While I don’t follow it anywhere near as closely as I used to, I still retain an affection for Test cricket, (as opposed to the limited over stuff which can be entertaining but is ultimately disposable). I keep a half-eye on the games played around the world (with much greater frequency than a few decades ago) and usually spend a bit of time around this time of year watching it on the TV.
I found some of the actions and comments during the recent Sydney Test match hard to stomach, and if the websites and letters to the editor are anything to go by, the controversy over the way the Australian cricket team won their recent Test match against India has become a massive talking point – not just in Australia and India, but in other cricket playing countries too.
Peter Roebuck, a well respected cricket commentator with an extensive understanding of the culture of the game around the world, has written a column calling for the Australian cricket captain, Ricky Ponting, to be sacked – a huge call for someone of his experience to make. It is currently the most read article on the websites of both The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.
Stories relating to the controversy are also featuring at or near the top of the ‘most read’ lists on many other mainstream media websites, and there are hundreds of reader comments.
I have been surprised at the large numbers of letters in the Australian papers from local people who are very critical of the Australians. This suggests to me that the hostility and dismay towards the way some of the Australian cricketers carry on is quite deep and strong even within Australia and is a good sign that many people can look past patriotic jingoism and openly discuss some of the real issues that are afflicting the game.
I doubt this has all developed just because of the collection of less than ideal actions that occurred in just this one Test match. It is much more likely to have developed over time and I suspect a large part of the reason is the notorious sledging which Australia has become famous/infamous for.
No doubt sledging is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s playful teasing can be another’s obnoxious posturing. Personally, I thought the advertisement which screened repeatedly during the game – which I think was about some sort of competition to win a game of backyard cricket with some of the Test team – featuring young kids giving some tough guy lip to the Test players was signalled to me that the culture of sledging has already poisoned the game probably beyond redemption. I’m sure the advert was all in good fun and all that, but regardless of the joke, it painted a very clear picture of what is assumed to be standard practice for any person playing the game, no matter how young and even when it’s meant to be backyard fun.