As some of you know, I’m into cricket - and so I’ve read every word about the Australian cheating shenanigans. But this post is not about who did what and whose idea it was and who else knew. (In the absence of evidence it’s not for me to speculate.)
Instead I want to think about the reactions - here in the UK, and in Australia (I’ve no idea what the papers are saying in South Africa, where this happened, or in India, which holds so many of cricket’s purse-strings).
The hot air and column-inches that have been devoted to this episode is extraordinary - and, in my opinion, encouraging. The outcry has reflected a united - appalled - reaction. A few years ago there was anger when some players were charged with spot-fixing, even match-fixing, but I don’t recall seeing such unequivocal outrage at behaviour on a cricket pitch. I’ve read no one who even whispers a suggestion that cheating might be, somehow, ok.
I know, there have been reminders that the line between this outright cheating and attempts to change the condition of the ball can be blurred. But this episode falls so far wide of that line it cannot be defended.
It reminds me of the cry of every child - ‘It’s not fair!’ It’s not fair that other children are better at football or spelling or just allowed to go to bed later. As they grow older it’s the tenet that underpins some adolescent angst - it’s not fair that everyone else has perfect skin or parents who can afford driving lessons the second they turn seventeen. Children and young people have to wrestle with the basic unfairness of living.
Yet their parents and teachers persist a telling them that there are some level playing fields that give everyone an equal opportunity. We know it’s complicated, but we still want our children and young people to believe that ‘fair play’ benefits everyone. It’s a tenet that underpins so much of our moral thinking.
Cricket isn’t the only sport to tackle the issue, of course. But there is something about the blatant rule-breaking of this episode that prompts childish outrage. We still long for life to be fair - for all of us.
And not only on the cricket pitch.