Like most people I was disappointed to hear of the events in Cape Town. I got the letter from Cricket Australia in my inbox, I saw the Prime Minister using the event to deflect attention from his latest poll debacle. I wondered what could have compelled the Australian cricket team to cheat.
Before the disappointment turned to anger I paused to remember the multiple times that this has happened in the last 30 years. The media was literally talking about the opposing captain’s own experience before the start of the test match.
I wondered why we as Australians, hadn’t rallied around the team like the South African players, public, administration and media had for du Plessis. It seemed like we were searching for someone to blame for some deep national shame, rather than accept that the punishment for the crime would be a fair and proportionate.
When searching from blame humans tend to externalise their focus, typically they pick factors outside of their control. For du Plessis it was the ambiguity of the law, for Warner it was de Kock’s poor choice of words and vice versa, for Rabada it was Smith not having the foresight to avoid his oncoming shoulder. Yet when we look for blame elsewhere we cannot fix the problem we have within ourselves, we just push it to the side.
Smith showed maturity in owning his mistake, albeit after being caught. It was him! He did it! So move on, right? It seems not. The feeling of national shame lingers on. If the blame has been properly laid and the punishment handed out, then why the continued outrage?
Where does the blame truly lie? For Australia and Australian’s the blame lies solely with us.
The blame lies with us because of our expectations and our demands. It lies with people who demand a culture of success despite the adversity of over-packed schedules, variant conditions and the constant threat that stalks all sportsmen, acrimonious firing without recourse to a fair work ombudsman.
The blame lies with us for expecting 20 somethings, whose greatest talent is manipulating the placement of a small round sphere, to make wise decisions. Not smart decisions. The smart decision in the modern game, where home field advantage is paramount, is to take drastic measures.
The blame lies with people who view celebrities, who they have never met, as role models. Instead of looking up to Uncle Gary who never missed a day at the factory or Grandma who drove supply trucks during the Second World War.
The blame lies with us for forgetting that teams will win, teams will lose. The placement at the top of a pile is not the result of lack of effort but in most cases the luck of the draw.
The blame lies with us for not demanding the resignation of a central cricket administration that instead of doing what they should: organising tours and paying players remains the arbiter of all things to do with cricket in this country.
The blame lies with us for allowing ex-players, who have no comprehension of the challenges of the modern day sportsperson, to form our opinions. People who believe that their legacy is affected by the actions of those who come after them, will always judge their successors with the same oppressive standards which they bucked so violently against.
Most of all the blame lies with us for allowing the media such an unfettered license to go after any one that steps outside of the bounds of what they consider to be ‘correct behaviour’. Cheating should not be tolerated, but the reaction has been so disproportionate that one would think Smith et al. had fixed a game, got into a fight at a nightclub, took banned substances or, exposed himself in public.
As Australians we don’t like feeling like we do much wrong. We are the underdogs, fighting upwards and overcoming adversity, but the sad truth is that expectation is not realistic. It creates an expectation of success that becomes impossible for the people to live up to.
It results in desperation and despair from players who, when their careers end, have little else in their lives.
For this and much more the blame lies with us.