Ball tampering scandal: Australia may quit sledging, it doesn’t work anyway
Australian cricketers, news reports from Johannesburg suggest, will quit sledging, taking a leaf from the genial Black Caps who publicly gave up on boorishness in 2013 to win the support of fans, sponsors and help build a strong legacy for cricket.
This is nothing short of a watershed moment for the sport.
For decades, the Aussies have used sledging as a psychological tool to disorient opponents, but in the aftermath of the recent ball-tampering scandal, there appears to have been a serious rethink.
Caught cheating in the Cape Town Test against South Africa, there has been tumult and consternation among not just cricket administrators, but also the vast majority of fans Down Under, left shame-faced by the actions of their cricket heroes.
The much-touted Aussie culture of ‘playing tough, but fair’ was revealed as insidious hypocrisy at Cape Town as captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and rookie batsman Cameron Bancroft were found not only blatantly cheating, but also trying to cover up their misdeed with lies.
Such was the outrage in Australia that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull led the call for the country’s cricketing ethos to be redefined, starting with a clampdown on sledging. His words have found widespread support.
Cricket Australia—acting beyond the punishments meted out by the ICC to Smith and Bancroft (Warner didn’t face any censure)—came down heavily on Smith and Warner, banning both for a year. Bancroft copped a nine-month ban.
But while the bullying and sledging may have worked to Australia’s benefit in the past, results in recent years have shown very low dividends. In the past five years, the team has won away Test series in South Africa (2013-14), West Indies (2015) and New Zealand (2015-16).
Overseas losses have been twice in India (2012-13, 2016-17), versus Pakistan in the UAE (2014-15) and in Sri Lanka (2016). The two-Test series against minnows Bangladesh in 2016 was squared. And South Africa beat them in Australia in 2016-17.
The dissonance between tactical sledging and results is so stark, it is surprising that the Australians didn’t do a reality check about collateral damage. But as former coach Mickey Arthur wrote in a blog, there was nobody to take the bull by the horns.
“Despite generational change, independent reviews and too many behavioural spotfires to list, Cricket Australia and the national team had demonstrated no real willingness or desire to improve the culture within their organization from season to season,’’ says Arthur.
“That could lead to only one conclusion. An explosion. A deterioration of standards that would culminate in an incident so bad, so ugly, that it would shame the leaders of the organization into taking drastic action to change the culture, or risk alienating fans, sponsors, broadcasters and other stakeholders.’’
That explosion seems to have happened.
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