The ball-tampering scandal that broke over the weekend has rocked world cricket and embarrassed Australian sport. In this joint column piece, Culture Zone’s Nancy Hromin and B&T’s editor-in-chief, David Hovenden, argue that crimes like these need a lot more than just muted outrage…
Much has and much more will be written about the dark shadow that has covered Australian cricket and with it a national obsession. The most intriguing of all is the outrage pouring out our Prime Ministers mouth when only a month ago he was “standing by” Barnaby Joyce despite a flagrant misuse of tax payer funds to protect his lover and keep her in employ. It seems it is only outrage when one gets sprung. And let look at the survivors of male white privilege in power hypocrisy – Tim Worner still holding the helm as CEO of Seven West media despite months of press surfacing around misuse of company funds and excesses that culminated in no one losing their job or any apparent meaningful action or change for women in that organisation.
Steve Smith’s decision to flagrantly cheat in a desperate attempt to win a match slipping away is part of a bigger cultural problem – how does Cricket Australia oversee the integrity of the sport? What the hell was the coach doing? Smith should go, probably permanently, but so does Darren Lehman, if anything is to be retrieved. They are both scapegoats though- Smith’s decision is the culmination of an ugly culture which has gripped the national team for more than a decade – the culture of winning at all costs, blaming and not taking accountability for errors of judgement. We see this everywhere- in adland, in media, in banking, in politics.
The infamous Trevor Chappell underarm delivery was perhaps the first time we saw it in an Australian side in cricket. While he was made a scapegoat to spare his brother Greg, the nation’s uproar, not to mention the ire of New Zealand (who absolutely have not forgiven or forgotten), was such it seemed this incident was a one-off and never to be done again. Swift action was taken then so that it would never happen again.
There was a distinct crossroads here too. When Adam Gilchrist walked when he nicked a ball through to the keeper but was given not out, there was a moment of sportsmanship the nation could hang on to and be proud to be Australian, regardless of the outcome of that match.
When Rob Borbidge, the Queensland premier knew his support for gun control would cost him the 1998 state election, he still went ahead and supported it at a great personal cost. “I took the stand, I was prepared to face the political consequences, and we delivered gun control,” he said to Jon Stewart on a US talk show in 2013 after the Newtown school massacre. “We paid a high political price but we did the right thing.”
The term “slacktivism”, expressing moral outrage digitally, or in an interview by the media as out PM did last night, and then feeling enough has been done doesn’t solve the root cause of the problem. It makes us feel better about ourselves but doesn’t address why Smith made such a terrible error of judgement. Why did no one else on the team speak up? How could the coach not have known? What culture enabled the behaviour to go unchecked and with no boundaries.