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Michael Clarke's diplomacy was textbook-like: Michael Jeh

Would the Australian captain have been so gracious with his apology for the Dale Steyn incident if South Africa had hung on for a draw and levelled the three-Test series, wonders Michael Jeh

First among equals? Despite the new world order in cricket, there is still the lingering suspicion that justice plays favourites. Depending on who the umpires are, any cricketer contemplating poor behaviour needs only to follow the Michael Clarke template. A refreshingly simple formula — behave inappropriately, even as captain, apologise profusely and voila — despite an admission of guilt, no action by umpires.


Michael Clarke looks on after getting out to Dale Steyn in the second Test in Port Elizabeth. Pic/Getty Images.

Would he have been so gracious with his apology if South Africa had hung on for a draw? The biggest fans of the DRS suddenly don’t like it when the third umpire overturns a crucial decision? It’s easy to throw rocks at India for not adopting DRS but these rocks look suspiciously like boomerangs.

Out of character?
Clarke’s mea culpa after the Cape Town Test was textbook diplomacy. Just use words like “passionate, competitive, banter” and it’s all forgotten. On Thursday, he made the point that it was “out of character” conveniently neglecting to mention that it was three months ago when he threatened Jimmy Anderson with a “broken f***ing arm”.

A cynic might even be forgiven for thinking that this latest outburst directed at Dale Steyn might actually be in character, given the short lapse between his regular apologies!

Much of it comes down to players knowing how far they can push the boundaries when it comes to weak officials. Mitchell Johnson was mouthing off constantly in South Africa, expletives clearly visible to any lip reader but was never reported. Corey Anderson of New Zealand was similarly vocal in the Test series against India without censure.

The players are not fools — they know that they can say what they like, show false contrition, blame it on frustration and passion, call it banter when it is foul language by any other name and some umpires just ignore it.

It used to be that a genuine apology was a mitigating factor in the severity of the punishment. The ICC have now seemingly accepted that an apology, if it is cited as a crime of passion, is sufficient for no charges to even be laid, despite an admission of guilt, despite recent ‘form’, despite the ICC’s hollow words about captains leading by example.

Will apology suffice?
Remember Gautam Gambhir vs Shane Watson? That was meant to be justice, ICC style. Soon enough, there will be a captain charged with ball-tampering elsewhere in the world. Will an apology suffice or will he be suspended?

India’s U-19 captain was not so fortunate recently, copping a fine for verbal abuse that curiously went unpunished when the England captain repeated something similar. Everyone’s equal in cricket — some people are just more equal than others.

Michael Jeh is a philosopher, Oxford Blue and former first-class cricketer, now living in Brisbane. Look out for his new column Against The Spin, starting next week. His brief is to confront and challenge the status quo, asking the awkward questions that cross all international boundaries

. There are some who are more equal than the others
. There’s suspicion that justice plays favourite
. The ICC has not responded convincingly

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