Walk of a gentleman, but a sign of old times
- Credit: PA
July 20, 2013
Amazing how a foot out of place, a small ball and what is supposed to be one of the more genteel of games can combine to bring out the worst in people.
When England's Stuart Broad decided to stand his ground rather than walk when he was clearly out, the Australian team protested long and loud. They weren't the only ones: hypocrisy in sport reared its ugly head and spat venom from the rooftops. Sorry, laptops.
Broad was vilified for what he did; one national journalist likened his actions to those athletes who decide to pop illegal performance-enhancing pills in order to win races. To say that particular comparison is ridiculous doesn't begin to challenge the argument.
Broad did not break any rules of cricket; what he did was break one of the game's longest and, it has to be said, most enduring traditions. He broke the gentleman's rule that says you admit to something that no one else spots. In this case, the world and its mother spotted it – but the principle remains.
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When an athlete takes illegal drugs he is performing a premeditated act. When they hitch themselves up to a machine that swaps their blood around, they know that they are going out to cheat the system, to cheat their opponents and to cheat the viewing public.
When Broad acted as he did, his was an instant decision. It's perhaps one that he has considered during his career, the possibility that he might be put under the spotlight and asked to consider whether to take the gentlemanly or the ungentlemanly route. But he would never, ever have been in exactly the position he was put in at Trent Bridge. It was a position that required a decision to be made in fractions of a second.
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Footballers do it – but they do it all the time. They can go into a football match with a mind-set that says, 'yes, I will be challenged 20 times during a game, and if I have the opportunity to make it look like I have been fouled, even when I know I have not, then I will do so'. That attitude is cheating. It is a cheat's mindset to deceive.
Whichever side of the fence you sit on regarding Broad, one thing is clear – no one's view is wrong; it just clouds the issue when the opinion is as extravagant and ridiculous as some have been.
Perhaps there are some parts of the game of cricket that are lagging behind others. The top players are very handsomely rewarded, if the view of the players' car park at Lord's is anything to go, and while they don't compare to their footballing colleagues, their game is clearly changing. There are riches to be earned in the IPL and in endorsements. At Test level, certainly, cricket is hugely popular. And, as those who have observed the 'evolution' of football, when money comes into play, things begin to change. Sometimes you have to bend the rules if you want some of that money. And when, in cricket's case, the rule only exists by way of a gentleman's agreement, it isn't long before it goes out of the door.
Football used to have ethics, but I suspect their disappearance has run parallel to the influx of money into game.
It may be unpalatable, but I suspect that what Broad did will become more and more common.
You don't have to be a fisherman to enjoy the brilliant columns in the EDP by John Bailey. But if you are, it simply enhances the enjoyment.
John is the author and presenter of the book and TV series Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree. It is enchanting reading/viewing, as he teaches youngsters the delights of the sport.
Growing up in Fenland I was spoilt for choice with drains left, right and centre, heading out with an old apple box laden with reels and floats on the carrier of my bike, rods tied with string to the crossbar. The worst feeling was when George Clare's shop in Wisbech town centre was closed and I had nowhere to buy my half pint of maggots (I was blissfully unaware of any other baits than maggot, bread and worm).
Three miles to the drain, three miles back and a telling off when I got home for riding in the dark without lights. It was compulsory to fish.
Today, John Bailey is asking the question, 'has fishing gone out of fashion?', and that's sad.
According to Environment Agency figures, the numbers of junior licences being bought has dropped from 77,000 in 2009 to 44,000 in 2013. Why?
Computer games is an obvious answer. It's easier (although not necessarily better) to stay home and catch a fish on a computer game than to actually sit on a bank. Fishing is also fairly unglamorous - for some reason that appears to be to its detriment, although it has always been one of the major attractions for me.
But what I do think we need is more people like John Bailey, who spread the word that fishing is actually great fun. And that uncool can actually be cool.
Sepp's at it again, I see. Mr Blatter is suggesting the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 can be switched to winter to avoid the worst of the extreme weather. It seems the head of Fifa has received 'fresh' medical information about the effects of the summer heat on players.
'We have to take into account the health, not of the spectators, but of the players,' he said. I'm sure the fans will be delighted to hear that, but 'fresh' medical evidence? You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that it won't be healthy for anyone not used to 50C, no matter if the stadiums are air-conditioned.
The Premier League oppose a winter World Cup, but Blatter would love to ride roughshod over English football, which famously (and I'll bet, to his annoyance) doesn't have a winter break. While I disagree with a lot of what happens at the top end of our national game I reckon the Premier League has every reason to bleat about Blatter on this one. Frankly, you might as well abandon the whole campaign: league matches as well as cup games will be disrupted for weeks and, if he hasn't spotted it yet, English football is jam packed with foreign international players.
Michael Laudrup says he rejected a club in the Champions League so he could stay at Swansea.
He also says he will be with the Welsh side for at least one more season. I'm tempted to say 'that's big of him', but I rather like his honesty. He appears capable of ignoring the technique employed by many in sport by actually answering the questions put to him, rather than evading the issue.
He also has a fantastic football team. I know there was a little bit of resentment in some quarters that Swansea were given more credit than Norwich City a couple of seasons ago, despite them ending on the same number of points. The teams were very different: Swansea were an attractive passing side, City were an attractive side with a little less patience and a bit more of a gung-ho feel.
Swansea fans should enjoy him while they can.