Price to pay for a team that must win at all costs

Price to pay for a team that must win at all costs, by Peter Lalor.

There is something rotten at the heart of the Australian cricket team. …

The public has struggled to love a side that wins ugly, but success and nationalism and tradition have patched the frayed fabric.

A conspiracy to cheat, however, has ripped the cloth and major repairs will be needed. …

Cricketers summon reverse swing by ensuring one side of the ball is clean and shining while the other is scuffed and bone dry. The scuffing happens naturally, it happens when a bowler like Mitchell Starc lands the ball constantly on one side. It can be generated by throwing the ball in side-arm from the boundary and bouncing it on the square. Umpires complain about this but it’s an accepted practice to a point.

All teams have an appointed ball manager who has dry palms. He identifies which side will be shone and which neglected early in the game. Reverse swing is key on flat wickets. Other team members are instructed to handle the ball carefully and to never get the dry side wet or throw it in so the shiny side gets damaged.

Nathan Lyon has clammy palms and has been told to hold the ball a certain way because he has often been blamed for ruining the chances of reverse swing.

Some of that is straining the rules; all of it is acceptable to the participants in modern cricket. Umpires recently called a captain in one morning of a Sheffield Shield match and said the ball smelt more like a bag of lollies than leather and they were replacing it. The situation wasn’t made public. A blind eye was and is often turned.

Damaging the ball with a foreign object is completely unacceptable. It happens at all levels, but usually it is a discreet thumbnail.

The Australians play ugly on the field because they think it is how they play their best. They are aware it turns people off, but they are prepared to pay that price. They are more devoted to winning than to doing what anybody tells them is the right thing.

It hasn’t sat well with everybody in the group. Some of the younger players were upset by the ugly scenes and baiting early in this tour. It has not sat right with the international cricket fans, overseas teams and some Australian fans for a long time.

Time to sack all those involved, forfeit the match or series, and start again. Sport at this level is essentially about entertainment, and this team supposedly represents us. Who feels good about, and wants to barrack for, a team with cheats?