What does one make of the argument that David Warner, who was behind the ball tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018, was guilty of less of a mistake than Ben Stokes who indulged in public fights? And the argument that since Stokes has been made England captain for the series against the West Indies, Warner, who committed what is called a lesser sin, should also be in line for the role of Australian skipper?
The suggestion has been made by Peter Lalor, a senior cricket writer at The Australian, that Warner has paid a bigger price for past mistakes than Stokes. Does that argument really hold water?
Stokes was involved in a fracas outside a nightclub in Bristol a few years back and escaped tragedy and legal issues. He got into a brawl and was lucky to get off without a prison term.
But that had no connection to the game of cricket. And when we talk of someone bringing the game into disrepute, such incidents are not in the frame.
Had Stokes indulged in such immature behaviour on the field of play or insulted spectators who were at a game, then we would have to criticise the England board for handing him the mantle of leadership.
Warner brought the game into disrepute. He hatched a plot to use sandpaper in order to get the ball to swing, then shamefully recruited the youngest player in the squad, rookie Cameron Bancroft, to carry out his plan, and then expects to be forgiven and given a chance to lead the national team.
Really? Lalor argues that the ball tampering did not hurt anyone and the umpires did not even have to change the ball. Such is the level of morality we have come to, where arguments that have little ballast are advanced because nationalistic sentiments come into the picture.
It is troubling that as senior a writer as Lalor would seek to advance such an argument, when someone has clearly violated the spirit of the game. Doubtless there will be cynics who poke fun at any suggestion that cricket is still a gentleman’s game, but without those myths that surround this pursuit, would it still have its appeal?
The short answer to that is a resounding no.
Lalor argues that Stokes’ fate would have been different had he been an Australian, I doubt that very much because given the licence extended to Australian sports stars to behave badly, his indulgences would have been overlooked. The word used to excuse him would have ” larrikinism”.
But Warner cheated. And the Australian public, no matter what their shortcomings, do not like cheats.
Unfortunately, at a pivotal moment during the cricket team’s South African tour, this senior member could only think of cheating to win. That is sad, unfortunate, and even tragic. It speaks of a big moral chasm somewhere.
But once one has done the crime, one must do the time. Arguing as Lalor does, that both Steve Smith, the captain at the time, and Bancroft got away with no leadership bans, does not carry any weight.
The man who planned the crime was nailed with the heaviest punishment. And it is doubtful whether anyone who has a sense of justice would argue against that.