Protecting self-interest and reputation is innate, akin to a mother’s instinct towards her young. When under duress, a person’s determined strength to save face and spin events to suit a narrative that paints them in a positive light is at its strongest.
As is the current case with Australian cricket. In the wake of a rather poorly camouflaged and executed plan to cheat in order to gain an advantage, the men involved in potentially the most shameful day in the history of the Australian game are jockeying for position.
As we all know, Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were complicit in a failed attempt to tamper with a cricket ball during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town last March.
Vision portrayed the then 25-year-old Bancroft fiddling around his nether-regions, using and hiding a small piece of sandpaper that was intended to unnaturally alter the surface of the ball.
The event shocked the sporting world, and rightly so, yet the fallout has taken an interesting turn some nine months later. With Bancroft returning to play after adhering to the terms of his suspension and the captain and his deputy just three months away from duty, the game has become the most primal version of ‘every man for himself’.
No doubt all three have a slick media advisor calculating each and every move in the hope of presenting their client in the most positive light possible. Those relationships might now be stretched somewhat after both Smith and Bancroft chose to speak publicly about the affair, outlining their case for compassion and sympathy, while the public appears to have bought neither.
Smith threw some barbs at Cricket Australia officialdom and inferentially confirmed Warner as the culprit behind the cumbersome attempt to cheat. On Boxing Day Bancroft spoke openly in a rather poorly timed and awkward interview with Adam Gilchrist on Fox Cricket.
As uncomfortable as it may have been for Bancroft, perhaps he should have considered us. It was somewhat painful to watch. His play for sympathy was disingenuous and based around a misguided belief that had he refused the request to become involved in the action, his state of mind would have been similar to the one he has suffered since being caught.
Bancroft suggested that the disappointment he felt after having let down so many through blatant cheating would have been matched by a similar level of disappointment had he taken the high moral ground and acted with integrity. He spoke of ‘putting his head on the pillow’ and having to live with the knowledge of having let teammates down had he chosen a moral course of action.
That is something of a ridiculous assertion and one that the West Australian might reconsider in the future when he has a clearer understanding of what it takes to resist expectation and the pressure that encourages cheating.
That pressure to conform was verbalised as Bancroft spoke of a desperation to go to whatever lengths required to gain respect and acceptance within the Australian cricket team. Specifically, he cited the pressure as emanating from the mouth of Warner.
Those words become the bus under which David Warner has well and truly been thrown. Smith’s comments, with which he alluded to his personal failures as a leader and the inaction that followed, still clearly fingered Warner as the culprit. Two have effectively turned on one, and the world awaits the left-hander’s response.
It will be interesting to see how he chooses to play the very game that has seen his captain and a young protege make little effort to hide the fact that he is a cheat. Considering Warner’s track record, there is little surprise.
Despite a respectable batting resume, there is something very important missing from his stocks: integrity and respect. Whether it be boorish and macho aggression on the field, requests for opponents to speak English, disgusting late-night social media attacks on journalists or a questionable commitment to club cricket and a subsequent no-show, Warner is one angry man.
And no doubt he’s even angrier after his two accomplices launched a double-decker bus in his direction.
The farcical nature of the entire saga has now managed to infiltrate the current struggles of the national team, with coach Justin Langer citing the difficulty of playing with such commentary surrounding the banned players.
Enough damage was done by the three who chose to cheat. The subsequent desperation in saving face and redirecting blame to Warner says quite a lot about the integrity of all involved. Their absence of concern for each other has now spread to a complete disregard for the Australian cricket team, and the battle with India that is far from done.
Most of all, it says a lot about the individuals involved. They showed little concern for themselves, the reputations of others and now the game itself.
Perhaps we were better off without them all.