United Nations – WHO
The public fury that greeted the premeditated ball tampering orchestrated by Australian cricketers Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith and other team members in Cape Town suggests the incident is seen as diminishing the personal integrity of every Australian citizen.
As a sport psychologist for more than 30 years, I have seen the best and the worst of athlete behaviour but even I felt personally affronted.
The conspiracy to cheat, casually hatched by the senior playing group over a lunch break, reverberates well beyond cricket and even sport itself.
Not only is the incident seen as tarnishing the baggy green and the legacy of Aussie test cricketers who went before, but more importantly it has removed any vestige of the country’s moral high ground.
No longer can we point the finger. No longer is breaking the rules something committed by others in the cricket world, such as Faf de Plessis and his Lollygate incident and Pakistan’s spot fixing scandal, rather than by us.
Bancroft was contrite in front of the world’s media and clearly willing to take his punishment. Smith’s response to getting caught red-handed was acute embarrassment followed by an affirmation that he remained “the right person for the job” of Australian cricket captain.
Their lack of awareness of the tidal wave of criticism that would break once the nation woke up to the news spoke volumes about the culture that pervades this team.
Criticism from abroad has been equally vicious. “This pious team who look down on everyone else … are getting their just desserts,” chimed in England spinner Graeme Swann, accusing the Australian team of longstanding double standards.
Former England captain Mike Atherton, now an erudite sports writer for The Times, headlined that the “stink surrounding hypocritical Australia goes deeper than ball tampering alone”.
How long before someone raises the spectre of a convict past to explain the fact that national representatives of Australia have been shown to be untrustworthy?
As England’s sport psychologist in the 1993 Ashes series, I watched at close quarters as an Australian team featuring Border, Boon, Hayden, Healy, Hughes, Taylor, Warne, and the Waugh twins brushed England aside for a 4-1 victory.
They played tough but fair cricket born of a glue-like culture that was as impressive as it was intimidating. They were local blokes made good, revered as the embodiment of values shared by the average Australian.
My experiences in international sport have taught me the double-edged nature of strong team cohesion: a boost to performance but with potential to lead honourable people into questionable moral territory, both on and off the field.
The empirical and anecdotal evidence of a positive relationship between team bonding and sport performance is unequivocal.
The downside of creating a culture of unquestioning mutual support among a group of men desperate to win test matches is that a dual moral code can evolve. This sees them do things in the pursuit of victory that they would not contemplate in the real world.
The ball-tampering attempt was seen as both dumb and unconscionable, given the sheer number of on-ground TV cameras. Yet it provides evidence of a warped moral code, rather than low IQ, on the part of Smith and Co.
“It was worth taking the risk” seems to have been their mantra. Wrong!
It is one of the clearest examples of the pedestal syndrome, whereby prodigiously talented young sportspeople are elevated in society to the point at which they lose sight of the difference between right and wrong.
Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull alluded wistfully to the fact that Australian cricketers are regarded more highly than any politician.
Smith was feted by the media and the public over the previous 12 months for his brilliant form, labelled the greatest batsman since Bradman. This is undoubtedly the highest pedestal available to the modern cricketer.
But he now appears to believe that the almost sacred rules against ball-tampering apply only tangentially to him and the Australian team.
With just a few remorseful words, delivered with apparent indifference to the magnitude of the act, Smith went from hero to zero faster than the disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson ran his drug-fuelled 100m.
“The cricketing gods have spoken loud and clear,” concluded Allan Border, as Australia crumbled to ignominious defeat by 322 runs in Cape Town.
Never has the result of a test match mattered less. The apparent death of Australian integrity, forged through two centuries of nation-building, wartime heroics, and sporting achievement, has been greeted publicly with the early stages of a grief response.
The shock and disbelief has been followed rapidly by white-hot anger that the custodians of values burned deep into the national psyche have betrayed the people of Australia.
What follows is uncertain. The International Cricket Council has meted out its customary slap on the wrist for cheating in the form of a one-match ban, while Cricket Australia has stood down the captain for the final test match of the series.
It has hardly been a draconian punishment so far.
Meanwhile, how do parents explain to their children that their heroes are dishonest and can’t be trusted? Will we see an exodus of participants from grassroots cricket?
Discussion among pundits looking for explanations has already unearthed social injustice, the cult of celebrity, mega salaries, A$10 million homes, first-class travel and inflated entourages as contributing to the moral failings of our national representatives.
The term “that’s just not cricket”, once a condemnation of anything with even a whiff of moral turpitude, is now surely destined to become something of a compliment.
It’s a long road back to respectability for the Australian cricket team, which may have to start with root-and-branch changes to its culture from the top down. As for forgiveness from the Australian public, that may take longer still.
Australian cricket is engulfed in scandal after TV cameras caught Cameron Bancroft attempting to manipulate the condition of the ball during the team’s third Test match against South Africa. Bancroft and the Australian captain, Steve Smith, subsequently admitted to the offence and the collusion of the player leadership group in the decision to do so.
Altering the condition of the match ball is against the rules of the sport, contrary to “the spirit of cricket”, and deemed to be “unfair”. It is a form of cheating.
Cricket is not only controlled by a set of rules but, according to the sport’s laws, it should also be played “within the spirit of cricket”.
Like most sports, cricket is a self-regulating entity. The national associations and, ultimately, the International Cricket Council (ICC) enforce the laws. That said, cricket remains tied to gentlemanly ideals and the myth of “fair play”.
This “spirit” encourages respect for players and officials while advocating for self-discipline. Significantly, it says the:
… major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains.
Within these rules, law 41.3 identifies changing the condition of the match ball as an offence and “unfair play”. Specifically, law 41.3.2 states:
It is an offence for any player to take any action which changes the condition of the ball.
But why is the condition of the ball so important?
The ability to “swing” a ball is a prized skill in cricket. Altering the condition of one side of the ball can help it to swing, and may provide an advantage to the bowling team.
Players try regularly try to “rough up” one side of the ball by, for instance, deliberately bouncing it on hard ground or applying sweat or saliva to it in ingenious ways. Such practices are not deemed to be contrary to the laws, even if they may not be within the spirit of cricket. Cricketers can bend the rules but not break them.
However, others have been known to use fingernails to scratch the ball, or have rubbed it on the zip of their trousers. Such measures are against the laws and are punishable under the ICC’s Code of Conduct.
In this case, Smith has been banned for one match and fined his match fee. Bancroft, who was caught with a piece of yellow sticky tape that he was attempting to use to tamper with the ball, has also been fined most of his fee and issued three demerit points.
When games are evenly matched, small gains from cheating can be enough to swing the result one way. This has occurred in other sports.
Sport is now a commercial product with large rewards for winning. In addition, when players are representing their country, there may be considerable pressure to win at all costs, particularly when sport plays a prominent role in the country’s national identity.
According to Smith, the Australians “saw this game as such an important game”. Here, the significance of the game and the team’s desire to win are used to justify cheating. The spirit of cricket and “fair play” were given little thought.
In his work on match-fixing, investigative journalist Declan Hill identifies several questions that may be considered when players are contemplating cheating. The importance of the game is a key factor. Prospective cheats will also evaluate whether they can win without cheating and the sanctions they risk if they are caught.
The Australian cricketers believed the game was slipping away from them. They either did not think they would be caught, or were not deterred by the possible sanctions.
In several cases of cheating, it has been senior players that have induced their younger teammates to cheat.
Two former cricket captains, South Africa’s Hansie Cronje and Pakistan’s Salman Butt, both recruited younger, less experienced players in their attempts to manipulate cricket matches. Similarly, Bancroft is at the start of his Test career and appears to have been influenced by others in the team.
Rather than ensuring fair play, Smith contrived to break both the game’s laws and spirit. Worryingly, it was not just Smith and Bancroft, but a group of senior players who were initially involved.
The players will have evaluated whether it was morally right to cheat and decided that winning was more important. While not a “crime” in the traditional sense of the word, the premeditated nature of these actions increases the level of deception and subsequent outrage surrounding the decision.
The event calls into question not only the behavioural integrity of those involved but also more broadly the moral integrity of the environment in which they function. This is an environment that leaves players viewing ball-tampering on this scale as a viable match-winning strategy.
Smith’s role, as captain, has often been described as the second-most-important job in Australia (after the prime minister). It is for this reason that the Australian Sports Commission has called for him, along with any members of the leadership group or coaching staff “who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball”, to stand down or be sacked.
The plot to tamper with the ball was a clear attempt to cheat and has brought the spirit of cricket into question. The implications of being caught cheating or significance of the action were overruled in favour of an outcome: winning a match.
Such actions demonstrate the short-term focus players can have in the moment, ignoring the magnitude of their decisions. In this case, the fallout will be far greater than any punishment the sport will hand out.
Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Senior Lecturer in Sports Psychology and Coaching Sciences, Bournemouth University, and Steven Freeland, Dean, School of Law and Professor of International Law, Western Sydney University
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s recent statements that Australia should open its arms to white farmers in South Africa facing “persecution” at the hands of a black majority government sparked national bemusement, international outrage, and rejection from members of his own government.
Dutton’s sympathy for white South Africans, who would “abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard [and] not lead a life on welfare”, has long historical roots.
This sense of mutual racial purpose in “white men’s countries” like Australia, South Africa and North America is located in a shared fondness for racial exclusion and segregation.
Proposed South African legislation that would allow the ruling African National Congress to expropriate land from white farmers without compensation to meet a modest target of 30% of farmland in black hands seems to have sparked Dutton’s benevolence.
Australia’s far-right has been reporting on white farmers being murdered in racially motivated attacks for some time, reprising a “white genocide” meme popular in alt-right circles abroad. Mainstream media outlets in Australia then adopted this narrative.
Australia’s colonial immigration restriction regimes, which originated during the 1850s gold rushes in Victoria, heavily influenced similar polices introduced in Natal, South Africa, in 1896.
And when Australia federalised colonial immigration laws in 1902, the notorious dictation test, which quizzed potential immigrants in any European language, was in turn borrowed from Natal.
Australians and “Boers” (South Africans of Dutch descent, also known as Afrikaners) forged a sort of racial fraternity across the battlefield in the Boer War between 1899 and 1902. Australian light horsemen sent to fight in South Africa found themselves not all that dissimilar to their enemy.
As Australian soldier J.H.M. Abbott put it in a book on his exploits:
The [Australian] bushman – the dweller in the country as opposed to the town-abiding folk – … is, to all practical purposes, of the same kind as the Boer. [I]n training, in conditions of living, in environment, and to some extent in ancestry, the [Australian] and the Boer have very much that is in common.
Such sympathy – and a hatred for black South Africans, mirroring sentiments toward Indigenous Australians – extended well into the 20th century. Some of the 5,000 Australians living in Johannesburg in the 1900s, either war veterans or economic migrants, were instrumental in forming white-only trade unions modelled on those back home.
Australia and South African governments worked together in the 1940s to ensure their restrictive racial policies were beyond the reach of new international organisations.
Jan Smuts, South Africa’s prime minister between 1939 and 1948, was responsible for the inclusion of the term “basic human rights” in the preamble to the UN Charter.
Along with “Doc” Evatt, Australia’s attorney-general and the key author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Smuts saw the idea of human rights not as “synonymous with political, social or racial equality” but as a protection of countries from the threat of further war and international encroachment.
The prominence of domestic jurisdiction became a central part of the UN Charter. This ensured human rights were not enforceable on – or even relevant to – individual countries.
South African apartheid, the White Australia Policy, and treatment of Indigenous Australians became hot-button issues from the late 1950s onward.
Decolonising African and Asian countries soon moved to have South Africa excluded from the Commonwealth of Nations. Australia’s prime minister, Robert Menzies, rejected such moves, standing alone in refusing to condemn apartheid. Instead, Menzies and his conservative successors advocated a stance of “non-interference”. They were fearful Australia would be the anti-colonial campaigns’ next target.
The 1970s and 1980s saw increasing protests against apartheid in Australia – particularly around the Springbok rugby tours in 1971. This period was also marked by efforts from conservatives to blunt the edge of an international sanctions campaign against South Africa.
Coalition prime minister Malcolm Fraser and his Labor successor Bob Hawke were strong opponents of apartheid. But the Coalition under John Howard in the 1980s joined with US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to do:
… everything it could to see that nothing was done to bring [apartheid] to an end.
The first arrival of what Dutton would now term “refugees” from southern Africa to Australia began in the 1980s. White farmers fled the democratic election of a black majority government in Zimbabwe in 1980, followed in the 1990s by a rush of South Africans “packing for Perth” after Nelson Mandela’s 1994 election and the abolition of apartheid.
Studies find these migrants feel victimised by the process of decolonisation and bad (read, black) government. Australia, which is yet to reconcile itself with the legacy of colonialism or offer meaningful participation in government to Indigenous people, must then appear to be an ideal destination.
Dutton’s call for “civilised nations” to rescue beleaguered white farmers draws explicitly on this long history of equating civilisation with a global white identity. This mental universe has dangerous ramifications for Australia in a world where the “global colour line” has disappeared.