The Sheffield Shield is in full swing, with plenty of Test hopefuls plying their trade with bat and ball around the country in the hope of getting themselves a baggy green come summertime.
It’s dark out here beyond the circle. There air is sweet with smoke and sweat. Angry eyes all wet and vacant. Teeth glint off burning lanterns. Hey, what’s going on in there? I clench my pitchfork all the same. Tonight, they seethe, there’s witches afoot.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love being part of an angry mob. Probably more than the next guy. Witch hunt, why, bags me the skin!
But, no, I’m not ready to give up my hero – not Steve Smith, not for this. I step back. Have I gone soft?
So, like a missing character from The Wizard of Oz, I’m on a winding journey to find my righteous sense of moral outrage.
Firstly: Is ball tampering really that bad? I’d argue not. It’s a desperate act from a struggling team. The Aussies were getting slaughtered, and, after giving the cherry a decent rub, no genie seemed to appear. It’s the cricket equivalent of jumping the shark, as the rules tacitly acknowledge. A penalty of five runs is hardly Test-defining. It’s equivalent to the ball hitting your hat.
Next: Were Smith’s actions out of context? Probably not. There’s a fine line between augmentation and tampering. Ask any cosmetic surgeon. Hands a bit moist? It looked like an apple? Just sharing your lollies? The defence calls the following witnesses: Messers Atherton, Afridi and de Villiers. All team captains. All caught fiddling. And Smith’s was by proxy.
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And finally: should Smith be held to a higher standard than everyone else? Um, maybe. I’ll quote he’s “not fit to lead our country” and “…a humbled Australia stands aghast at the weekend’s events”. We even got an email from James Sutherland that led with “we are sorry”. Thanks K-Rudd.
Can I add that a humble blogger stands amused at this stream of hot air?
And what’s with the notion that we Aussies play the game ‘tough but fair’? It seems a little self-indulgent. Conceited even.
I talk to a lot of fans from across the globe and it doesn’t jive with their vista. Tough, yes, but fair? Well, as fair as the next team, I guess.
Winning pays bills, so winning wins out. Do we gnash our canines at Cam Smith when he slows down the ruck? Claw at Michael Hooper for giving up a strategic penalty? No. These are both somewhat ‘premeditated’ and ‘against the spirit of the game’ – so where does the canny professional end our derided pariah begin? With execution, perhaps.
So, at the end of my road, I’ve come to a stop. Tampering isn’t that bad and Steve Smith wasn’t alone.
Should he be treated like everybody else? Of that, I’m not so sure.
Let’s put the pitchforks down for a second. Just take a deep breath. Even witches get a trial.