By Radio Sport Breakfast co-host Kent Johns
Try as I might I couldn’t get outraged at the Australian cricketers for ball tampering in Cape Town. I knew they’d done wrong and were most definitely guilty of cheating. Yet no matter how desperately I searched, my moral compass just wouldn’t take me on the same path as many others.
I have hated the Australian cricket team with a vengeful passion at times in my life and, as hard as I drilled to find disdain, I came up empty. In fact, I believe Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been harshly punished. Not harshly judged, just harshly punished.
Cricket Australia (CA) was swift in handing out lengthy suspensions (12 months for Smith and Warner, nine for Bancroft), and then the dominoes toppled.
Both Smith and Warner were dumped by their IPL teams in India, and sponsors were dropping the cricketers themselves as well as threatening to walk out on the national body. This is at a time when CA is delicately working through its next television deal and the stain of a cheating scandal devalues its bargaining power.
It is estimated Smith and Warner could be down up to $5 million each in earnings. Worst of all, they’ve been labelled “Un-australian”.
These guys blatantly cheated and got caught, bringing the game into disrepute and deeply embarrassing CA and their country. So why shouldn’t these guys pay such a heavy price for their conduct (unbecoming)? And surely the public outrage is entirely fair, right? Right?
What you won’t hear is much moral indignation from the players’ peer group, that being current and former players. Criticism yes, disappointment sure. But not out and out condemnation. And that is because they understand ball tampering is ubiquitous — always has been.
The International Cricket Council only dispenses light penalties to offenders — in this instance Bancroft used sandpaper to rough the ball and didn’t even accumulate enough demerit points to warrant a suspension.
The delicious irony of opposing South African skipper Faf du Plessis having twice been convicted of ball tampering was unavoidable too.
No, the reason for such stiff penalties for Smith and Co was to appease those offended. For too long the Australian cricket team has been perceived as arrogant, up themselves, two-faced bullies. They have been universally disliked for years so here was a chance to knock them down a peg or two.
This could be a watershed moment for cricket in Australia. The navel gazing may last a while.
My issue is Steve Smith was only captain for less than three years and the public’s grievances go way further back. Obviously his position as captain became untenable, but I believe these guys are paying for the sins of others, and every bit of anger and resentment for what the baggy green cap is seen to represent has been heaped upon them.
This doesn’t seem fair to me, and the punishment most certainly doesn’t fit the crime. But the bloodlusters have their heads and are satisfied. I think it’s all a little undignified. You might say Un-australian.
To be the man, first you must beat the man, or so the saying goes. That is what sprang to mind moments after the Parker vs Joshua fight on Easter Sunday morning.
Joseph Parker has aspirations to be the best heavyweight boxer in the world, but walked into a solid reality check. And Anthony Joshua was just that — solid.
He was able to control the bout through his size and reach advantage without necessarily landing big shots to the chin of Parker. It was the first time in his professional career he didn’t knock out his opponent — but in truth, Joshua never needed to get out of third gear.
Parker wasn’t able to get close enough to inflict damage, and his landing of only five punches in the first round set the tone for the rest of the fight.
Parker was totally outclassed on the day, but it won’t end there for him — far from it. At 26 he is relatively young for a boxer, and very few go through a career undefeated.
Joshua and the undefeated American Deontay Wilder look a class above the rest, but even a unification bout between these two will present Parker and others with opportunities.
Even with an “undisputed” champion the heavyweight division will once again splinter (it always does), leaving different belts up for grabs.
Other fighters will emerge. Another path to glory will develop. And if Joseph Parker can beat a few more credible opponents then there is reason to think he will get another crack at being the top dog — the man.