Dropping the ball on cricket culture
lieving the rest of us would buy it.
I have spent a bit of time reflecting the manner in which the former national cricket coach Darren Lehmann conducted himself earlier this year versus the manner in which Peever managed himself until his resignation on Thursday.
As a study in contrast you could not get two more different men.
Lehmann, known universally as “Boof”, is a likeable knockabout who loves a beer and a yarn and was not averse to firing off the odd spray in an attempt to rattle his opponents.
I doubt very much whether Peever is known by his friends as “Peeves” or “Peevo”; rather, he is a sober corporate intellectual, a business giant who ran Rio Tinto, graduated with a Bachelor of Economics from James Cook and a Masters from Macquarie, who sits on the board of Melbourne Business School and the Business Council of Australia.
He has as almost as many letters after his name as Boof does beers after a game. Yet Lehmann proved himself the smarter of the pair, in a streetsmart sense, when he showed moral leadership in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal.
Like Peever, Lehmann had no knowledge of or input into what transpired on the field at that third Test against South Africa in Cape Town. But as Lehmann watched the cavalcade of tears from the good if weak Steve Smith, and saw the young patsy Cameron Bancroft get punted for putting into place the abrasive (liter- ally and metaphorically) David Warner’s plan, Lehmann came to a realisation.
It was a realisation that showed character, in that Lehmann decided as the person who had presided over this sad affair as coach, he had perhaps ignored or even helped create an environment where such a shocking thing could happen.
And even if that weren’t the case, he still felt the team needed another circuit-breaker through his departure. Most of all, and most humanely, he seemed to think it was so sad seeing three of his players suffer if he himself faced no sanction, and could just blunder on as if nothing had happened.
For most of last week, blundering on is exactly what Peever was trying to do. It was painful to watch him staggering towards the unavoidable reality that he, too, had to go for the good of the game.
Bizarrely, he had only just won the support of state cricket associations to serve another three-year term as chairman. It was akin to AMP responding to revelations that they had been billing dead people by saying they would be sticking with the same board and management for the next five years.
The other damning feature of last week’s events involves the debate about the harshness of the penalties handed down to the sandpaper three.
Of course these penalties are extremely harsh when compared with other balltampering players from other countries who received a minor slap on the wrist, or no penalty at all. I can see why the cricketers union and many greats of the game believe the penalties should be reduced.
But the very reason they were so spectacularly long is because of the culture that Cricket Australia ignored for so long, dating back to that homework boycott under former coach Mickey Arthur all those years ago.
We, the Australian public, and our detractors overseas were disgusted with the sandpaper incident because we were kind of disgusted already, or at least jaded with a team that had become boorish, unsportsmanlike, arrogant, hard to love.
In its own tawdry way, the fact that Nathan Lyon could celebrate a run-out by deliberately dropping a ball near his opponent’s head said all you needed to know about the modern-day culture of Cricket Australia.
It was only right that the chair paid a price for that too.