I, like many Australians, woke up this morning to some heart-breaking news.
As I learned what had happened in South Africa overnight, I felt cold all over. I had a lump in my throat and felt like everything around me was a little surreal.
This is not the first instance of ball-tampering in a cricket match. But what happened in South Africa over the weekend was the first time I felt personally insulted by an Australian sportsperson cheating.
My brother has two incredibly handsome, loving, cheeky boys. The eldest is 10 years of age and is cricket-mad.
There are kids who love cricket… and then there is my nephew, Will. He has an unbelievable obsession for the sport. And not just for the Big Bash or the one-dayers. This is a kid who loves test cricket as well. He could watch it for hours. He has the whole kit. He has books on cricket, both targeted at children his age and some which are heavier reads also. If, for whatever reason, he can’t go to the park to play cricket, he has enough video games of cricket to keep him entertained.
I remember calling Will for his 9th birthday last year, and his first questions was, “Hi Aunty Cat, guess how many wickets Mitchell Johnson took in the Big Bash today?”
I’ve never met a kid like him.
If you ask Will his favourite player, before you can even finish the question, he will tell you it’s Steve Smith. He knows his statistics; he can show you how he bats; he’s read his biography that he received as a Christmas present last year. In Will’s eyes, the man can do no wrong.
Well, could do no wrong.
My heart broke this morning for the young man who would wake up and see that his idol has not only let his teammates down but has let a whole nation down.
Unfortunately for Will, he is also an Essendon Bombers supporter. He had to watch as his team suffered through the 2016 scandal. He saw the players punished for doing something wrong. He understood actions have consequences.
This time, it’s a bit different. This isn’t only a team he supports but a man he thinks the world of. He had to watch Steven Smith as he confessed he was part of the leadership team who approved of Bancroft’s actions. All I can hope is that for Will’s sake, Steven Smith and all those involved in the scandal are punished appropriately. My nephew knows that what Australia’s captain did was wrong. For all young boys and girls who looked up to Smith, it is important that they see there is consequences to his actions.
Earlier today, Smith said that he had no intention of stepping down as captain. For those who look-up to him, I think it is important that Smith is able to admit that this was not only an incredibly embarrassing mistake but a career-changing one. If he continues on as captain of the team, where is the accountability? The action was not spur of the moment; it was pre-meditated.
I understand it is difficult living a life in the public eye. Actions and decisions are heavily scrutinised by the media and the public. Everyone makes mistakes, and on minor issues, this should be taken into account. However, when it comes to cheating in sport, we have to set an example for future generations.
My heart goes out to Will and all the other children who idolised Smith. I was that child too once. I remember looking at Brett Lee and thinking the fast-paced bowler could do no wrong. I couldn’t imagine how I would feel at 10 years of age if I found out Binga had been involved in something similar.
I think this is an opportunity for all sportspeople across the country, especially in light of the upcoming Commonwealth Games, to truly reflect on the role they play in many young people’s lives. It is a chance for sportspeople to understand that cheating, in any form, is not in the spirit of good sportsmanship and it is not in the spirit of being Australian. Sports places value on talent, hard work and dedication. My nephew, like many young children, understands this, and I hope Cricket Australia shows their understanding by dealing with those involved appropriately.