Eighteen months have not quite passed since the event described at the time as the “darkest day in Australian cricket” occurred – the captain and vice-captain of the Australian cricket team bringing the hallowed institution of cricket into disrepute by sanctioning cheating during a match in South Africa.
Scarcely moments after the scandal broke, whilst Cricket Australia management were lamenting the damage to their media rights, the media were calling for the protagonists to be given space and a chance of redemption.
Not quite 18 months on, redemption has arrived!
Due to their performance against the traditional English foe, Steve Smith and David Warner have been welcomed back into the arms of the adoring public, because Ashes victory is apparently the ultimate sporting prize. Certainly, a prize worthy enough to bury the heinous crime of sports cheating as a distant memory for ‘good men who made a mistake’.
The reporting of Smith’s performance in particular has been nothing but reverential, landing between cementing his status as amongst cricket’s great names (according to the ABC) and the closest thing to Don Bradman in the modern game (according to the Sydney Morning Herald).
David Warner was shown in news coverage joking with the English crowd, pulling his pocket linings inside out with a wry smile whilst the crowd jeered.
Let’s not forget this was the ‘leadership group’ that wilfully and deliberately sanctioned the cheating, instructing a junior team member to covertly tamper with the ball so the Australian team’s victory chances were enhanced.
The junior team member in question, Cameron Bancroft, received boos and cries of ‘cheat’ from the English crowd. While, realistically, being ordered to cheat by superiors is a less despicable act, the guilt by association is real.
Of course, none of this matters to the media and the fans. The media needs something to write about, and Cricket Australia has money to make. The current silence on the cheating has been deafening.
As I predicted when the cheating scandal first broke, when it came time for the rehabilitation of these two cheaters, the PR firms swung into overdrive. The media pushed the redemption stories, so Smith and Warner could return to the team with the sympathy of Australian fans behind them. Winning on the sports field means forgiveness, regardless of the circumstances.
Unless you are Adam Goodes.
As I also wrote at the time of the ball tampering scandal, Adam Goodes was not afforded the same media and public treatment as the cricketing cheats.
The contrast could not have been starker, or a greater indictment on the Australian public.
Goodes did not initiate the egregious act directed at him, but when he called out the perpetrator, he become the subject of media and public vilification – tormented to the point of retiring from his sport because he dared to call out blatant ingrained racism.
Watching the documentary “The Final Quarter” and seeing the outright racism of many media pundits, who claimed their criticism of Goodes to be nothing to do with race, was mind-blowing.
In many cases it was the same media as are now pushing the Smith/Warner redemption, that so ferociously and enthusiastically harassed Goodes into early retirement.
There is no better example of how redemption is given to the unworthy, while the worthiest are treated with ingrained prejudice.
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.