An Ashes contest to remember... really?

The urinating on The Oval pitch episode enacted by members of England’s Ashes-winning team only reflects the times we live in -- when people are bold, audacious and juvenile.

Even Prince of Controversy Shane Warne found it crass.

Unfortunately, the 2013 Ashes will not go down as a series where the bat versus ball contest was at its best. It will be known as the series that started and ended in controversy for Australia and England respectively.

The right way to celebrate: England’s Alastair Cook (c) lifts a replica of the Ashes urn after his team won the series 3-0 against Australia at the Oval in London on Sunday. Pic/AFP

Cricket Australia, still reeling over the controversy of David Warner attacking England batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham pub, announced on June 24 that Mickey Arthur would no longer be coach of the team. The appointment of Darren Lehmann was hailed by pundits and he promised: “There won’t be any ongoing problems. We’ll get everything right off the field.” That was before he called Stuart Broad a cheat for not walking in the first Test at Trent Bridge despite edging one from Ashton Agar to Michael Clarke at slip.

Sample Lehmann’s words…
“Certainly our players haven’t forgotten, they’re calling him everything under the sun as they go past.”

“I hope the Australian public are the same because that was just blatant cheating. I don’t advocate walking but when you hit it to first slip it’s pretty hard.”
“From my point of view I just hope the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer.”

“I hope he cries and he goes home.”

Lehmann is sorry for uttering the above and his apology has satisfied Broad, but which national coach would leave common sense aside and say such things of a player from the opposition.

The South Australian was implying that Broad should have adhered to the spirit of the game and walked. Sure, there were heaps of people who felt so, but as one cricket follower told me, “when an Australian talks about the spirit of the game, it makes me laugh.” I see logic in that because the Australians have always said with pride that they believe in playing hard, but within the laws of the game. A classic example is the underarm incident of 1981 when Greg Chappell ordered younger brother Trevor to bowl a grubber to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie to ensure he doesn’t hit a six at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Now, Greg was not going against the rulebook, he only did something which was not in tune with the spirit of cricket.

For a change, the Australians should do something in the spirit of the game. Getting on with the game after the Broad episode was the way to go for Lehmann and not to talk to a radio station and give vent to his frustrations over something that happened in the first Test of the Ashes. In the light of this controversy, it should be remembered that Lehmann is a repeat offender. In 2002, on returning to the Brisbane dressing room after being run out in a one-day international against Sri Lanka, he shouted, “black c***”.
Sri Lankan officials reported his utterance to ICC match referee Clive Lloyd.

Back to the watering of The Oval pitch. While it is understandable that the English players wanted to celebrate outside the dressing room, they ought to have done so in the knowledge that they wouldn’t be able to go overboard. Most cricket followers don’t even have the good fortune of knowing how it feels to step on to a cricket ground, leave alone come near the pitch. Spare a thought for the groundstaff, who for months leading up the Test, had taken care of the wickets for the Ashes finale.

This is a great England team. Try and spot a weakness. To prevent Australia from laying their hands on the Ashes urn in the last three series is nothing short of incredible. But Alastair Cook and his men have shot themselves in the foot by forcing a lot of followers to remember how they celebrated and not how they played. 

Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor

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