We are gathered here today to mourn the death of Australian cricket. He was a good boy, a symbol for everything we once held dear, integrity, sportsmanship and tradition. May he Rest In Peace.
Not since Greg asked Trevor to bowl underarm has our side been at such a low place. Australian cricket fans this morning are donning black because last night at the foot of cradle mountain, a little piece of Australian cricket died.
It was the same piece that died in 1981 and it will no doubt take a long time for this group to earn back the respect of the public.
The mantra has always been that we play the game in the right spirit, hard but fair. Not anymore.
I admit that I was surprised but by no means shocked by the news. It is clear that this team of players really struggles when they are under pressure and is even willing to cheat to win.
There is no doubt that heads must roll over ‘tapegate’ but what this episode does illustrate is the failings of Australian cricketing hierarchy over recent years to nip a toxic team culture in the bud.
When we set sail for the African continent last month we mistakenly believed we were in a good place. We had the urn, a settled team and a great record in South Africa to boot.
However, New Zealand proved this week that allowing the poms to score over 100 might actually be a sub-par performance.
Regardless, our team had their mojo back and the first Test went to plan. Mitch Marsh continued his improvement and Mitch Starc was back to his best. Then in Durban the cracks that had been glossed over began to widen.
David Warner’s run in with Quinton de Kock was demonstrative of a team without a rudder. When the going got tough and the South African batsmen asserted their authority in Durban, Steve Smith and his men had nothing, no plans, no creativity, no fight, only abuse.
Davy was the self-appointed attack dog for this tour; however, it seems someone let the dog off the leash without thinking and both Darren Lehmann and Steve Smith should have realised that giving Warner free reign to antagonise the opposition was only going to end in tears.
Australia’s incessant sledging on this tour has shown a lack of leadership, class, and a lack of respect for the opposition and the game.
The great sledgers of our nation did three things that Davy doesn’t. Take Steve Waugh for example who should pen a book on the art of the sledge. He did it calmly and quietly, he attacked the competency of the player and not their family and he did it only when it was needed in order to maximise its effectiveness. Three things that our current crop should be reminded of.
It was only a matter of time before this rudderless ship ran aground. Although Cameron Bancroft needs to take some of the blame for this blight on the game the fact that the captain was not only aware of the plan but helped conceive it means that Smith is not fit to lead.
He has basically said it’s okay to cheat and that is unforgivable. I imagine there were times when Border, Taylor or Waugh would have been bereft of ideas during a long Lara or Tendulkar innings, but none of them would have stooped this low. They would have rallied the troops for one last push.
Smith’s tenure has been a controversial one. While his brilliance with the blade cannot be questioned the notoriously anxious Smith struggles with the responsibility of leading his team and controlling the large egos and big personalities within the playing group.
He tried to put his mark on his office by having a more hands-on approach to team selections, yet this just resulted in the suggestion that he was picking his mates from New South Wales.
What is clear is that this is the worst error of judgment in Australian cricket history. To knowingly break one of the most sacred rules in cricket demonstrates Smith’s folly. While what Greg Chappell did 36 years ago was wrong, he technically didn’t break a rule.
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cricket Australia needs to send a strong message to the leadership team that hatched this hair brain scheme. In the past they have been supportive of players like Smith and Warner who have blurred the lines between fierce competition and bad behaviour but this one is inexcusable.
James Sutherland needs to take charge and make a massive statement about the conduct of the players. If I was in charge both Smith and Warner would be sacked from their posts and serve three-match bans.
Bancroft would also be banned for three games and Darren Lehmann would also be given his marching orders.
Although the players are saying that the coach knew nothing, the fact that this culture of arrogance, entitlement and petulance grew under his watch is evidence enough that Boof is not the babysitter our boys need and that is the problem.
This isn’t a team of men, it’s a team of boys who have never grown up, Lehmann included.
Australia’s Ashes selection puzzle got even more complicated last night after Matt Wade and Travis Head both made centuries for Australia A, just days after Joe Burns and Marcus Harris scored tons in England.