Readers will be aware that on 15 April 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank killing over 1500 people, including the captain, whose name was Smith. The recent ball tampering incident was the iceberg that holed HMAS Cricket, and once again Captain Smith is standing at the rail as the water surges around him.
Then there was the story regarding Mike Hussey’s retirement party at the SCG in 2013. I’ve no idea whether it was true, so I won’t say exactly what it was (I’ll bet most readers would be aware of the story) but what it certainly showed was a cultural schism within the team with tradition on one side and a taste for partying with billionaires on the other.
So, what does this say about the internal team politics today and the extent to which that played a part in what happened last week? In all honesty, I don’t know but I do feel fairly sure that the perceived departure from tradition is playing a role in how Australians now feel about their team.
Of course, a very strong part of our tradition is playing fair, and I think what’s really upset us. We see cheating in other cultures and sneer at it, safe in our absolute certainty that we would never do that. Ball tampering might be alright for the likes of Faf du Plessis or Mike Atherton or any number of Indians and Sri Lankans. But there’s no way Australians would lower themselves to such appalling tactics. Just as you’d never see an Australian taking a dive in the penalty box or rolling about shrieking to feign injury. That is not what we do.
The outrage and revulsion of the entire country seemed to take even the players by surprise. The sanctions imposed on players from other countries were far less than those imposed by Cricket Australia and, I suggest, reflect the manner in which ball tampering is perceived in different countries.
That, I believe, is why we felt so let down by the antics of Bancroft, Smith and Warner – captain and vice-captain. Our certainty as to our own cherished standard of fair play was shattered. This is a pain felt personally by every Australian and that’s why the demand for vengeance was so hot.
But do we still feel that way?
On sober reflection, after a week of digesting the awful reality, and after watching the devastating impact on Steve Smith in his press conference. Do we still want him to be so heavily punished?
Nobody outside the playing group and Cricket Australia knows exactly what happened but from the odd titbit that’s leaked out: Cricket Australia has indicated that David Warner was regarded as the main instigator of the plan and delegated Cameron Bancroft to carry it out. Steve Smith (it seems) knew they were hatching some sort of mischief but threw his hands up and said: “I don’t wanna know about it.” (or words to that effect)
That was his crime. Not wanting to know about it.