accidental, one-off, spur-of-the-moment act. No, sirree! This was carefully planned, institutional, calculated, premeditated, cynical cheating. It might be pushing it to argue that it is on par with the Russian drug programme in track and field and the Argentinian terrorising of the authorities and the opposition during the 1978 World Cup. But you know what? I am not afraid to push it.

One seta frigging tief, in trute!

However you look at it, this was definitely not cricket; it was win-at-all-costs dishonesty, anathema to real cricketers but par for the course for Steve Smith’s top-ranked side.

Take Brian Lara, as competitive as they come but, after the 1992 Healy incident Singh cites above, a player who never challenged an umpiring decision, walking, indeed, even when the umpire’s fingers stayed down.

Or take Courtney Walsh’s refusal to take off the bails in the last over of their match against Pakistan in Lahore in the 1987 World Cup when Pakistan’s Saleem Jaffar was way, way out of his crease at the bowler’s end as the Jamaican pacer ended his run-up and the dismissal would have assured West Indies of a semi-final place.

That is, as the CPL theme song says, how we play the game, hard but fair.

Photo: Social media have not been slow to mock the repeated  Aussie claim that they play “hard but fair.”

The Aussies have repeatedly made the ‘hard but fair’ claim too but I don’t know that they have been able to seriously convince any but their own countrymen.

Look, for instance, at the AP report of the subsequent banning of skipper Smith and Warner, whose “long-term futures hang in the balance.”

Referring to Cricket Australia’s Chief Executive James Sutherland’s public statements in the aftermath of the scandal, the report says that he addressed himself “in parts to a cricket-mad Australian public shocked by the admission to cheating from their team.” It probably is an entirely unintended inference but would the cricket-mad Aussie public have preferred Smith and Cameron Bancroft and co not to admit to cheating?

The 25-year-old Bancroft, by the way, may be new to the Test team but we would be foolish to believe that he did not know what he was doing. Admittedly, what happened on Saturday was not the young man’s idea—it is slowly emerging that the mastermind may well have been swashbuckling, ask-no-quarter-give-no-quarter opener and vice-captain David Warner—but the video makes clear that he is no incorruptible innocent.

And we would be even more foolish to think that the ball-tampering plan was not a team-approved effort to gain an unfair advantage in what had been a very even battle between two well-matched teams.

Of interest too are the reactions of recent former Aussie captains and vice-captains. Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting have been, it seems, silent and Michael Clarke, but for his single tweet, ditto.

Photo: Australia captain Steve Smith (right) and bowler Cameron Bancroft face the music after the latter was caught ball-tampering.

Shane Warne, Ian Chappell and Alan Border have perhaps unsurprisingly, all focused on the same area, the 11th Commandment.

“If you’re caught doing the wrong thing,” said Border, “you’ve got to pay the penalty.”

“You know when you get caught,” is Warne’s take, “you’ve got to own up and be honest. The Aussies have to be honest and say this is how it happened.”

Chappell stopped short of saying that the incident should mean the end of the line for Smith. “If you’ve got a conscience,” he said, “I would think it would be a very hard thing to live down.”

Smith, however, is clearly determined to live it down. He admitted to being “embarrassed,” “not proud of what’s happened” and “incredibly sorry,” described the incident as “poor actions,” “deeply regrettable,” “a big mistake on my part,” “a big error in judgement” and “not within the spirit of the game,” sought to protect himself and the coach (“The leadership group knew about it” he said, and “The coaches weren’t involved”) and claimed that it was “the first time it has happened under my leadership.”

He promised that it “won’t happen again” and said that “if we weren’t caught, I would still regret it.”

My response? Ha! Because not for nothing did Chappell, who presumably knows the Aussie captain well, carefully preface his statement with “If you’ve got a conscience…”

Photo: Australia bowler Cameron Bancroft is caught ball-tampering in the Third Test vs South Africa in Cape Town.

Despite all of the foregoing, after all, Smith contended that he was “the right person for the job,” had “to take control of the ship” and so “won’t consider stepping down.”

He may not have the option. “Seldom has a team normalising sharp practice, and enlisting the youngest members of the team to carry it out,” warns Espncricinfo’s Daniel Brettig, “been so wholly exposed.”

Espncricinfo’s Sambit Bal too is sceptical. “Would he really have gathered the troops in the dressing room and chastised himself and the leadership group openly,” he asks, I think, rhetorically, “and sworn the team to never again veer from the spirit of the game? Or would there be the temptation to try it again?

“Who can say now how many times how many teams have tried it in the past without getting caught?”

Note Smith’s unwitting admission contained in “first time […] under my leadership.” Bal, however, makes no prediction about Smith’s future. But he does doubt that coach Darren Lehmann, who “was a throwback, a lad’s lad, or a man’s man,” but who “also had a past,” can “survive the exposure of a culture for which he is the most experienced overseer.”

Under Lehmann’s supervision, Bal laments, “Seldom has ‘within the spirit of the game’ looked more like ‘whatever we can get away with.’”

“Who knows,” he asks damningly, “what the impressionable young Australian players hear in the dressing room?”

Photo: With skipper Steve Smith for company, Australia coach Darren Lehmann (right, foreground) casts a watchful eye over an Australian net session. (Courtesy IJG)

Singh told me that he is eager for a comment from Ian Bishop, who had a mouthful to say when the West Indies Under-19s got themselves in trouble over controversial dismissals in the last two World Cups.

For my own self, I wait no less eagerly to hear what Mark West-Indies-have-no-brains Nicholas will say—doubtless out of the side of his mouth!

Maybe it won’t be an apologia but you can bet your house that it won’t be anything like Singh’s candid “One seta friggin tief!”

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About Earl Best

Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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  1. Also, sponsors have responded swiftly too. LG decided to part ways with Warner; dropped him like a hot diarrhoea!

  2. Glad the Aussies took swift and serious action. By the way, heard “the fearless one” referencing Valentino Singh on this topic last night on I95. Great minds thinking alike? Hmmm

    • What’s that I hear in the distance? Oh. It’s the world’s smallest violin, playing Steve Smith a sad song…

      Crocodile tears now that the funk has hit the fan! Where is the “Resign? Me? I’m still the best person to lead this team so I’m not leaving!” wrong-and-strong bravado now? More sorrow over being caught than over the act and its implications!

  3. You know these cartoons will be coming fast and furious now… And thoroughly deserved, too.

  4. Are you surprised by their actions? Remember the British set-up establish a penal colony in Australia – all crooks (and cheats) who still hold on to their crooked ways.

  5. Lasana Liburd don t forget how Brian Lara was stumped by Ian Healy without a ball in his hand

  6. Cheating is in their DNA.Over the years, I observed the manner in which the ball is being rubbed and the fingernails used to affect the shape.Thought it was illusion but today the facts are clear as crystal.

  7. Now that the trio of players have gotten what I think are harsh 12 & 9 month bans

    The bigger issue here is confronting crickets confusing ruling & interpretation of ball tampering to get reverse swing which all teams try to do

    As this graphic shows (and it missed some examples) many players around world have been caught up in this scandal

  8. I’m a little hesitant to call Australia cheats

    I Know enough Aussie Journalist & people in my cricket media life to know that’s not case

    What is obvious is that given the Australian team probably dating back to 1970s under Ian Chappell have become the cricket team that sledge the most – teams led by Allan Border, Waugh, Ponting, Clarke over last 40 years repeated that mantra

    Opposition players who have been on receiving end of this behaviour are understandably showing them no sympathy in light of this saga

    But that wasn’t always the case. From a Windies perspective In the famous 60/61 series Windies players always spoke highly of how the great Richie Benaud treated them

    And who can forget those icons images of Sir Frank Worrell being sang to by thousands of Australian fans at end of that famous series

    • One word suffices: Ha!

      • I don’t know if the story is apocryphal or true but it’s very telling.
        During one Test in the famous 60-61 series, Aussie wicketkeeper Wally Grout was given not out by the umpire when he had clearly been caught by, I think, the wicketkeeper. His conscience wouldn’t allow him to walk but it wouldn’t allow him to bat on either so he hit the next ball up into the air and started walking even before the catch had been taken.

        • I was only a boy at the time and there was no live television coverage as there is now. However, the story came from my late brother, who was such an avid cricket fan that he was once pictured at the head of the line waiting to get into a Test match—-in the very low daybreak temperatures in England in 1957!

  9. Remember the days Lara was robbed by same country. Ungentlemanly behavior. What do you expect from a country that removed it native population.


    Call us at (1800)KANGA-RU

    For seam tampering, press 1.

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    For techniques in hiding tampering tools press 3.

    For wrist slapping 4.

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      • I feel you might be a bit too young to know of this incident first-hand like I do. It was a most disgraceful stunt pulled by Australia against New Zealand in an ODI encounter. With New Zealand needing a six off the final ball to tie the match, the Aussie captain and the bowler decided to bowl that final delivery underarm, ensuring that there was no way that NZ could make the runs. NZ were understandably pissed the heel off by this tactic (which, unfortunately, was legal in the rules of the competition) with the batsman flinging his bat away after the match ended in total disgust.

        I think there is a clip about it floating around on Youtube. When I find it I’ll send it your way to see it for yourself.

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