This article was first written and published for The Roar.
‘I do not want to watch cricket anymore.’
‘How can anyone be proud of our Australian cricket team?’
‘This incident is emblematic of a culture that has been festering in the Australian cricket team for some time now’.
These are all statements that I have heard on repeated occasions this week.
Like most Australians (and cricket-lovers), I have had a deeply personal reaction to the ball-tampering scandal which has been at the forefront of worldwide sporting conversation this week.
New information is being uncovered every day, but what is clear is that there was a discussion between some members of the Australian men’s cricket team which resulted in Cameron Bancroft taking a sandpaper onto the field, using it to attempt to alter the ball and then putting the incriminating object down his pants. This footage was captured on camera and can only be described as one of the most amateur attempts at ball tampering I have ever seen.
I am heartbroken for so many reasons.
It’s saddening that no one had the courage to say ‘no, this is not a good idea’. I am disappointed that Bancroft, the 25-year-old man who had only played eight Tests for his country and was struggling to retain his position, was not in a place where he felt like he had another option.
I’m also wondering how people within that team felt like they were under so much pressure to win, that they would resort to crossing the line.
I am sad for Tim Paine who has been named 46th captain of the Australian men’s cricket team. This should be one of the greatest honours of Paine’s life, but will always be tainted by this ball-tampering scandal.
I am concerned about the mental health of the players involved, particularly for Steve Smith who in the space of a week has gone from a national treasure to social pariah.
Sport is tremendously powerful and has the capacity to bring people together in a way that nothing else can. In Australia we have a deep connection to sport and to an idea that Australians play hard but fair.
Despite conduct from the Australian men’s cricket team which has danced very close to that line in recent years, this ball-tampering incident means that the word fair is no longer appropriate and the team has well and truly crossed the line. This stain on our international sporting reputation will take some time to repair.
There have been millions of tweets, comments and conversations about this scandal since it broke, but one thing which has been lost in the conversation is the recognition that Australia has two national teams – the men’s team and the women’s team.
This may seem like semantics to plenty of you, but during a time when women’s sport continues to go from strength to strength our language is supremely important, because language is still being used which makes our national women’s team invisible.
The nuance was lost in the Australian Sports Commission’s statement in relation to ‘events concerning the Australian cricket team’. Another person that weighed in was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who said ‘it seemed completely beyond belief that the Australian cricket team had been involved in cheating’.
While one national team has been accused of foul play and has its reputation under fire, another national team continues to perform admirably as I write this article on a tour of India. One national team has not been involved in foul play and does not deserve to be tainted by allegations surrounding the other.
After successfully retaining the Ashes last summer, the Southern Stars have just defeated India in an ODI series whitewash. Highlights from the first game included a four-wicket haul from Jess Jonnassen and Nicole Bolton bringing up her fourth ODI hundred off 101 deliveries. Bolton finished that game unbeaten on 100 and found the boundary 12 times during her innings.
In the second game, Bolton made 84 and then a 96-run partnership between Beth Mooney (56) and Ellyse Perry (70 not out) helped steer the Southern Stars to a series win.
In the third game, Alyssa Healy managed her maiden international century and her 133 runs helped the visitors reach 7-332. This was the Southern Stars’ first ODI total above 300 since 2012 and their highest ever total against India.
The Southern Stars are now competing in a T20 tri-series with India and England and after a win over India and a loss to England, Megan Schutt became the first Australian woman to claim a T20 hat-trick in the third game against India, booked the team a place in the final on 31 March.
This is a team that has continued to play cricket admirably – with joy and in the spirit of the game and deserve to be celebrated.
So for those of you who are disenfranchised with cricket at the moment, I encourage you to remember why you love the game so much. And if you are having trouble remembering, perhaps the Australian women’s cricket team will help remind you.
Take pride in the efforts of Perry, who has not only represented Australia at a national level in cricket, but also in football. My favourite memory of Perry will always be the 213* which she scored in the first women’s day-night Test in the women’s Ashes last summer.
Not only was it a magnificent performance with the bat, but I also always laugh when I remember her premature celebrations after she thought she had hit up a six to bring up that double ton, only for her to be denied by the ball bouncing within the boundary and prompting her to continue to bat, bringing up her double ton a couple of balls later.
Be excited by a future which includes women like Ashleigh Gardener, Sophie Molineaux, Tahlia McGrath and Amanda-Jade Wellington.
Laugh along with the antics of Megan Schutt, wonder about how good Alyssa Healy’s chirp behind the stumps is and be mesmerised by an exceptionally talented batter in Meg Lanning.
The Australian men’s cricket team may be hurting and the moment and the whole country is hurting with them. But do not forget that we have two national teams and that our women’s team is a team which still deserves your admiration and support.