TIME WILL TELL WHETHER NEW OZ ‘CUL­TURE’ EX­ISTS

The Sunday Independent - - SPORT - LUN­GANI ZAMA lun­gani.zama@inl.co.za

THE FALL­OUT from that crazy af­ter­noon at New­lands last sum­mer is still rum­bling on. Who knew that sand­pa­per would tar­nish so much, leave so few stones un­turned?

It wasn’t enough to ban a few cul­prits, lose a coach, and the rights to the eter­nal line that ye shall not cross. No. The Aus­tralians are pur­su­ing a new stan­dard when it comes to be­hav­iour in cricket. They are chal­leng­ing their men and women to be bet­ter, and they are do­ing so very pub­licly.

Out of sev­eral catch­phrases cur­rently oc­cu­py­ing the Aussie dress­ing-room, ‘Elite Hon­esty’ has to stand out as one of the most in­cred­i­ble. What does that even mean?! Is reg­u­lar hon­esty no longer enough?

Se­ri­ously, what does that even mean? Are we to ex­pect even the best bat­ting Aussie to walk the minute he edges a ball, and not leave it up to tech­nol­ogy to seal his fate? Per­haps play­ers will ditch the re­hearsed lines they roll out at press con­fer­ences, and find a new, elite form of straight shoot­ing?

That would be elite. But it is also, sadly, very un­likely.

Are we se­ri­ously ex­pected to be­lieve that, due to one sum­mer of shame, Aus­tralia will drop a cen­tury and more of hard-nosed, in-your-face cricket and be­come thor­oughly de­cent blokes on the field? Se­ri­ously?

Will the likes of David Warner – he who bites at any line like the shad which in­habit the South Coast – now turn the other cheek, and sim­ply be the big­ger man in each, heated sit­u­a­tion? Will Josh Ha­zle­wood, the snarling heir to Glenn McGrath in the grumpy stakes, now smile po­litely when he is spanked to the fence?

That is in­cred­i­bly hard to be­lieve, given what we know of our favourite ri­vals from Down Un­der. And, if we are bru­tally hon­est, we wouldn’t want them to change their ways, aside from the oc­ca­sional trip to the hard­ware store. That crosses the line, and the three who were fin­gered for that act have been pun­ished ac­cord­ingly.

It was quite funny to see some calls, this week, for those three to be al­lowed to play again. They have suf­fered enough, the play­ers’ union sug­gested. No one forced Cricket Aus­tralia to im­pose the sanc­tions they did upon their cap­tain, vice-cap­tain and their open­ing bat.

They took the higher moral ground, and sought to send a mes­sage to the rest of the crick­et­ing world. We hold our­selves to a higher moral stan­dard, their de­ci­sive ac­tions sug­gested.

To back­track on that, and cut short these bans, would be an in­cred­i­ble change of gear. You can’t see it hap­pen­ing, but the rapidly-ap­proach­ing bat­tle against In­dia will be poorer with­out two of Aus­tralia’s finest bats­men of this era.

The game loses out, but the game lost a hell of a lot more back in March, when Aus­tralia scraped their way into the books of un­favourable his­tory. Back then, a touch of elite hon­esty was def­i­nitely miss­ing from the Aussie team sheds. ‘By any means nec­es­sary’ was the mantra, and they found the most cal­cu­lated of means.

That is gone now, and the scathing re­port that was re­leased this week spoke of an ar­ro­gant Aus­tralian cul­ture, where the win-at-all-costs at­ti­tude was torn to shreds. Even the suits were slammed, for what has hap­pened on their watch.

No punches were pulled there, and you do have to ac­knowl­edge that un­wa­ver­ing stance from the re­port on ‘Sand­pa­per-gate’. As for the com­mit­ment to do things dif­fer­ently, that will come with time.

As that wild, late March week­end in Cape Town proved, ac­tions still speak in­fin­itely louder than any well-mean­ing words ever will.

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