Andrew Johnston

March 26, 2018

WE have broken with tradition and put the column in today.

Because, hell, tradition means nothing.

Traditionally, cricket was played by gentlemen (and women).

Not by cheats.

Some in Cricket Australia won’t use that word yet.

Fans will, the media will.

And I will.

Steve Smith, the captain of the Australian cricket team, is a cheat — self confessed in front of the world.

And I have never been so embarrassed in my life to be a fan of Australian cricket.

When the going got tough, our captain chose the easiest way out.

Smith has confessed to ball tampering after teammate Cameron Bancroft was caught on television rubbing the ball with a piece of tape during the Test match against South Africa on the weekend.

Smith and his secret ‘leadership team’ he refuses to name (though we all know who they are) devised a plan to break the rules that govern their sport.

This wasn’t someone kicking the ball on a spur of the moment.

This wasn’t Shahid Afridi biting the seam because it was out of shape.

It’s not even bowling underarm, that infamous incident in 1981 when Australia’s Trevor Chappell bowled an underarm delivery against New Zealand to prevent a batsman from hitting a six.

Bowling underarm defied the ‘spirit of the game’ but at the time was a legal delivery.

Those kinds of things are spur of the moment.

They’re stupid, but they happen.

This wasn’t.

This was calculated cheating by a group of mollycoddled men on multi-million dollar contracts. This was the Australian captain and his mates deciding ‘‘well, this is too hard, let’s find a way to make it easier’’.

They set out a plan to break the rules of the game.

They chose to cheat.

And it is absolutely unacceptable.

The captain sets the standards of the team, in many ways the standard of the game right down to grassroots in the backyard.

And our captain just tried to defend his cheating as an acceptable standard.

I don’t personally subscribe to the ‘‘athletes are role models’’ theory — or rather I don’t believe they should be.

But it’s unavoidable that young cricketers look up to Steve Smith.

He just said to them ‘‘cheat, it’s fine’’.

Then had the nerve to go into a press conference and act like it was a minor incident.

Let’s have a look at a couple of things our skipper said.

‘‘We will learn from it.’’

If you didn’t know by this point in your life that cheating is wrong, you never will.

He then told us he would have felt bad even if they didn’t get caught.

Are you kidding?

No one is ever remorseful until they get caught.

If it was eating you up so much, you would never have told a junior teammate to do it.

Smith acted like it was just a minor incident that would soon go away.

No, Steve.

You cheated.

And in this series of all times.

After all the noise the Australian team has made!

You’ve complained about sledging, you’ve whinged about Kagiso Rabada’s shoulder charge.

Players, coaches, officials, fans at games, everyone has come into the firing line from Australia.

We have acted like our country has the moral high ground — and then, the Australian captain cheats.

We, as a cricket loving public, are absolutely livid!

And wow, didn’t Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland calm us down!

In a press conference that was frankly weak, Sutherland did everything to avoid answering questions.

It was noticeable he looked like he might cry, and I understand the emotional toll this has on him.

But to quote Richie Benaud after the underarm, ‘‘perhaps they might advance that as an excuse for what happened out there today, not with me’’.

In the space of one day our sport has been thrown into turmoil.

We needed leadership to be strong.

And they were pathetically weak.

They avoided answering questions, and wouldn’t use the magic word.

Sutherland was asked multiple times if Australia was cheating, and he wouldn’t use the word.

But the fact is — Steve Smith is a cheat.

Not only that — he is a coward, getting a junior player to do his dirty work for him.

I agree with Smith not standing down.

That would deny our country the joy of seeing him sacked — and that is exactly what should happen.

Steve Smith has disgraced the baggy green, dishonoured every man or woman who has represented our country.

And done irreversible damage to those who represent us in future.

If Cricket Australia has any guts, Steve Smith won’t just lose the captaincy — he won’t be representing our country again. I sure as hell don’t want him out there.

So congratulations Steve — you’ve gone from Don Bradman to Lance Armstrong in the space of a few weeks.

I hope you’re proud of yourself.

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