Darren Lehmann wanting to ease the punishment on the players and blaming Cricket Australia speaks volumes to the culture of entitlement that led to the ball tampering incident.
Yesterday, Darren Lehmann called for the erasure of the punishment handed out to Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft. Lehmann’s rhetoric was relit after a review into Cricket Australia discovered that the administrative side was as culpable as the players in growing the culture of hubris, avarice and ‘winning at all costs’ that lead to the ball tampering incident in South Africa.
Lehmann’s thoughts were backed by former captain Steve Waugh, who believed the charges were “harsh”. Ostensibly, those of the culture (and indeed those who cultivated it), are shifting the blame from the players. The three lads with a square of sandpaper are not the issue, it’s the beancounters in head office. It’s not the lads out in the middle, they’re just doing what they’ve been taught. In diffusing the blame, you’re allowing responsibility for the act to slip. Through the prism of Lehmann’s thinking, they might have just been following the culture they’ve been raised in, so, therefore, it’s not on them. But they’re grown adults, they’re not robots. They know right from wrong, and it’s moronic to assume that a tampered ball was as the sole result of a man somewhere in a suit, and not those in cricket whites.
I feel that Lehmann and Waugh’s castigation of the faceless antagonists at Cricket HQ also allows them not to address the bricks of the culture they laid. Warner, Smith and Bancroft grew up in the folkloric stewardship of Steve Waugh, and conversely, the tutelage of Darren Lehmann, a man who served under Waugh. Both were examples to follow, particularly Waugh, who is still lionised in cricket circles as one of the finest captains we’ve ever had, primarily due to his resistance to losing. I’m not saying that Waugh was a cheat, but he’s the patron saint of not giving in. He’s an example to follow, something to live up to.
For what it’s worth, Waugh castigated the team for their actions on the field, believing that the athletes are beyond reality, stating: “They’ve got a lot of people around the side that protect them and tell them how good they are and how everything’s fantastic and sometimes you can lose touch with reality and I think that was best summed up when Steve Smith said that ‘we won’t make that same mistake again and we’ll just get on with it’. They just didn’t realise how big a mistake it was and what they’d actually done. So that, to me, just summed up that maybe they were out of touch with what the average person thinks.”
Blaming the obtuse, and the difficult to define, in this case, “the culture” speaks volumes. David Warner’s juvenile trudge off a suburban cricket field after being sledged is evidence to what it breeds. The irony isn’t lost on the regular cricket viewer, in that Warner can freely dole out sledging, but not take it. Waugh is correct in this regard. A member of the public castigated Warner for something that he did, and Warner returned to his bubble. That wasn’t Cricket Australia, that was a choice that he made. The act happened, and the empathetic words of Candice Warner made us feel guilty for illustrating the truth. Be it Warner’s walk or Lehmann’s run to their defence, both speak to the root element of the culture that needs to be stamped out: Entitlement. Somehow, Warner, Smith and Bancroft are the victims. The pawns in Cricket Australia’s long game. The solution is banning the administrators as well as the players, but the sentence should remain equal. Reducing the charge of those three will ensure the same behaviour will one day repeat. If Lehmann’s rhetoric is to be believed, and that the players are unable to exercise adult judgement, then CA should treat them like children: uphold the punishment, so they know that they’re serious.