Evening all, hope you had a nice weekend. I am in the midst of another house move – the fourth such event since 2017 – so I spent most of Saturday and Sunday putting things into boxes and painfully trying to decide whether or not to keep my camera. I bought it in 2008 and it has been with me on many adventures but now, sadly, it has has about as much use as a landline telephone. Do I follow my head or my heart? I’ve not yet decided.
Anyway, what’s wrong with Aussie cricketers? They once again crossed the line between hard competition and blatant cheating last night. As a Brit, I do not need much encouragement to dislike Australian cricketers. We are taught from an early that we mustn’t, under any circumstances, lose to them. But while rarely difficult, recently it has become impossible to feel anything but contempt for them.
Let me set the scene. Ahead of the final day of the third test between Australia and India in Sydney last night, India faced the daunting task of batting through the entire day with just eight wickets in hand to save the game. In the first session, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant played with obdurate brilliance to take India to lunch with seven wickets remaining, giving them far-fetched but real hope of earning an unlikely draw.
As the players emerged from the dressing rooms for the afternoon session, Aussie batsman Steve Smith – yes, him again – decided to take matters into his own hands. He walked up to the crease and scuffed out Pant’s mark with his foot in the hope of knocking the Indian batsman’s rhythm out of kilter. Smith’s actions were unseen by the on-field umpires but he was, predictably, caught in the act by the stump camera. Comment and controversy has since followed.
Now, the infringement is probably not serious enough to warrant any serious retrospective punishment. Pant merely took a new mark, as every batsman does before each innings, and things were back to normal in no time. But it is the spirit of Smith’s actions that has got people talking. It might be a minor infringement, but it is still clearly and definitively against the rules. You are not, as a fielding team, allowed to tamper with the pitch or ball to gain an advantage.
Smith, of course, knows this all too well. Back in 2018, the 31-year-old was at the centre of the biggest scandal to hit Australian cricket this century. On the brink of defeat during a test match in South Africa, former batsman Cameron Bancroft was caught using sandpaper hidden in his pocket to rough up the ball in a desperate attempt to swing the game in Australia’s favour. Smith, who was captain at the time, admitted that it was a joint decision made by the leadership group, which included vice captain David Warner. Both Smith and Warner were subsequently stripped of their captaincy positions and banned from all cricket for 12 months. In a dramatic press conference featuring more tears than a back-to-back screening of the The Notebook, Smith apologized and vowed to be a “force for change” going forward. It appears he has already forgotten that promise.
Smith is a strange player. You can’t argue with his record. He has a test batting average of more than 62 from 76 matches, which is enough to make him comfortably one of the best in the world. But he is ungainly and unorthodox at the crease, swiping and flashing his way through innings. While a small part of me respects and admires his achievements in the game, this latest blot in his copybook means that I cannot respect or admire him as a person or cricket ambassador. If he is a force for change, I shudder to think where the sport is headed.
Smith wasn’t alone among the Australians in misbehaving during this test. In the wake of the South Africa debacle, wicketkeeper Tim Paine – seen by many as a mature and most-importantly fair player – was appointed captain. Last night, frustrated at having put down a number of presentable catches, Paine began relentlessly sledging Ravichandran Ashwin in a bid to distract the focus of the Indian batsman.
For better or worse, sledging is part of the game, a long-used ploy to get into people’s heads. But once again there is a line that should not be crossed; throw a few comments out here or there if you will, but for the most part let people get on and play cricket. Most agree that Paine’s incessant chat last night was a step too far.
And the Aussie’s comments weren’t even funny. Among the many inventive taunts thrown at Ashwin was, “At least my team-mates like me.” Way to be witty, Tim. I used to use that line when I got into beefs in my school playground when I was eight.
Finally, its worth mentioning the alleged racist abuse to which India’s players were subjected during the game, which suspended play for 10 minutes on day three. Cricket Australia has vowed to launch an investigation into the comments directed at bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj. I know this doesn’t concern the Australia players directly, but the fans are a reflection of the team and vice versa. If the allegations are true, lets hope that appropriately strong consequences await the offenders.
Anyway, despite the Aussies’ best and mostly illegitimate efforts, India were fantastic and batted through the day to earn a well-deserved draw. Karma, as they say in Delhi, is a bitch. I know who I’ll be supporting in next week’s series decider in Brisbane.
Right, that’s all for today. Have a good start to the week and I’ll be back here on Wednesday. Till then.
—What did you think about Australia’s antics during the test against India last night? Let me know in the comments section below!—