Michael Jeh: It's the Australian way, you know!
CA mouth platitudes about the Spirit of Cricket, but it's nothing more than lip service because they've tacitly approved poor behaviour
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland is on safe ground despite the turmoil
In Australia, amongst the cricketing fraternity who are in the know, the McCosker Review is not expected to change anything except at a superficial level unless there is a mass clean-out from the top of the tree. It is a business axiom that, "culture eats strategy for breakfast." Cricket Australia (CA) mouth platitudes about the Spirit of Cricket but it is seen as nothing more than lip service. They have monitored, tacitly approved even, the steady decline of the behaviour standards of this team and now they are commissioning a review to try and address the values that they did nothing to curb?
When the inevitable flashpoints occur, CA fall back on their favourite mantra of "hard but fair." This has now proved to be one of the great hoaxes. That precious moral high ground has been ceded with this latest shame. They imbued this team with a false sense of invincibility that their talent or ethics didn't deserve.
This sense of national disappointment cannot be understated. I have never seen an incident that has united the Australian cricket family like this one. The contempt for what has occurred in Cape Town is almost 100 per cent one-way traffic. Australians have this thing about cheating. They simply cannot abide the concept. It is a bizarre irony because they view cheating in a simplistic manner. It is okay to sledge and abuse opponents or not walk when you nick one to the 'keeper.
That apparently does not constitute cheating. We have this notion that only the Chinese and Russian types cheat in a sanctioned, systemic way. And then along came Cape Town 2018. If India are clever, they may recognise a beast with eerily similar DNA slowly taking shape with their own cricketers. To ignore it would be to learn nothing from the tarnished reputation that the next Bradman will now have as his legacy. Virat Kohli take note - this need not be your destiny. It ultimately boils down to a deep understanding of what the Spirit of Cricket truly means, deep in the hearts of the people who own the game on the maidans and laneways. You don't need a review to tell you that!
Sadly, it appears that the culture of dishonesty and deceit is deeply rooted in the fabric of the organisation, like a malignant tumour. Being loose with the truth is a first response, from management to foot soldiers, going back many decades. The old ACB covered up the Mark Waugh/Shane Warne scandal whilst at the same time condemning Salim Malik to a life ban. Even this incident speaks to a culture that lies first and covers up later.
Look at that first press conference and you'll see what I mean. Cameron Bancroft said it was sticky tape but if CA are to be believed now, it was sandpaper. Smith said it was the Leadership Group but now it apparently was just himself and Warner. Who do we believe? Is it any wonder then that these spoilt brats kept pushing boundaries, buoyed by the perception that management would turn a blind eye to anything. Until they got caught cheating. Many of the people involved will no doubt be very sensitive to sniping from the media.
For a culture that embraces sledging, they are particularly sensitive when it comes back at them. It lies at the heart of the ill-tempered series in South Africa. They were happy to dish it out but when the Proteas and the local crowd started to return serve in spades, they could not handle the heat. There's an old truism... if you can't handle the heat, don't stoke too many fires.
A few years ago, after the graceless World Cup Final victory, I wrote a piece for ESPN Cricinfo that questioned why Australia felt the need to tarnish the moment by crudely sledging the Kiwis for being "too nice", in the words of now Assistant Coach Brad Haddin. The Australian media picked up on that piece and re-tweeted it, slamming me for daring to question why I would ask such inconvenient questions.
The word "integrity" has been bandied about so much but I question if the administrators actually know what that means in a real sense to the club cricketer who receives emails from the CEO with more promises of change and reviews. The Chairman, David Peever, is backing his CEO to remain in the role even now. So the CEO's role that supervised the very culture that is now in dire need of review is safe in his job? Call me naive, but if his long legacy has led us to this point where cricket is so completely broken that it needs a review of this magnitude, how is that a measure of success?
If the review is conducted by ex-players who were part of this same toxic culture, how do we realistically expect any new ideas to emerge? As Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting have already (predictably) said, they don't think there's a cultural problem. Of course they don't. Anything less is an admission of their own failings in shaping the very culture that now needs a complete overhaul. There's an old saying that is worth finishing with: If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.
Michael Jeh is a Brisbane-based former first-class cricketer. Clayton Murzello will be back next week. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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