Something inside me has died…

I don’t normally write about cricket on the blog, but this week I had to. How could I not? To be honest I did it for therapy…. I am wounded.

On Sunday something inside me died.

As the full detail of the ball-tampering scenario in Cape Town unfolded, a sinking feeling set in… and I could only bare to watch through my fingers, cringing in horror.

There were messages and phone calls of sympathy. Monday morning I literally choked back tears as I listened to some of our cricketing greats: Jim Maxwell, Adam Gilchrist and Gideon Haigh, despair over what they had witnessed and how, like me, they were grappling to come to terms with, and reconcile, what had actually happened during the third test in Newlands. And why?

I’ve been searching for reasons, justifications and more evidence of: ‘everyone else does it’ so it’s ‘no big deal’ and I’ve come up empty every single Twitter scroll.

I was hoping for some miracle snippet of information that would help me understand how and why we got to this place in the sport I love, at the highest level.

The obvious answer is they did it because of the immense pressure to win, despite having the best bowling attack in the world and the number one batsman in the world (aka Steve Smith).

Yes, these young men did not kill anyone and no one has died here, but I feel ‘something’ has died and I feel the mourning – in all circles, not just among us cricket lovers.

I don’t remember a sporting saga taking hold in this way, ever. Maybe the Essendon scandal, but that was just one club, not a national side.

You cannot read a newspaper, tune into a news bulletin or scroll through social media without being reminded of this sorry tale and I feel utterly embarrassed.

I’m embarrassed because as a cricket tragic I have always supported the Australian Cricket Team, win, lose or draw, and I now feel cheated. This is not the same as losing a match, a series or getting bowled out for 60 runs in one morning of cricket.

This is different… this is just not cricket at all.

This is worse, much worse, as it speaks to the character of who we are and what we expect of our national sporting players… and of ourselves.  

Where we are right now as a cricketing nation is not a national disgrace… it is a crisis of culture.

It must be stated this is a crisis of the cricketing community, not a life or death tale, natural disaster, war or human rights abuse.

However, you cannot underestimate the emotion and widespread fall-out of an event like this. And not just for cricket, but for our wider community.

And this is why I feel so gutted, and so gravely concerned.

I will forgive Steve Smith and his co-conspirators for their actions and I have no doubt their punishment will befit the act, however I cannot brush aside why this has happened and the broader issues it refers to not only in cricket, but also in our community.

Why do we have to win at all costs? And why do we have to degrade others and devalue ourselves in this ‘winning’ process.

This current series between Australia and South Africa has been heated and fiery at best, abusive and shameful at worst.

Early in the piece sledging on both sides stooped to the lowest of lows and it came close to blows, both on and off the field.

Some say sledging is an important aspect of the game and gives Australia an edge and is a blueprint for how we go about our business.

My 13-year-old son agrees with this, and attributes some of his good work behind the stumps as keeper to his talent for sledging.

The problem with this is that when general ‘good natured’ banter is allowed and encouraged, the ‘other’ is allowed to creep in and the line becomes blurred, particularly as boys become men.

This ‘line’ is somewhat subjective and that’s why ‘personal’ sledging cannot be tolerated in cricket (or any sport) anymore.

I ask, perhaps naively, why can’t cricketers just ‘rib’ each other about cricket?

Why do they have to sledge about the personal aspects of cricketer’s lives, their race, culture, and appearance and specifically about their mothers, wives or girlfriends?

Both teams in this series have claimed the high moral ground and players have declared disgust and offence against those who have crossed the so-called ‘line’.

South African supporters joined in this unfriendly ‘banter’ and I have no doubt the same would happen here at home. It appears no woman, mother or girlfriend is sacred when it comes to sledging in this modern era of cricket, and I think it needs to stop – for everyone’s sake.

I listen to a lot of commentary about cricket and I have only ever heard one commentator ask, during this current series, why players need to use women as a tool for sledging.

The reply, from one of our cricketing greats was that “it gets a response”.

For me, a really important point is being missed here, and that this degrading level of banter illuminates exactly where many of our players sit when it comes to moral standards in cricket right now.

Put simply, there aren’t any. And if I am wrong (which I would love to be) there is no clear evidence to the contrary.

I’m passionate about women’s cricket, which has been wholeheartedly embraced by the wider cricket-loving community – at all levels of the game.

Why then, accept the use of women as a tool for sledging and brush it off as ‘part of the game’? I don’t want to bring feminism into this ball-tampering scandal, but for me this whole sorry affair speaks more broadly of a blatant lack of moral code within Australian cricket at the highest level, which has brought us all to a place that no-one is proud of.

Is this the sort of behaviour our parents (mothers), our children (daughters) and our country is proud of? I think not. And you only have to take the temperature of the current media situation to know this to be true.

And the same goes for cheating. Nothing, not even winning, is worth the disgrace and shame of degrading your teammates, your friends, your family and those who support you.

I’ve heard some say this week that altering the ball (cheating) to get extra swing and personal sledging happens on both sides of cricket… that everyone is doing it, and always has.

This does not make it right under any circumstances and if we learn anything from Cape Town it must be to change the current culture of cricket – at all levels.

Players must be banned for their stupid mistakes and a new blueprint for how we conduct ourselves should be introduced – for the sake of cricket.

I will continue to love cricket and travel the country and the world to watch the game, but something is broken here and it needs to be fixed.

The passion and blind faith I had for Australian cricket has died, and I fear our national side has lost its way and it’s going to be a long, hard road back for everyone.

Christy ~ lover of cricket