After a near total retreat of some seven weeks in the wilderness, there is so much on which to share a thought or two. Gun self-licensing, presidential assessment, and oil (naturally), among many other things, take pride of place; they have to wait. Today I focus on the current, as in the cricketing cauldron of reverse swing, ball tampering, and possibly reverse confessions.
To begin with and a slight digression, I am struggling to determine which is the rock-bottom worst: the Afghan victory or the Australian scandal. In terms of the West Indies loss, there is thankfully not a whiff of cheating by any involved. Still, I do not think that, in the storied history of cricket, there is a comparable decline that parallels the state of the once mighty regional gladiators, nobly striving sons all. Who will they lose to next: Latvia? Or is it the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea? In the annals of powerful cricketing civilizations, this is one in the throes of a Pompeian disappearance.
And so too were the things that emerged from the ball tampering ugliness that rocked, compliments of the Aussie team. How far is too far? And how genuine are those confessions? The whispers are still somewhat muted, but talented Australian teams (victorious teams) have tested, if not mangled the spirit and ethics of the game for a long time, for edges not needed, and for no compelling reasons. They could win on effort, application, and skill alone, and by themselves a formidable combination. But stretch and rupture the margins they did; and cheat they did, perhaps not for the first time, or even the tenth. It became part of a culture, and the word “sledging” was traceable to them, if not invented for them or by them. They revelled in the notoriety, and charged ahead without restraint, it seemed. That is, until now.
Surprisingly, but commendably, the condemnations ‒ swift, thunderous, and unequivocal ‒tumbled forth from cricketing chief to political premier, and every Australian in between. I was heartened. I was further encouraged by the lasting image of skipper Steven Smith epitomizing the essence of contrition, as did his fellow conspirators. They fell on their swords willingly and took responsibility; given the goods, there was no apparent hedging or dissembling. In a time characterized by endless sleaze and madness from all corners, this was exceptional; it was the first step on the road to redemption, respect, and reacceptance for Australian cricket in the fellowship of the worldwide cricketing fraternity. I am thinking what an example for those who fail and cheat and distort everywhere, including in this country. Here this ranges from commentators to media houses to political and commercial leaders, and to that now higher development in the local evolutionary chain ‒ petroleum pundits. In many of these areas and too many times, there are those who (like the Aussies) cross lines daily then and daily now to present an image, to solidify a posture, and to trample upon what is sometimes sacred. There is governmental and civil lineage.
But having said all of the foregoing, the more I listened to, and the more I read of, the very public confessions, the more I was forced to pause and reconsider. Were these public self-flagellations embodying the total commitment to a fresh slate? For all the tearful, sympathy-inducing postures, all the sombre stirring words were these disgraced men really about a clean irreversible break with the past and beginning again from scratch? My first reaction is that this was not the case. It was because after all the remorseful breast beating, there was still uncertainty and left unanswered as to whether there would be appeals over the sanctions imposed; there was the sense that the whole story is still not being shared. That is unacceptable and nonnegotiable.
My position is simple: for those confessions to be viewed as valid and not orchestrated stunts, then appeals have to be off the table, and must be part of the agonizing individual hara-kiri (“gutted” in the words of that same Steven Smith) self-inflicted by the involved players. That door has to be slammed shut by the players, and the bitter medicine swallowed deeply. Otherwise, all the words and postures are just that: meaningless words and postures, and exercises in further deception. Such is the hubris of the truly unrepentant, and those who play artful games with nary a care for the results. Guyanese should be most familiar with such a standard, such a culture.