The Ashes: Should Australia Be Condemned For Not Cheating?

Photo by Aksh yadav on Unsplash

The finest of cricketing traditions, England struggling, nay, losing the Ashes series, is in full swing.

Cricket is a world religion, and Test Cricket is it’s altar. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, try getting someone to sit in your local church, synagogue, mosque or shrine for five days.

It has a following of billions, it is the #2 ranked sport in the world, it is the most popular bat-and-ball game of all, and is exceeded only by football (trans. soccer) in global reach. It is geographically, culturally and financially the most diverse sport, and can trace its unparalleled success to the historical subjugation of a third of the world.

And perhaps more than any other sport, cricket has tradition. Fine, beard tugging, tie wearing, colonial, entirely male tradition. Tradition that may have been broken.

It has come as a great shock to the many ardent fans of the sport that the E.C.B. (the English Cricket Board) have claimed Australia are NOT cheating.

Said a fan I met in the bookies.

A sentiment shared by millions, especially bookmakers.

In a draft statement that was stolen (allegedly) from the E.C.B. by a man claiming to be their cleaner (I paid £20 for it), we have the following:

For the non-cricketing fan I should explain that ball-tampering, fixing wickets, scuffing-up-the-crease, sledging (this was invented by Australia), bribery and intimidating umpires (cheating, basically) are hallmarks of this most venerated sport. A test match or international event without at least two of these would be setting a precedent.

Of course, by definition, cheating is breaking the rules, but this has always been understood to be in the ‘spirit’ of the game. The accomplished cricketer simply avoids getting caught.

An insider from the Pakistan squad, who wishes to remain nameless, told me:

I couldn’t find anyone from the E.C.B. in my local pub available for comment. I did however manage to interview Burt Jones, who lives about 300 yards from Lords, and was once an umpire in a more civilised time when no self-respecting cricketer would dream of sticking to the laws of the game.

He said, wiping a tear from his eye.

I had hoped to interview Geoffrey Boycott, ever the voice of reason, but I was told he’s still at the crease at Edgbaston, and has been since 1977.

Of course, Australia wouldn’t be the first Test playing nation to forgo cheating. For two decades New Zealand (known as the Kiwis), have played strictly to the letter of the law… And look where that’s got them, bloody wooden-spooners. That’s what you get for being nice, and being named after a fruit!

But for the Aussies to adopt this tactic, with their fearsome reputation, is more than some can take.

Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne, Michael Clarke, Micheal Atherton and especially Shahid Afridi, and man so brazen he once, literally, ate a cricket* ball during a match, must all be deeply saddened by this turn of events. All the great cheats are shaking their heads in disbelief, I imagine. The fine traditions they helped create are now, maybe, in disarray.

So, what’s the outlook for cricket?

That, from the guy that sells the Big Issue outside Paddington Station.

But others are less reassured. I secretly texted the E.C.B.s chairman pretending to be a dodgy bookmaker. He was willing talk to me. He said:

*https://www.crictracker.com/shahid-afridi-admits-to-tampering-with-the-ball-by-biting-it-in-his-autobiography/

**https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/mar/25/australia-exposed-cheats-stupid-ones-but-steve-smith-survive-ball-tampering-south-africa-cricket

Author of The Wizard of Trope, Wage Slaves: Pat Parker’s Fairytales From The Workplace and The Murderpreneur, and more.. smarkem.com

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