The Roar
The Roar


Hard but fair: You have to do both

Former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Roar Guru
26th March, 2018

There seems to be a singular divide among the Australian people with regards to ball tampering scandal in South Africa. Ethics versus rules.

The rules one is obvious, Steve Smith gets a one-game suspension and we all move on. The ethical one is a much deeper rabbit hole…

There are many people that will speak to this type of content in academically peer reviewed articles, but in summary it has been shown that when an organisation holds itself out as adhering to certain values or beliefs, and they betray them, the response from their staff, competitors and clients is merciless and unforgiving. Customers (us the public in CA’s sense) never forget, competitors will forever remember and staff (future players) will never believe anything they say.

The problem with following ‘the rules’ as your ethical baseline is you really have no ethics. It gets even worse if you sink to a risk reward on the consequences of the rules from there the team literally stands for nothing other than the lowest common denominator that lives solely on wins and losses.

Combine that lowest common denominator thought process with us participating in a sport where the average nation ranks around ~70 in the world corruption index. Australia is 13th, meaning we’re deciding if we are happy for the Australian sports team to be eminently more corrupt than our general society. We’ve grown up privileged enough not to behave like this.

We’ve spent too many a press conferences from the top of moral high ground mountain to just say being part of the lowest common denominator is just fine. Not to mention many of those press conferences have been held by the core protagonists in this drama.

It’s easy to say “Oh well we’ll give up that pious moral high ground now” but that means we just lied for our entire lives as to what our team stood for. You don’t just accede moral high ground to retreat to a trough of morality without also putting up a giant sign of we’re essentially ethically bankrupt hypocrites that stand for nothing.

If we continue to select Smith and Dave Warner the Australian team isn’t ‘Hard but Fair’ it’s ‘Hard, Hypocrites that Cheat’. Do we really want to support that team? Does that represent Australia? Sadly many believe yes.

The core tenant of Australian cricket has been ‘Hard but Fair’. We’ve been merciless sledgers, we’ve ripped into people with mental illness, our own coach implored us to make a person cry, we’ve crosses the line of aggression according to many other cultures so often that Warren Buffet wouldn’t be able to underwrite reparations for $1 per incident.


And yet we’ve always held out the ‘Hard but Fair’ line. We may flirt with the boundary on sledging but we don’t cheat.

I was lucky enough to play golf once with Captain Grumpy himself (AB) and his view was we fight as hard as anyone, we aren’t nice, but we never break the rules. It was something he was quite proud about the way we played.

If you work in any other high paid profession, and you betray your organisations values, you are fired. There are no ifs and buts or internal review panels – you’re shot in the back room like a drug smuggler in Singapore.

I’ve seen it happen so many times I’m staggered by the ground swell of support for Smith (especially given this is not his first offence). If he’d worked for any company in a developed country had he’d be gone and near unemployable. He’s actually lucky he’s a cricketer in this instance.

He’s a highly paid professional completely aware of the code of ethics (he’s used the mantra so many times defending his own team or attacking others it is impossible to believe he is unware) that it is utterly inconceivable that he could behave this way (at least twice) and still hold these beliefs sacrosanct.

If we trot him out in the baggy green again it is tacit admission we also don’t believe in any of the mantra and instead we are just like him.

We have pushed the envelope with mental disintegration but it was “acceptable” because we had a line in the sand like a Samurai versus a Ronin. We aren’t nice, but we had an ethos we adhered to religiously that others didn’t.

We never set out to cheat. Never ever deliberately cheat. There might have been heat of the moment or ‘flirting with the boundaries’ that certainly brought shame (yes looking at you Greg and Trevor) but knowingly cheating like this…

Steve Smith

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Once you cross that line the Australian team, the baggy green, holds no meaning other than whispers of yesteryear.

That’s where this falls foul. Only days after Warner is on TV saying the Australian cricket team would never tolerate this sort of behaviour we had a group of players, himself included, of sudden common and deliberate mind deciding to cheat. But ‘others doing it’ is now a reason to look the other way.

Never mind that means we are happy meeting the absolutely lowest common denominator in every aspect of the sport. Every cheat in the history of mankind has thrown up the “everyone is doing it” defence.

It could technically be true (though it isn’t as I doubt every single Test cricketer is engaged in premeditated cheating like this) but ethically it’s hollow as it means you only care about being equal to the lowest common denominator, and at one point Australian cricket cared about being better than that.

Some of us are happy with leaving ethics behind, but hey I believe sport at the end of the day is just a game, it may be a game we care we have irrational reverence for, but it is still a game and we need to care about how we win, even if our opponent doesn’t.

Personally as long as Smith or Warner, two amazing cricketers I wish hadn’t done this, don the baggy green I’ll never entertain a client at the cricket as it is incongruous with my own ethics.