Ever since I was asked to write for Travelling Peach, I was worried about what I would write about. The World Cup, England's chances, the rebirth of Tiger Woods or the success of the Winter Paralympics? Or latterly Lewis Hamilton getting his comeuppance at the Australian Grand Prix.
But there is only one story in town – It unfolded in South Africa in a cricket match and relates to the ball-tampering episode involving Australia's opening batsmen Cameron Bancroft and the fact that it was a planned tactic involving the captain Steve Smith and other members of the side. If you don't know by now, I'll tell you quickly that Bancroft aimed to change the condition of the ball illegally by using a piece of tape he had in his pocket. TV cameras saw him do it and, from that moment, Bancroft and his team-mates were kind of like OJ Simpson driving down the highway all those years ago - running from a storm that was just starting to blow and blow.
I've been a sports journalist for over 20 years but I've been a sport lover since I could crawl. Even now, I'll cheer for the team I love and hope that the one I don't like loses, which I hope gives you an insight into why midway through a pleasant Saturday spent with my family, I was hopping mad having watched on television the events from Capetown.
'Bancroft admitted that he panicked once he saw his actions replayed on the big screen at the ground. Not because he knew he had done wrong but because he had been caught.'
It wasn't the cheating that made me really cross, as unpleasant as it was. It was the cover-up and the subsequent explanation for the behaviour. Bancroft admitted that he panicked once he saw his actions replayed on the big screen at the ground. Not because he knew he had done wrong but because he had been caught. It was as if he had just realised he was playing sport on the international stage where there are cameras everywhere. They will record every one of his fours and sixes from now till the end of his career - but they will also frame every misdemeanor he commits.
Smith described it as a 'big mistake' and then said he would not step down as captain. Fortunately for him and all of us, that decision has been taken out of his hands. But it was the arrogance that he displayed in that moment, where he seemed to pass it off as a moment of madness, which he would 'learn from' which further annoyed me. You've been caught mate! And you will always be that man who asked his team to cheat.
'Cricket legends Nasser Hussein and Rob Key both say that they are 'sick of Smith' and the way that Australia has behaved as a side since he has led them.'
In my anger, I noted that others felt similar sentiments. Nasser Hussain, the former England captain and then Rob Key, a former England player and captain of county side Kent, both expressed their disappointment at the actions with Key adding that he was 'sick of Smith' and the way that Australia had behaved as a side since he had led them. It’s the area where I find myself in the uncomfortable position of assessing the behaviour of a side based on where they come from. During my time as a sports journalist, I have written negative comment pieces about sides from all over the world. But in recent times, the focus of many of those has been Australia. Like a young child, they seem to have no stop button, no self-control. Their coach encourages home fans to boo visiting cricketers, their vice-captain has a reputation for relentless sledging and their fearsome bowling captain frequently aims 145kmh deliveries at the head of tailenders. The idea of being role models to the next generation of Australian cricketers seems as far away as it has ever been.
But don't just take my word for it. The following is from a former cricketer.
“Australian cricket now and the integrity of Australian cricket is the laughing stock of world sport... This clearly is against the laws of the game and we've just had our national captain and our national team admit that they sat down, premeditated and pre-planned a way to cheat."
His name - Adam Gilchrist. He played for Australia from 1999 through to 2008. Scored a few runs as well and tended to admit when he was out - even if annoyed his teammates. Because playing the right way still means something. Or at least it did.