S.N. Don's blog

If you can get away with it, do it...

So said an unnamed Australian cricketer within the confines of the independent review into the culture of top-level cricket in Australia. When Australian fans of the baggy green feel that the national team had grown “petulantly aggressive” and “not held to account”, you know that there is a massive problem down under. This has come to light following the release of a 145 page report into Cricket Australia’s (CA) culture. This review was empowered following the ball tampering incident during the South Africa vs Australia series earlier this year.

For years, Australia has been the self-appointed guardians of the “Spirit of Cricket”. We all know how laughable such a claim has been. Sandpaper-gate blew this myth out of the water. Of 43 recommendations from the review, 34 have been identified by CA as either worthy of inclusion or already in place. Here is my take on some of the recommendations that have been identified.

Recommendation #5 looks at honours bestowed by CA and that now, they will look at taking into account a player’s character and behaviour. This is not new in Australian sport as in the AFL (Aussie Rules football), there is the Brownlow Medal which is awarded to the best and fairest player across the season. To qualify, the players in contention will not have been suspended by the AFL Tribunal throughout the season. The on-field umpires give a 3-2-1 scoring system to the best players in every game. I see no reason why a similar approach cannot be applied by the on-field cricket umpires plus the third umpire who will be observing proceedings from afar.

#10 looks at investment in a programme to elevate the status of and respect for umpires across all forms of the game of cricket. If there is one thing that is guaranteed to wind me up is dissent shown to the match officials, regardless of the sport in question. My last blog spent some time on slow over rates. The umpires need to step up and be more assertive to ensure that the paying public sees a full 90 overs’ play in the allotted 6 hours of scheduled play. Will yellow and red cards help? I doubt that very much.

#16 is very interesting as it looks at CA contracts for players. The recommendation is for all contracted players to be available for selection either at state or grade levels with the exception of overseas tours. The ECB would do well to go further with regards to their central contracts. There is little secret that England have struggled in recent years to identify and select batsmen at 1 to 5 in the order that perform well consistently. The ECB must address the imbalance ion the cricket season to ensure that the best English batsmen in the country have every opportunity to fine tune their skills to be better prepared for Test cricket.

#28 is where it gets juicy. The recommendation states “CA amend its Anti-Harassment Code for Players and Player Support Personnel so that the definition of ‘harassment’ is expanded to include abusive sledging.” Don’t get me wrong. There are times when sledging turns into banter and, in some memorable cases, highly amusing. Who didn’t laugh when Rodney marsh greeted Ian Botham to the wicket with the retort “Hiya Beefy, how’s your wife and my kids?”. The response from Beefy was “Wife’s fine, kids are retarded!” This is up there with the legendary exchange involving the athletic Eddo Brandes and Glenn McGrath. A bit of chirp and mickey taking is fine. Towards the end of the first Ashes Test in 2013 at The Gabba, Shane Warne has claimed James Anderson threatened to punch George Bailey in the face during the ill-tempered end to the first Ashes Test. Warne has said Anderson's threat prompted Michael Clarke to jump in and defend his player. It was then that Channel 9 microphones picked up Clarke saying to Anderson "Get ready for a broken f------ arm". I wonder what was said to David Warner that caused his temporary removal from the field while batting.

There is a lot more but most are aimed at CA’s governance structures. Time will tell just how successful CA are in implementing change. After all, there is an Ashes series to look forward to next summer.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge Cricket Australia for publishing the recommendations in full from which much of my blog has been derived. Also, the full Ethics Centre Review can be found here. Lastly, I acknowledge the Daily Telegraph website for the reference to the 2013 incident involving Jimmy Anderson.

Time will be the best judge on how CA move forward from the mess that they were the ultimate architects of.

S.N. Don

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