Cheat­ing: a be­gin­ner’s guide

There are the rules – and then there are the al­ter­na­tive rules.

New Zealand Listener - - DISGRACE UNDER FIRE -

Defin­ing what con­sti­tutes cheat­ing in any given sport en­ters a grey area, be­cause be­yond the of­fi­cial rules or laws of the game are un­writ­ten rules that, by their na­ture, are nei­ther uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged nor clear-cut. The in­fa­mous un­der­arm in­ci­dent at the Mel­bourne Cricket Ground in 1981, the re­ver­ber­a­tions of which can still be felt, was within the rules as they ap­plied to lim­ited-overs cricket in Aus­tralia at that time. When Aussie cap­tain Greg Chap­pell in­structed his brother Trevor to roll the last ball of the game along the ground so it couldn’t be hit for a six that would have tied the game and the se­ries, he did so with the full knowl­edge and ac­qui­es­cence of the um­pires.

Old-school (and un­writ­ten) rules of fair play re­quire bat­ters who know they’ve edged the ball to the wick­et­keeper to leave the crease without wait­ing for the um­pire’s de­ci­sion. The prac­tice of stand­ing one’s ground and hop­ing for a let-off is of­ten jus­ti­fied on the ba­sis that it’s sim­ply leav­ing it to the um­pires to do what they’re out there for. But in prac­tice, it gen­er­ally in­volves af­fect­ing non­cha­lance, if not an air of in­jured in­no­cence, in the hope the um­pire will make a mis­take.

In 1978, at Welling­ton’s Basin Re­serve, New Zealand gained its first-ever test vic­tory over Eng­land, at the 48th at­tempt. A re­port on web­site nzhis­ tells us this break­through was “en­thu­si­as­ti­cally wel­comed as proof that New Zealand could at last com­pete with its former colo­nial masters”. But there is no men­tion that debu­tant New Zealand open­ing bats­man John Wright nicked the first ball of the match to the keeper, didn’t walk, was given not out and went on to make 55

– in 348 min­utes; test cricket was played at a rather more leisurely tempo in those days – the high­est in­di­vid­ual to­tal posted by a Kiwi in what would be a low-scor­ing game.

Wright later ex­plained his think­ing thus: “I knew no one walked in test cricket and the thought of it never en­tered my head. There wasn’t much of a de­vi­a­tion and I didn’t think [the um­pire] could’ve heard the snick with the wind blow­ing down the pitch. There was noth­ing wrong with [Eng­land fast bowler Bob] Wil­lis’s hear­ing, though – he went spare and abused me roundly.”

The con­sen­sus around walk­ing isn’t quite as solid as Wright sug­gests. When Aus­tralian wick­et­keeper-bats­man Adam Gilchrist de­cided, on the spur of the mo­ment dur­ing a 2003 World Cup semi­fi­nal, to be­come a walker, he was praised by pretty much ev­ery­one ex­cept his team­mates. (“There’s a time and a place for ev­ery­thing,” grum­bled his cap­tain, Ricky Ponting.) It reached the point that Eng­land fast bowler, now chief se­lec­tor, An­gus Fraser felt com­pelled to reg­is­ter his ob­jec­tion to Gilchrist’s “be­ing canon­ised for not cheat­ing”.

If mem­bers of a team don’t be­lieve in walk­ing, they can hardly get on their high horse if op­po­nents fol­low suit, right? Wrong. In a test between Aus­tralia and Eng­land at Trent Bridge, Not­ting­ham, in 2013, Eng­land’s Stu­art Broad edged one to slip via the keeper’s gloves. He was given not out, a de­ci­sion the Aussies couldn’t chal­lenge be­cause they’d used up their re­views. Broad made another 28 runs; Eng­land won the game by 14 runs.

Rather than take the view that them’s the breaks, you win some and you

Stand­ing one’s ground and hop­ing for a let-off is of­ten jus­ti­fied on the ba­sis that it’s leav­ing it to the um­pires to do their job.

lose some, Aus­tralian coach Dar­ren Lehmann, another ca­su­alty of the

Cape Town ball-tam­per­ing af­fair, ac­cused Broad of “bla­tant cheat­ing” and sought to make him a hate fig­ure when Eng­land toured Downun­der later that year: “I hope the Aus­tralian pub­lic give it to him from the word go for the whole sum­mer. I hope he cries and goes home. I don’t ad­vo­cate walk­ing but when you hit it to first slip, it’s pretty hard … Our play­ers haven’t for­got­ten – they’re call­ing him ev­ery­thing un­der the sun.” This he saw as fit pun­ish­ment for a player who did noth­ing that Aus­tralians had not done them­selves.

What’s called cheat­ing falls into three broad cat­e­gories. At the low­est level, it’s done in plain sight – ap­peal­ing for a catch that wasn’t; en­ter­ing a ruck from the wrong side – and the match of­fi­cials ei­ther over­look or miss it. Some would ar­gue this isn’t cheat­ing at all; it’s op­por­tunism or games­man­ship.

At the next level, pre­med­i­ta­tion and covert­ness en­ter the pic­ture: you make a con­scious de­ci­sion to at­tempt to se­cure an ad­van­tage by break­ing the rules and breach­ing the spirit of the game while con­ceal­ing your ne­far­i­ous­ness from the match of­fi­cials. The Aus­tralian ball-tam­per­ing falls into this cat­e­gory, as do most pre­vi­ous, far less se­verely pun­ished in­stances: ball­tam­per­ing al­most al­ways in­volves an el­e­ment of pre­med­i­ta­tion.

Then there is cal­cu­lated ac­tiv­ity un­der­taken in pri­vate away from the arena and de­signed to give the ath­lete or team an on­go­ing ad­van­tage over their ri­vals. Amer­i­can road cy­clist Lance Arm­strong, whose seven con­sec­u­tive Tour de France vic­to­ries were voided be­cause of long-term dop­ing of­fences, is per­haps the best known, most clearcut ex­am­ple.

Former Aussie crick­et­ing great Shane Warne, who said of the ball-tam­per­ing episode that “cheat­ing is unaus­tralian”, was banned for a year in 2003 af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for a banned sub­stance – be­ing a “drug cheat” in the par­lance. One clear take­away from this af­fair is that, for some time now, the Aus­tralian cricket com­mu­nity has been op­er­at­ing at a dan­ger­ously low level of self-aware­ness.

From top, Trevor Chap­pell, John Wright, Adam Gilchrist, Lance Arm­strong.

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