I should declare something at the start. This short piece is about cricket.
WordPress gives me to understand 364 persons follow my blog, a figure to humble and amaze.
I reckon about one hundred of you three hundred and sixty-four can tolerate cricket. The rest of you wish it out of existence, or at least you wish there were no broadcasts of five-day Test Matches.
I regret this post will alienate 264 friends. I do not write this lightly, however.
Perhaps thirty years ago my wife and I watched a rivetting live performance of ‘Equus’, a play by Peter Schaffer. It tells the story of a youth who attacked a number of horses, blinding them.
Towards the end of the play, a psychiatrist accuses a second character – more in sorrow than in anger – ‘You have done a thing that cannot be forgiven. You have destroyed a person’s worship.’
A memorable line which I was unable to fathom at the time. I can fathom it today. They have destroyed my worship.
Let me declare a few truths:
1. A cricket ball is a sphere, with two parallel ridged lines around its equator.
2. Australians playing cricket for our country don’t cheat. A former Captain of South Africa cheated. A number of subcontinental players have cheated.
3. Some Australian men playing cricket for our country are appalling sports in their disrespectful conduct towards opponents.
4. Our last four national captains have tolerated or fostered or led this behaviour.
5.Steve Smith does not cheat. He has suffered one episode of ‘brain fade’ as national captain that led him into breaching the Laws of the Game. But he does not cheat.
These things I have believed. I believed them long after ‘The Tour’ (of France) rotted in public; long , long after Ben Johnson destroyed my worship of men’s Olympic sprinting; long after East Germany destroyed the worship of women’s Olympic running. I knew we played fair in cricket, that is we played within the Laws. I watched our present Captain bat and bat and bat, I watched him rise and rise, I looked at his baby face:
butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. The worldcupniks – I mean the men at the top – gave us a World Cup in Russia and will give us another in Qatar. Who can enjoy that beautiful game mired in such filth?
Russia under Putin has destroyed worship wholesale. A nation – an entire region – lived to see democracy, lived under Gorbachev, experienced the birth of belief. Putin destroyed the worship that was belief in democracy. His henchmen have destroyed the worship of sport. America has elected a taxcutter who promised to reveal his personal taxation details – ‘later’, he said. ‘Later’ came and he promised never to reveal them.
Who in that great republic can believe that paying taxes is fair? Straight? Decent?
Overnight in Capetown, where Australia’s cricketers are engaged in a mighty contest, cameras caught a junior-ish Australian player deliberately damaging the cricket ball. The effect of such tampering is to change a perfect sphere
into an irregular object, one which will not obey the same Laws of physics that apply to a sphere. Opposing batsmen, unable to read the ball, would be dismissed easily, unfairly, inequitably. Australia’s Captain and Vice-Captain have admitted they put the younger player up to it. They have been stood down, ‘pending an investigation.’
After his earlier ‘brain fade’ I believed in Steve Smith. It offended me that others, loudest among them India’s Captain, Kohli, accused Smith of cheating. It distressed me that one of Kohli’s venerable predecessors, Sunil Gavaskar, echoed that accusation. Those men did not share my worship.
In a tale that is as famous as it is unreliable, a child fan of the Chicago White Sox confronted his idol, Shoeless Joe Jackson, who had been implicated in throwing matches: O, say it aint so! – cried the child.
Jackson and seven others were banned from the game for, life. To understand this, know Jackson was, like Steve Smith today, the greatest batter of his era. He was stood down for life. From this day forward, whenever Smith (or Warner) will take the field for Australia we will be a nation in disgrace. Be assured our cricket bosses will see to it these two will serve terms of derisory brevity: they are, after all, our two best batters. We will sit alongside Putin’s Ministry of Sport and the bosses of the World Cup.
I am not alone. A nation has lost its worship.