Citoyens listening to France Inter radio this week heard presenters unable to stop chortling at their account of an Australian cricketer awkwardly stuffing a forbidden object down the front of his pantalon. The package started with an Aussie sports commentator earnestly declaring, “Australian cricket is in crisis”.
The scandale énorme following this blatant cheating — flagrante tricherie — was then explained, although the broadcasters admitted cricket was incompréhensible to anyone other than cricketers themselves.
What elicited gales of Gallic laughter was the clip of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sounding awfully self-important in what seemed — from the French point de vue — exaggerated outrage:
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“We all woke up this morning shocked and bitterly disappointed by the news from South Africa. How can our team be engaged in cheating like this? This is a shocking disappointment.”
Of course this was blasphemy — making light of the sacred laws of cricket — as the rest of the world clearly understood.
Bulgaria’s Darik News played the story with a straight bat: “The Australian national cricket team caught cheating”. South Korea’s Han Ho Daily also showed the maker’s name: “Australian cricket team ‘ball manipulation’ international disgrace”.
Czech news outlet Irozhlas ran a long feature with photos, videos and quotes from all involved, including the prime minister. The main photo showed a furtive player with his hands down his trousers, captioned: “Cameron Bancroft has a hard time hiding the tape in his pants. The umpire will soon examine him.”
“Australiens Regierungschef schockiert”, bellowed Germany’s Deutschlandfunk — “Australia’s head of government shocked!”
Also in Germany, “Kricket-Skandal: Australiens Premierminister ist schockiert”, declared Sueddeutsche.de.
Germany’s Sport.de may have been confused, showing a photo of guilty “batsman” – schlagmann – Bancroft playing with a fluffy green tennis ball. But it later explained that “a cricket ball is slightly larger than a tennis ball, but three times as heavy. The leather ball with cork core – lederball – is traditionally dark red.”
Belgium’s Nieuws bowled up a yorker, suggesting Australia had also cheated in the Ashes series against England earlier in Australia’s summer. A long story with photos, three videos and seven newspaper front pages claimed:
The incident caused a great deal of controversy in England. Not only because the English are fond of cricket, but because their national team lost the prestigious “Ashes” to Australia earlier this year … And guess what? While players swear high and low they had used the trick only once, it is insinuated in England that the Aussies did the same during The Ashes … The last word has not been said about this.
The International News in China brought on the quicks, quoting the guardian of the game’s rules — the Marylebone Cricket Club in England:
They call for “a major shift in attitude” in order to retain games for future generations … The current behavior of some of the players in the South Africa-Australia series and other recent events that we cherish are already far below the standard for future generations of cricket enthusiast families,’ the MCC said.
The New Straits Times in Malaysia has run four detailed reports already. It opened with “Smith’s Shame – Australia media slam ‘rotten’ cricket culture” and claimed “The cheating has hurt Australian cricket from helmet to boot.”
The Times whacked Cricket Australia’s long-serving chief, James Sutherland, squarely in the box: “In charge of the game for nearly two decades, Sutherland has done little to change the rotten culture of the sport at its most senior level.”
The New Zealand Herald bounced the coach: “Darren Lehmann in the gun as cricket’s tampering crisis deepens”.
The Tamil language Daily Thanti in India highlighted Smith’s resignation in disgrace, as did the New York Times: “It is commonly said in Australia that the captain of the national cricket team is the second most important job in the land. The role goes beyond sports; it bequeaths a certain moral authority, too.”
So while the current Aussie players have been given out, is there a silver lining to the heavy cumulus blanketing Cricket Australia and the MCC?
Well, at least about 2 billion people across the globe who had never heard of cricket have now. They know it is a hallowed tradition, played with a heavy red lederball, and its laws are scrupulously to be obeyed.
And they know that any country which breaks the rules once will never do so again.