The mightiest of Australian icons has fallen.
There are not many institutions, let alone individuals, who are held up on seemingly unshakable pedestals. Pop stars are not – we just wait for the next drug scandal or bad album. Scientists are not, even though they should be. Politicians? Forget about it – the amount of credibility to be found in Canberra would not fill a metaphorical teaspoon.
So who does that leave? Well for us Aussies it’s usually our sporting heroes. But even those are not universally revered. If you live in certain states then chances are you don’t give a stuff about AFL and likewise with Rugby. Basketball still has the stigma of being an American sport and Soccer is considered too European too be a true Aussie pursuit.
So we have the cricket.
To wear the Baggy Green is a dream that even the most sporting inept of young men dream of. Even I did. I was on the school team in Primary School, though my lack of coordination combined with an inherent fear that a speeding ball was going to remove my head guaranteed I was perpetually the worst on the team. But even I dreamed of playing for Australia, smacking 6’s out of the park all over the world for the glory of my team and my country. We hold our test cricketers in esteem with a level that no other sport receives in our great brown land. We pin on them so many of our hopes, our dreams and our national pride.
Yesterday that all came crashing down.
For those that don’t know, our team was caught cheating. So what, all teams cheat now and then, everyone does it etc etc etc.
No, not the Australian Cricket Team. Not before. Not until now.
The greenest member of our Test Side, a young man named Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera ball tampering. By the application of yellow tape to make the ball pick up grit, he hoped to change the way the ball flew in order to frustrate the opposing batsmen – a well known and much despised way to cheat.
But we cannot lay the blame simply at the feet of this young man, because it was the leadership members of his team that put him up to it, headed by the team skipper Steve Smith. After being caught in this flagrant act of cheating a press conference was called and Smith admitted that it was a premeditated action, multiple members of the team conspiring to purposely cheat. He even had the audacity to go on in his interview that he felt he should still remain captain.
Well he won’t be captain any longer if the public has anything to say about it. The public are pissed off!
Why are we so pissed off? Well as said before, we hold our cricketers up to a level that perhaps only the biggest of our Olympic heroes also reach. They represent us on the world stage in a sport that we have so often ruled. They go out into the world, armed with a green hat and a piece of willow and shine for us. To be captain of the Australian Test Cricket Team is perhaps the highest position a player of sport could ever hope to achieve in our nation. Beneau, Border, Lawry, Ponting – they are names that every person knows. As for Bradman, he is a true legend in our society (and didn’t have to put on a metal helmet and rob people to become it). Our cricketing captains are the closest we have to home-grown royalty and someone that little boys see as tangible heroes. Oh they go may through slumps in ability or difficulty with the ACB, but for the most part they are unimpeachable. Unlike so many other countries teams, our team and our captains have always been the squeakiest of squeaky clean and beyond reproach.
Smith’s actions took that away from us. He stole that from us. He ruined that for us!
How dare he.
HOW DARE HE!?
How dare you Steve Smith! How dare you sir! You were given the top job in Aussie sport and you sullied it, you dragged it through the mud! Do you really believe Australians will forgive you? You might as well forget about the massive amount of sledging that our team will have to endure from other counties on the field for years to come, you need to worry about what you will cop from the home crowds when you next play in Australia, if you ever get that chance. The Captain of the Australian Cricket Team is a sacred position, a sacred trust. You have betrayed that trust. You have betrayed us. My 5 year old son is really getting into cricket, shows no interest in other sports but is always eager for us to head down to the local nets and smack a few balls around. I won’t be buying him a poster of you anymore, I won’t be holding you up as a figure to emulate. In fact I’ll go out of my way to make sure he never learns your name. Because I don’t want him to feel disenfranchised with a sport in which his interest is just beginning to grow. You have gone from a source of national pride to a source of national shame. Aussies are very fair minded and the fact that you put your youngest, most inexperienced team member up to such an act, putting him in such an awkward position that he either betrays his captain or his sport, just compounds the nature of your crime. If you had any decency at all, you would quit right now and do your best to become a ghost because you will not be welcome in many social circles on your home turf anymore. We can forgive losses, but we cant forgive this.
So can Australian cricket ever recover from this. The answer is yes, but perhaps not entirely. As the years progress it will become a matter of history but Australia can never get back the ‘Well, we have never cheated’ mantle – its gone forever. It has been stolen from us and the nation mourns.
My love of the sport remains, but my love of our team and especially its captain, does not.
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