It’s Summer here “Down Under”- the season of test matches and tennis. I love the sport of cricket. Being raised as an adopted person by parents who were from England and moved to Australia, cricket, along with pot noodles and Yorkshire pudding & HP sauce were delights for me to get involved with. We had the board game “Test Match” and it was a family favorite.
Watching one-day matches and especially test cricket made an impression upon me that cricketers in their whites followed the rules. However, I soon found out that cricket being “the gentleman’s game” was a Victorian notion, which is now outdated. Even if in its earlier days it was dominated by the aristocracy, “gamesmanship” has been rife among cricket.
The Guardian says this about the televised incident of Australian ball tampering in March 2018.
To some, scratching a cricket ball would be innocuous rather than infamous. But when the Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft did it during a Test match in Cape Town, the cricket world lit up. At the height of a viciously tempered series he used bright yellow sandpaper to rough up the leather in an attempt to aid his bowlers. Ball-tampering is a fact of cricket, but no international player had been caught so blatantly, using a foreign object smuggled on to the field. This time the offence was caught in lush high-definition by South African television.
The article goes on to say that an inquiry revealed that Cricket Australia was responsible for an aggressive and unaccountable corporate culture and that this had eroded good practice within the men’s team. The Australian captain at that time, Steve Smith, turned a blind eye to the ball tampering (recently he told the press he said to his colleagues who actually did the ball tampering, “I don’t want to know about it”).
Being a Christian and an outsider from the cricketing industry and a non-sportsperson, I have watched on with fascination, and made my own opinions.
1. Some may say that Steve Smith was too “soft” or not assertive or authoritative enough to be the captain. Be this as it may, he was only one person in a team, and that team was part of an organization and a culture, where their entire world focused exclusively on a goal (i.e. on winning). This pervasive perspective probably influenced Steve Smith’s behavior.
2. With television and technology, comes great power. The “all-seeing eye” of live television has had a great social influence on things that we do. It is well known that television has been credited with changing the norms of social propriety, although the direction and value of this change are disputed. What if television broadcast was managed differently to how it is managed currently, e.g. should we televise highly zoomed in or close-up views on television of sports incidents?
3. You might think that sports-people would take extra care to be careful, knowing they are on television, but they are only human beings. “To err” is to be human. Using sand-paper on a cricket ball does not equate in magnitude to other errant ways such as poisoning a horse to stop it from winning horse races, in the horse racing industry (think about Phar Lap).
4. “To forgive is to be divine” is quite often misunderstood. It does not mean to forget or to let a misdemeanor go un-noticed or uncorrected. It means to make your own peace with what has happened (if you can) through reflection and understanding and deep acceptance, and through realizing how we are all inter-connected (thus we are all influenced by all things, and one thing leads to another, i.e. we are all together in a complex web) and realizing that you can “grow” or overcome your trials through inner work, and through imaging what you want, with faith and purpose.
You may feel that to make peace you will need to connect physically or literally to an errant person who has transgressed against you, e.g. if somebody has directly affected you, you may want to ask them why they did it, or get a trusted confidante to ask them, for your understanding and resolution. You can forgive them silently or to yourself.
Forgiving means not holding a grudge against someone, and moving forward, whether they apologize to you or not. It is important that if you can’t directly face someone whom you feel has injured or slighted you or your principles, that you ACCEPT this and forgive them any way, if you can.
If called to, and safe for you, you can try a conversation Soul to Soul with them — through a letter or talking out loud, including saying something like “You have your reasons for what you did, and I am seeing and believing that those reasons are transformed so that you stop it and realise what you have done.”
Be aware that having resentment or holding grudges turns into bitterness, and bitterness, left unchecked, spills over into hatred, and that is why:
“To forgive is divine”
Jesus did not hate anyone.
Corrective action on the part of the transgressor may be needed, but you can still withhold resentment in the knowledge that the error of their ways may be made apparent. Have faith in “karma” in terms of “what goes around, comes back” — that they won’t always get away with what they have done or are doing. Restoring the peace or equilibrium does not mean punishment but making the transgressor aware of the effects of what they did and compelling them thus to not repeat their errors.
5. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” does not mean that someone can remain ignorant purposefully and do errant things and get away with it.
Steve Smith was naïve and did not grasp the momentousness of the Australian cricket team’s actions in March 2018. He also said to his colleagues “I don’t want to know about it” where a stronger leader would have reprimanded the others and ordered them not to tamper with the ball. Steve Smith thought he was doing the right thing, he did not really know that he should clamp down hard on any notion of ball tampering. He was perhaps not the right person for the job. Did the Selectors know what they were doing when they chose him as Captain, or did they think they knew what they were doing? Maybe … “for they know not how to do it” is more accurate.
6. Steve Smith and others involved were punished. If “punishment” means preventing an error from happening again and soliciting atonement, and atonement means making amends for something errant that has been done, Steve Smith is well and truly atoning for his sins, by not playing cricket for 12 months due to a ban. He also had to undertake 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket.
7. Restorative justice means restoring equilibrium or restoring the peace. In this case, the leadership and culture of not only the entire Australian cricketing industry, but of cricket around the globe, needs to be looked at, in order to restore the game to one of fair competition. Fair competition means equal opportunity, following the rules, no cheating, and no excessive or nasty heckling or sledging.
8. Many people get caught up in their own confined or restricted “world” which is filled with their ideas and desires, and they confuse motivations with principles. Sportsmen and women around the globe enter into the principle of applying their skills, knowledge, interests, relationships, wants and experiences to a contest of these, with the objective of affirming that they are supreme in a set of skills within a defined realm of activity with definite rules.
Some are motivated by winning at all costs or standing by their teammates or by other things, which replaces their original intention of entering into fair competition and using their skills and experience to win.
9. Life is about all of the above for every one of us. Life, as in cricket and other sports, is made up of a myriad number of personalities, opportunities, choices, learned and innate skills, and experiences. I am a deep reflector and I can see how this Test Match incident is a part of the microcosm within the macrocosm.
Point 10: to Summarize
We all make mistakes and get lost in our own worlds of our own making. We are not always sure what to do, but usually think we are doing right.
Technology is used to observe and to analyze and to judge, but we should not lose sight of our capacity for seeing the whole or the pieces of the puzzle, and of our capacity to forgive or to alert a transgressor to the error of their ways and then release them from being imprisoned in a labelled box of our making.
It is okay to want to be great at what you do, but at all times be aware that you are part of teams or groups within groups, and that you must play fair, no matter what pressures are upon you. Integrity, honesty and fairness are as valuable as kindness, love, and understanding.
Keep on learning from your mistakes and from all of your experiences. Hold fast to your principles by looking outside the circle that closely surrounds you, and feeling your values and expressing them in every moment.
Do to others as you would have them do unto you.
Anything else just isn’t cricket.