The Summer of Cricket is off to a chaotic start with the Australian cricket team humiliated by Pakistan in a series played in the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile the games’ administrators are mired in the fallout from the ethics enquiry.
Cricket Australia was found to have a culture that treated the game as a business commodity, with a win-at-all costs culture. This culture has infected the players to the point that successive teams have engaged in the boorish behaviour which is so distasteful in national sporting teams, is against the spirt of sport, and led to the cheating scandal last season which brought the game into disrepute.
Whilst these findings were a confirmation of the blindingly obvious to anyone who has glimpsed a match or sportscast in the last 30 years, sports journalists and cricket tragics acted like this was some type of fresh revelation. Commentators managed to trot out the ‘the fish rots from the head’ and ‘the game must clean up its act’ clichés, while others declared ball tampering was part of the game and should be accepted as such. The moral high ground was claimed by many and justified on very shaky principles.
If we are going to discuss morals in cricket, the question I’d ask is why do we play with Pakistan at all?
At the time Australia and Pakistan were playing in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan was embroiled in street protests and threats of violence because a woman was acquitted of the ‘crime’ of blasphemy.
The woman, Asia Bibi, is a Christian mother of five who has been on death row for eight years having been found guilty of insulting the prophet Mohammed by drinking from the same cup as a Muslim.
The acquittal prompted three days of nationwide protests by the anti-blasphemy group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). Rioting mobs burnt vehicles, blocked major roads and called for Bibi to the killed. TLP protesters declared they were ready to die to protect the honour of Mohammed. To appease TLP, the government has capitulated and agreed to prevent Bibi from leaving Pakistan if she is released – effectively sentencing her to death anyway. Plus, any TLP members arrested during the protest would be released.
Is there any more evidence needed to prove that Pakistan is controlled by religious totalitarianism? The government is not in full control, the secular court system is not respected, and the military has to combat attempts by TLP to coax soldiers to mutiny. And let’s not forget this is a nuclear armed country.
There is the obvious trope of sport being beyond borders and instilling community spirit. But how is playing cricket against Pakistan in a third country (because it’s too dangerous to play in Pakistan) in front of a crowd of a handful of spectators in anyway helping break down borders and helping the community?
Morally, Cricket Australia should not be engaging with Pakistan. But of course, media rights and gambling partner obligations take precedent over taking a stand against religious oppression.
But at least Aussie cricket fans can sit at home and cry into their beer in safety.
Speaking of Aussies, cricket and beer, a man the same age as me was recently photographed acting like a teenager and proving his ‘Aussie-ness’ by sculling a beer at the cricket.
I have never been in situation that has called for the skolling of a beer to prove my worth, even as a young man. If by chance the situation arose now, I would certainly have the good judgement and moral fortitude to refuse.
Good judgement escaped Prime Minister Scott Morrison in this instance. As the next step in his quest to prove he is an ordinary bloke who can connect with the average punter, he performed the whole ‘skol and empty glass on the top of head’ stunt to the amusement and bemusement of the spectating public.
If he wants to have beer at the cricket, good luck to him. But the performance skol was participating in a binge drinking culture of a bygone era in a way that brought his judgement into question.
Surely the nation’s leader must realise we have moved on from the era of machoism that saw Bob Hawke downing a yard glass? Does Morrison have any understanding of the relationship between our drinking culture and domestic violence?
I would have issued a polite decline if I was in the same situation, and I would have expected Morrison to dignify the office of Prime Minister by doing the same. But then again, this is a Prime Minister who introduces himself as ScoMo.
By his own admission, Greg Smart was born 40 years old and is in training to be a cranky old man. He spends his time avoiding commercial television and bad coffee.