Cricket cheating scandal has been an ugly affair on and off the field

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 3 April 2018
Arvind Hickman

Watching Steve Smith’s press conference at Sydney Airport was heartbreaking. The raw emotion and pain in a young man that is idolised the world over for making one terrible error of judgement is something I won’t forget in a while.

What’s been worse, in my opinion, is some of the sanctimonious nastiness, hypocrisy and bullshit that has clogged up social media feeds and been spouted on television breakfast shows and in newspaper columns, painting Smith, Warner and Bancroft as some of the worst villains this country has ever known.

I realise that every article the media (AdNews included) publishes adds more fuel to the bonfire.

But this issue has been blown out of proportion and sponsors should tread carefully before judging the actions of players under extreme pressure and in environments of poor leadership and culture.

Corporate double standards

CommBank, which continues to sponsor women’s cricket but has dropped Smith as an ambassador, is currently before a Royal Commission into banking and financial services where its own culture is likely to be tested amid allegations that banks commit customer fraud and mismanagement.

Sanitarium, a profit-making entity, avoids paying corporation tax because its profits are legally siphoned off to the Seventh Day Adventist Church under its charity status. There is no suggestion of cultural issues at the company and it is open about its tax arrangements and has at least offered to provide care to Smith and other players wellbeing.

But when you consider that tax avoidance is a $40 billion problem in this country, and banking decisions can have huge impacts on people’s lives, it says a lot about our society and the media when pathetic attempts to change the condition of a cricket ball is treated as a bigger deal. Investigative journalist Michael West sums up these corporate double standards well.

That aside, the punishments dished out in a cricket context are some of the worst I can remember for a ball tampering scandal over the years and far worse than how many other sports choose to deal with cheats.

steve-smith-breaks-down.jpgSteve Smith breaks down at a press conference.

Putting this into context

I covered professional sports earlier in my career and witnessed athletes intentionally bending the rules on the field with far worse consequences on the outcome of matches, including in international football games where a lot is at stake.

Punishments have either been a slap across the wrist or minor bans, accompanied by far less of the vitriol that has blighted the protagonists of the ball tampering scandal this past week.

To put this into context, this has been a bigger media beat up than when football players are caught beating up their partners or involved in systemic drug scandals.

I get that this country worships its cricket stars above all others and the historical context of why cricket is revered. With this extra attention comes responsibility and Cricket Australia needed to take a stand, but nobody deserves to be abused and public shamed in the way these players have over one stupid mistake.

Nobody deserves to have a radio goon try and hijack their heartfelt first step towards redemption in such a cheap and tacky way.

It's not all been negative. On Twitter, Google's Australia boss Jason Pellegrino said the way Smith took responsibility for his actions, and the pain he showed in remorse, led him to respect the test batsman even more.

Cricket insiders I have spoken to this past week speak glowingly about Smith and feel sympathy for the role Bancroft was placed in, but explain there is a broader cultural and leadership problem with the men’s national set up and this scandal provides Cricket Australia with an opportunity to reset the game. A PlayersVoice column by former Australian men’s coach Mickey Arthur sheds further light on some of these problems.

Addressing these issues is perhaps the only silver lining of what has been an ugly affair on and off the field.

The way this issue has blown out of proportion and the nasty and often hypocritical pile on that has accompanied the scandal exposes much broader cultural problems with our society beyond cricket dressing sheds.

comments powered by Disqus