Don’t be too self-righteous about Aussies – you’re probably a cheat, too
It’s just not cricket. And it’s not just cricket.
The storm that has blown up over ball-tampering by the Australian cricket team has been appropriately fierce – both because cheating is abhorrent and because the ‘orrible Aussies deserve this payback for years of playing near to and over the edge of acceptability.
But the howls of indignation stink of hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
For the truth is that sport is riddled with cheating, at all levels, across most disciplines. That’s because we are all cheats, hard-wired to gain an advantage in life by fair means or foul.
This is the bit where all you ultra-thin-skinned people should be choosing to be offended, then going on Twitter to tell others to be offended, then tweeting me in a bid to offend me and make your pain go away.
I’m past caring because, with a tiny number of exceptions (Mother Teresa, Mohandas Gandhi and my gran), it’s true. Cheating is in our DNA because we like to get an advantage in life, in love and in sport.
So there. Now that I’ve slung mud at everybody who reads this (and everybody in the world), I’ll get back to the point – cheating in sport.
If we want to take the moral high ground, it’ll be a perilous climb.
Aussie ex-skipper Steve Smith, ex-vice-captain David Warner and fielder Cameron Bancroft were totally out of order for cheating in the series against South Africa – and totally amateurish in their attempts to hide it, much to people’s amusement.
But do you remember the England captain Michael Atherton being spotted with dirt in his pocket during a match in 1994?
And how many cricketers stand their ground when they know that they have hit the ball, or claim a catch that has hit the ground, or appeal for LBW when they know it is missing the stumps?
All of it is cheating and all of it diminishes the player and harms the sport.
In tennis, players have been known to use medical time-outs to break up play and slow an opponent’s momentum. In darts, there have been examples of player’s coughing at the moment an opponent is releasing his dart.
If you’re a golfer, I bet you’ve found your ball in a thicket and moved it to an easier position when nobody was looking.
Not surprisingly, the sport that is most infected with the disease of cheating is football.
When I plod and wheeze on a Sunday, the cheating is relentless: falsely claiming throw-ins and corners, pulling someone’s shirt, deliberately chopping them down to halt an attack.
In most teams, it doesn’t just happen, it is encouraged. So much so that when I tell the referee that the ball hit me last, I’m looked at as if I’m insane (which I am).
It’s hardly surprising, though.
When a player does a deliberate foul to stop a breakaway in a Premier League match, the pundits don’t condemn him, they say: “He had to do that.”
We all know that some footballers dive. But while Steve Smith is banned from cricket for a year, the football cheats get away with it (or, at worst, get booked).
My killer example of the hypocrisy that runs through sport is Golden Gary Lineker who, famously, was never booked.
However, I don’t recall him owning up when he used his hand to set himself up for a goal against Norwich City. Not that I’m bitter, or grinding my teeth down to stumps.
Which brings me back to where I started – cricket.
I support the heavy sanctions imposed on the cheating Aussies, but let’s shed the self-righteousness. The only difference between the three unwise monkeys and most other people is that they were caught.
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