Please let us talk about cricket again

Ben Pobjie Columnist

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    Sporting etiquette is a funny thing.

    In tennis, you can incur the wrath of officials and fans simply for whacking your racquet on the ground in frustration.

    In rugby, demonstrating your frustration is fine as long as you stop short of punching someone in the face.

    In boxing, punching someone in the face is the whole point and if you don’t do it you’ll never get anywhere. It’s all relative.

    Then there’s cricket, which has long been considered a gentlemen’s game – by which was originally meant that the working class would be allowed to play, but only if they did everything the rich guys said.

    It is often said that cricket is ‘different’: that the codes of behaviour that apply to the game are stricter and more decorous than in other sports, and that keeping them so is essential to cricket’s very nature.

    It’s generally believed that standards have slipped in cricket and that players are far more disrespectful of the game’s spirit than in the past. Notwithstanding the time Peter Heine told Trevor Bailey he wanted to murder him, or when Dennis Lillee actually kicked Javed Miandad, this might be true as a broad trend.

    The fact that Test captains are constantly called upon to piously declare that they never cross the line (O, that mythical line! How mysterious its ways and how nobly it reigns over us!) suggests that the line, wherever it may objectively be, is frequently in the vicinity of players’ feet.

    I would love if it were not so, and not because of the example it sets. I don’t think children are at risk of becoming delinquents if they see David Warner scream or if they lip-read Mitchell Starc’s response to being hit for four.

    David Warner has words with Indian batsman Rohit Sharma

    Davey Warner, seen here at his peak. (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    It’s not the most pressing issue confronting the world. It’s not even the most pressing issue confronting cricket (that being selectorial bias against Glenn Maxwell).

    But there is a good reason I would like cricketers to stop flirting with ‘the line’, clean their act up and display better manners in the heat of battle.

    Put simply, it is because I love cricket, and I would enjoy it if we could talk about it occasionally, instead of spending all our time pondering the acceptable extent of verbal abuse.

    Australia just secured a great victory against a strong team on their own turf. Dogged, skilful batting and brilliant bowling were on display. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be discussing and celebrating this, instead of lamenting the degenerate modern generation?

    Wouldn’t you love to be reading and listening to commentators waxing lyrical about Mitch Marsh’s unexpected turn as the saviour of the top order, or Mitch Starc’s searing detonation of the lower order in both innings, or even Nathan Lyon’s continued wily excellence?

    The less patriotic among us might even care to reflect on the fact that in defeat, Aiden Markram played one of Test cricket’s great Forlorn Hopes.

    But we barely hear about any of this, because it’s all been drowned out by the exasperating juvenilia of the players’ playground spats.

    It’s not that I have no empathy. I understand how when the blood is up and the adrenalin is pumping, it’s easy to forget oneself and act like a bit of a dick. Although the amount of time the Australian team, since the reign of Steve Waugh, has withered on about the use of sledging as a tactical device suggests that these incidents aren’t always a result of spontaneous head-loss.

    But whatever the circumstance, it is well past time that every player remembered that he has a choice, every time he goes onto the field.

    Warner, for example, had a choice when he affected the run-out of AB de Villiers: he could bellow with joy, throw up his arms, embrace his teammates, and celebrate the success of his team; or he could shriek abuse at Markram and take this moment of exultation as an opportunity to belittle an opponent.

    At the same time, Nathan Lyon, on whipping off the bails, had a choice: he could hurl the ball skywards in ecstasy as successful fielders traditionally do, or he could carefully drop the ball on his prostrate foe like a schoolboy pulling a girl’s pigtails.

    Australia's bowler Nathan Lyon, left, and teammates celebrate

    AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

    Both Lyon and Warner made their choices.

    It’s not a one-sided thing. Kagiso Rabada has a choice as to how he marks the fall of a wicket: he can revel in his own triumph or he can yell at the batsman to f*** off.

    And certainly, Quinton de Kock has a choice as to whether he leaves the field quietly to have a cup of tea at the designated time, or make the jokes about his name even easier to spout by deliberately trying to provoke a fight with an opposition player via pointless arseholery.

    Having said that, Warner had a choice there too. I can sympathise with anyone wanting to lash out when their family is insulted, and it’s hard to blame him, but nonetheless he could have chosen to roll his eyes at the tosser trying to goad him and laugh at his idiocy back in the dressing room.

    It’s not always easy to make the right choices when you’re angry, but I would beg of all cricketers to strive their hardest to do so.

    Because honestly, I just want to talk about cricket.

    Ben Pobjie
    Ben Pobjie

    Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.

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    The Crowd Says (30)

    • March 7th 2018 @ 6:14am
      Flemo said | March 7th 2018 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      Latest on the warner saga is that he could miss a game if found guilty, absolute joke I think given what dekock said about his wife, only positive was Smith and Khawaja holding Khawaja back from doing further damage

      • Roar Guru

        March 7th 2018 @ 6:34am
        biltongbek said | March 7th 2018 @ 6:34am | ! Report

        Perhaps you should also consider what he said to de Kock, or should we just look at what justifies Warner’s behaviour?

        Like Ben suggests, let’s move onto the cricket.

        • March 7th 2018 @ 9:01am
          Flemo said | March 7th 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          THIs is more important to talk about

      • March 7th 2018 @ 10:04am
        jameswm said | March 7th 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Latest I heard is that 4 demerit points result in a missed game, and he’ll likely get 3.

      • March 7th 2018 @ 2:40pm
        remington said | March 7th 2018 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

        What did De Kock say? I’ve only heard a very vague, biased, if not false, suggestion. The longer Warner is rubbed out the better. It would be good if Australia didn’t pick him at all until he learns to act like a human, but when they are happy to let a terrible racist be coach, that’s unlikely to happen.

    • March 7th 2018 @ 6:33am
      i miss the force said | March 7th 2018 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      if i was in an opposing team than Warner and his sydney confidential wife wuld be an easy target

      • Roar Guru

        March 7th 2018 @ 12:44pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | March 7th 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

        Maybe, although, I reckon Candice could take de Kock. He might want to watch himself!

        • March 7th 2018 @ 7:04pm
          Chris said | March 7th 2018 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

          Is that exactly what Quinton is accused of saying?

    • March 7th 2018 @ 6:38am
      Steele said | March 7th 2018 @ 6:38am | ! Report

      Yup I am in agreeance. All this nonsense overshadowed a great performance by the Aussies. Playing against one of the best on a doctored pitch. There’s no need to try and defend Warner’s antics as though they are somehow defendable.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 7th 2018 @ 6:53am
      El Loco said | March 7th 2018 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      Nice article. I love cricket and I want to love the Australian team, but damn they make it challenging.

      • Roar Guru

        March 7th 2018 @ 10:00am
        JamesH said | March 7th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        I think the article is half-right. I want to be talking about the cricket too, but what the players are doing is only half the story. The other part of it is that the media is creeping further and further into parts of the game that were inaccessible until relatively recently.

        I mean, we all know Steve Waugh’s side was full of sledgers (probably much worse than the current mob) but it’s not as if their legacy was noticeably tarnished by it. We’ve only ever heard little snippets of what they said because it generally all stayed on-field. Unfortunately, the advent of stump microphones, additional camera angles and greater media access to players has helped to bring more of the sledging into living rooms around the world.

        What Warner and Lyon did after the run out wasn’t a great look, yet it would probably only have been a minor footnote to the game if not for what happened later in the day. And we might have remained blissfully ignorant about it if not for the leaked CCTV footage that the media latched onto.

        I’m not condoning sledging but I’m not going to lament it either (although I do hate send-offs with a passion – they’re cheap and cowardly because the batsman has no opportunity to respond). Sledging is what it is and it’s not going away.

        Ultimately, individual players will live with the consequences of how they choose to conduct themselves. Warner and de Kock have both lowered their colours in the public eye and might even find themselves suspended. Lyon clearly felt like a tool for dropping the ball near (not on) de Villiers, to the point where he offered a personal apology. What goes around comes around.

        If anything, I’d like to see the administrators and umpires be a bit tougher on players who they judge to have gone overboard. The policing is pretty weaksauce at the moment – it’s ridiculous that the Waner-de Kock incident got to the point it did when the umpires were right there. Fines, suspensions and intervention by officials are better moderators than ‘the line’ ever will be.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 7th 2018 @ 7:08am
      El Loco said | March 7th 2018 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      The almighty line, eh? The players are so sure about it yet won’t tell us poor sods anything.

      I can see a day when it’s a mode of dismissal, batsman out “crossed the line”. Went to the third umpire of course.

    • March 7th 2018 @ 8:17am
      Paul said | March 7th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      These types of incidents are exactly the reason why people are switching off from cricket. I don’t want to see photos of some feral looking bloke screaming obscenities – that was my take on Warner when he was “celebrating” after AB was run out. I also don’t want to have all the media basically ignoring what was great Australian victory, because two or three players “crossed the line”.

      Really good article Ben, I truly hope Warner and co get at least one game suspension, because they need to understand this type of rubbish behaviour, on and of the field, has to stop and maybe a game on the sidelines might get them to pull their collective heads in. Talking to them or not paying them hasn’t orked, so what’s next to try?

      • March 7th 2018 @ 10:05am
        jameswm said | March 7th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        “I truly hope Warner and co get at least one game suspension”

        Who are “and co”?

        • March 7th 2018 @ 10:15am
          Flemo said | March 7th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          Warner doesn’t deserve suspension, he rightly reacted to his wife being called something she shouldn’t be called

          • March 7th 2018 @ 11:33am
            George said | March 7th 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

            All speculation. All we know is that Warner was darting about and yelling like a crazed fool – both on and off the ground.

        • March 7th 2018 @ 5:55pm
          Paul said | March 7th 2018 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

          de Kock and anyone else who might have been involved but not directly seen on the footage.

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