Drop­ping the ball on cricket cul­ture

Sunday Tasmanian - - News -

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.

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