Australian Cricketers’ Association is right: 'Win at all costs' attitude has cost Australian cricket services of Smith and Warner
Cricket Australia may have rejected the demand from Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) to consider reducing the period of ban imposed on Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft. But that does not mean the pertinent points raised by ACA are no longer valid.
In its appeal, ACA had mentioned that even though the three players were certainly wrong in using unethical means to win a game of cricket, the cricket administrators too need to share part of the blame for putting the players under a lot of pressure. In the words of Greg Dyer, the President of ACA, “The events in South Africa were in part a by-product of a culture and system which, among other things, placed too much pressure on players to win.”
One does not want to absolve the players of their unethical and unprofessional role in the ‘sandpaper’ incident. But Dyer is absolutely right in his assessment of the long-established Australian cricket culture of ‘winning at all costs’.
It is the Australians who redefined the ‘art of sledging’ to mentally harass their opponents on the field, not individually but as a pack. The renowned cricket writer late Peter Roebuck had famously written, “Ponting has turned a group of professional cricketers into a pack of wild dogs.”
He had made this comment during that infamous Indian tour down under in 2008, which is remembered even now, not for the rare fighting spirit shown by the touring Indian cricket team, but for the unfortunate “monkey-gate” incident involving Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds, apart from Steve Bucknor’s atrocious and biased umpiring against India.
It is in this series that the Australians under Ponting had crossed all limits of decency and fair play. They had, as Roebuck had rightly pointed out, behaved as “a pack of wild dogs”, a sentiment shared by the South African cricketer Faf du Plessis during the 2014 South Africa-Australia series. He had exactly the same phraseology to describe the Australian team under the captaincy of Michael Clarke.
It’s no surprise then that this ugly ‘win at all costs’ Australian attitude under the captaincy of Ponting and Clarke seamlessly passed on to the Steve Smith-led Australian side. ACA surely has a point when they put part of the blame on the system that encourages such behaviour.
This is not to say that other teams never sledge or behave unprofessionally. But no other team has abused the system as much as the Australians. Let’s hope that by not revoking the ban on Smith, Warner and Bancroft, Cricket Australia is paving the path for a less hostile welcome to the touring sides to Australia, henceforth.
The Indian cricket team, set to tour Australia soon, would surely hope the Australian team and the home crowd do not take recourse in the usual sledging tactics.