Good morning Steve
How’s it looking on your side of the world?
Pretty damn bleak I’d imagine. But I’ll tell you something for free, there ain’t no “rise and shine, jump out of bed and rip into the day” back here, either.
Having had a full 24 hours to digest the enormity of what you and the oft-mentioned “leadership team” (OMLT) have conjured up, I can tell you, we’re pissed. We’re really pissed. We’re also bewildered, we’re numb, we’re appalled, but worst of all, we’re embarrassed. We’re embarrassed to be Australian.
And that’s a feeling that doesn’t sit comfortably with anybody – old, fat, slow, nimble, young, athletic, white, black, yellow, green, male, female, cricket lover, cricket hater, or any other minority you represent as the captain of our most prestigious and culturally significant national sporting team.
The rest of the world might cheat, sure, but not us. We’re ‘Straylian. We don’t break the rules. We play hard but fair.
I know not many of the OMLT read the press – at least the negative stuff – but you couldn’t possibly fathom the depth and breath and volume of the public outcry back home. This morning, for instance you even knocked the “Married At First Sight” promos off the Today Show. Nobody does that. Not even Barna-baby Joyce. Or Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels.
We’ve got this in the bucket of a national tragedy, if for no other reason than how it reflects on us all.
I know it’s early days but there are so many unanswered questions, well removed from the most obvious starting point – “what the F*@# were you clowns thinking?”
I for one want to know how that ill-fated lunchtime conversation among the OMLT unfolded. Was it as simple as Mr and Mrs Warner’s little boy Davey piping up: “Hey boys, I was playing on my X-Box last night and I got thinking about sandpaper. And sticky tape. Reckon we could be onto something there. Whaddya think? Hey Smudge, can you pass me another savoury muffin?”
Or was more structured – more process driven? As we’ve heard from your boss James Sutherland over the past 24 hours, process is important. Maybe it was put to a vote – all in favor?
If it was, we, the key stakeholder group of 24 million, are struggling to believe that all five of the OMLT gave it the green light. Wasn’t there anyone who wanted to do a little workshopping? Pose a few questions, like “Boys, have we thought this through properly, ‘cos I was watching the match highlights on telly in my room last night, and they seem to have quite a lot cameras. Davey – you got any thoughts about cameras at the ground?”
Dear oh dear.
And yet Steve, in your first press conference (granted a horribly difficult assignment) you spoke as if you’d slept in and missed training. Or driven the team bus into a fire hydrant and flooded the hotel car park.
Let’s be clear. This is not just damage to your reputation. This brings into question your character, and the character of everybody who knew about the devious plan to win rough.
What’s disturbing us most Steve – it’s not who we thought you were – as a cricketer or as a person. In fact I still don’t believe you were the main instigator.
When I first met you all those years ago back at the Australian Cricket Centre of Excellence, you were a wide eyed rookie who struck me as somebody who’d be cock-a-hoop to play for your country for 20 years and not receive a cent, such was your unquenchable thirst and passion for the game.
You may remember, the COE coaches were encouraging every player in the program to develop a “Plan B”, just in case their cricket career didn’t pan out the way they’d hoped.
You didn’t have a Plan B, nor could you be convinced about the merits of formulating one. Professional cricket was your Plan A, B, C, D and E.
You were going make it work. I found your singular focus and commitment inspiring and at the same time, a little scary.
But to your credit, you made it work. Nobody believed in you the way you believed in yourself. You rose and rose and rose, to the point where four months ago, you were being compared to Bradman.
Sadly – very sadly – on account of one horrific decision, you’re now being compared with Lance Armstrong, world sport’s most decorated cheat.
There are only a handful of people in the country who could possibly appreciate the pressure and scrutiny that comes with leading and guiding the fortunes of Australia’s highest profile national sporting team.
The public expectation – even demand – for consistently high performance we can safely assume to be draining, even debilitating.
But if you or any other member of the Australian Cricket set up think you have to cheat to win on our behalf, you really need to get out of the team hotel a little more.
You need to go and talk to the punters in the pubs, the five each way, Race 3 at Randwick crew. The mums and dads dropping little Johnny (and of course little Jilly) at the suburban grounds on weekends, and watching nervously as they take guard or run into bowl for the first time.
You need to the talk to the volunteers in the club canteens, serving Cokes and sausage rolls for 10 hours at a time. And the old blokes who are up at five on weekends, marking out the boundary lines even before the morning dew has disappeared.
Most importantly, you need to talk to the past greats of the game, the countless “legends” who have gone before you, and can reflect with candor, what they got right and what they’d change if they had their time over.
They will tell you that no one team or individual “owns” the baggy green cap. You’re all temporary custodians, granted the privilege of nurturing the traditions and standards for a comparatively short period, before handing it onto the next generation. Hopefully in equally good shape.
It goes without saying, Steve, that old baggy green is looking pretty shabby at the moment. Like it’s been flung flippantly into a sewerage tank as a bit a joke.
The fair-minded amongst us hope you can retrieve it, and remove the horrid stains incurred during this eminently forgettable series in South Africa.
No small task, but for your own sake, the sake of cricket, and most importantly, for the sake of our longer term reputation as a fair sporting nation, we hope you can.
Best of luck.