So, it turns out that Australian cricket captain Steve Smith is not the Messiah that much of the cricketing press has avowed for the past few years. In fact, in the words of Terry Jones playing Brian’s Mum in Life of Brian: “He’s a very naughty boy.”
The incidents of the third day of the Third Test between South Africa and Australia, played at Newlands Cricket Ground, have been greeted with a near universal moral outcry. Cricketing nobility; large sections of the media; even the Australian government have all condemned the actions of three of their players––Cameron Bancroft; Steve Smith; and David Warner––as morally indefensible.
Ball-tampering in cricket is as commonplace as diving is in football. Yes, it is cheating, but it is habitual cheating so routine that it is both expected and, most usually, entirely tolerated. Although, admittedly, it is not normally done in such a cack-handed fashion as was witnessed at Newlands. During any cricket match, the ball is regularly inspected by the umpire: if the umpire deems the ball is in a fit condition to play, then he should be left to be the final authority on the matter. If, as at Newlands, the umpire decided that cheating had occurred, there is a published code of conduct and punishment to deal with the occurrence. Matter over.
What I find more worrying is not the ‘conspiracy’ to ball-tamper by Smith, Bancroft and Warner; it is the disproportionate sense of outrage, in some cases by world leaders, who have elevated this, frankly, minor sporting spat to the level of a major international diplomatic incident. In a world where the Rohingya are still being persecuted in Myanmar; the Yemenis have been dealing with a catastrophic cholera epidemic; and where there is an increase in tribal violence in Ituri, there seem to be a lot of far more worthy causes for moral outrage than three Aussie cricketers fiddling with their balls.
When sport gets drawn onto the political stage, it is necessary to keep a sense of perspective. Moral outrage is not an infinite well from which to draw. Drain the resources dry in a time of glut, and there will be nothing left in a time of drought.
© The Mudskipper