Friday, 19 July 2013

It’s just not cricket: Stuart Broad did the wrong thing in not giving himself out

The Ashes are underway and in their wake comes controversy. I refer to England batsman Stuart Broad having been caught at first slip last Friday afternoon, in what proved to be a close-fought England victory over Australia at Trent Bridge. I say 'caught', for that is what happened: Broad clearly nicked the Ashton Agar-delivered ball to Michael Clarke, who caught it from a deflection off Brad Haddin. Under the rules of cricket, Broad was out.

Except that the rules allowed the England player to keep quiet and await the umpire's decision. It came, and it turned out that umpire Aleem Dar hadn't seen the connection of bat and ball. And because Broad declined to walk - to give himself out - he was able to play on. His subsequent haul played a major part in what was ultimately an England victory.

Where have all the ethics gone?

Following the incident, cricket's great and good stepped in to defend Broad. To a man, they said he had done nothing wrong. He had simply played by the rules, doing the cricket equivalent of a footballer having committed an infringement of the laws of the game but waiting for the referee's whistle.

Take, for example, Ian Botham. "Stuart Broad did absolutely the right thing in standing his ground," said one of our nation's foremost cricketing role models. "He's got away with one," he added. "Good luck to him."

The former Glamorgan and England player, Steve James, described Broad's critics as "sanctimonious" while the batsman's father - who, coincidentally, is an International Cricket Council match referee - apparently sent his son a text telling him he had a future in acting.

Broad did the wrong thing

Forgive me for sounding a heretical note, but I think Stuart Broad did the wrong thing in not giving himself out. I imagine I might be called naive or even unpatriotic, especially if people have read my last couple of pieces on taking a leaf out of Australia's book. People are, of course, entitled to their opinion but I cannot but feel that something went wrong at Trent Bridge last Friday.

In so many spheres of life we encounter what I think we could call 'ethical dissonance'. Ethics are present in cricket; they underpin the laws of the game. And yet they're not wholeheartedly embraced. Because of this, ethics end up out of tune. They're dissonant.

It's not cricket, as the saying goes, and sadly it's a facet of sports from cycling to football to track and field and beyond. Look at Lance Armstrong: a man so divorced from standards of good ethical conduct that not only was he happy to take performance-enhancing drugs and deceive his legions of fans as well as cycling's authorities, he was even prepared to sue The Sunday Times for libel when it dared to expose him.

Look at football. From Diego Maradona's infamous 'hand of God' to the dubious hand of Luis Suarez in Liverpool's FA Cup third round tie against Mansfield last season, cheating is institutionalized. As in the case of Stuart Broad, every time cheating occurs the pundits are wheeled out to claim that the end justifies the means. Good luck to the player who conned the referee, say the 'experts'. Good luck, likewise, to the athlete Tyson Gay for saying he was clean for so long, and not getting caught until now.

Our sporting heroes should be role models, not cheats

Paolo Di Canio Fair Play
Are those who object to all this rightly described as "sanctimonious"? I have my doubts. Surely our sporting heroes are role models. What sort of message are they sending out to society and its youth if they condone cheating? It seems to me that they're saying, albeit unintentionally: "Don't worry about it; it's OK to cheat; just cross your fingers and hope no one notices".

This mentality underlines the misconduct of MPs on the make, with their noses in the trough, fiddling expenses and taking cash for questions. It explains why journalists thought nothing of phone hacking despite a raft of laws which criminalise it. It is the reason for the systemic flaws in the personal injury sector, where claimants are treated as statistics rather than people.

Stuart Broad should have walked. He should have done the right thing. He should have done a Paulo di Canio. In doing the right thing, he would not only have garnered massive respect from beyond the cricketing world. He would also have set the kind of example that we, as a society, ought to ask of those in positions of influence.

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