Strewth. What a bunch of drongos. Show some Australians a photo of an English cricketer wearing a white sheet on halloween and they’ll claim our dressing room has been infiltrated by the ku klux klan. Sod the evidence. Sod context. Why bother gathering all the facts when there are professional reputations to tarnish?
The Jimmy Anderson ball tampering row that emerged on day four at the MCG says a lot more about the nature of the Aussie media, it’s pundits, and the ignorance of some Australian cricket supporters than it does about Anderson himself. The whole ‘incident’ was a storm in a teacup and a desperate act to (a) ‘beat up’ the English (the expression apparently used by the umpires), and (b) get some valuable click-bait out there.
Certain media outlets, and we all know who they are, should be ashamed. Instead I bet they’re smirking mischievously as they examine their web traffic and reap the benefits from advertisers. I doubt they care they were asked to remove the words ‘ball-tampering’ from their headlines. They saw an opportunity to kick England in the crown jewels, and simultaneously appeal to worst side of their supporters’ nature, and they took it.
It was so predictable too. As soon as I saw the TV cameras obsessing about England’s treatment of the ball (which occurred long before any ostensibly dodgy footage emerged) we all knew what narrative the Australians were trying to create. Unfortunately for them the overwhelming majority of footage showed England shining one side of the ball vigorously (and entirely legally) on their whites, and then throwing the ball into rough areas of the square to rough up the other side – something the Australians also did for several hours during England’s innings.
But then the mischief makers sensed their moment. Not long after Stuart Broad showed the umpires that little pieces of leather were sticking up on the shiny side – something that damages the fielding team’s ability to get the surface smooth – the cameras focused in on a conversation between Root, Anderson, and the aforementioned officials.
During this discussion a camera zoomed in on Jimmy’s hand while he was brushing his thumb over the quarterseam. Even though it looked like he was simply removing some mud or pressing down a bit of leather (he certainly wasn’t applying much force) all hell broke loose on social media. It didn’t matter one iota that:
(a) Anderson did this in full view of the umpire
(b) You could see in the next frame that the ball’s condition hadn’t changed at all (there was nothing remotely resembling a gouge)
(c) Jimmy was working on the shiny side (so any tampering would have been counterproductive).
Sensing some kind of smoking gun – which was actually more akin to a broken water pistol – Wide World Of Sports immediately published a mischievous tweet with a freeze frame of Anderson’s thumb on the quarterseam. Even though the picture showed nothing conclusive, a bunch of social media drongos, plus a few former Australia players like Mitchell Johnson who should know better, starting making borderline slanderous suggestions that England were cheating.
In my opinion this reaction was hysterical, under-the-belt, and quite frankly a bit malicious. What’s more, it sounded a lot like a losing team whinging … which is, of course, exactly what the same people accuse England of doing when they’re under the cosh. Oh the irony.
After the official Cricket Australia website irresponsibly reported the ‘incident’ – which seemed to legitimise this complete non-story – a whole host of Australians brushed off their metaphorical saddles and relished a golden opportunity to get on their high horses. Idiots started throwing the law book around, arguing that it was illegal to alter the condition of the ball in any way. What they forgot to mention, of course, is that the pictures proved Anderson did not alter the ball, and that the laws also say it’s perfectly legal to remove mud from the quarterseam.
Sensing another row, Trevor Bayliss ran to the umpires’ room at the first opportunity. They confirmed what anyone with a brain and a sense of objectivity and fairness already knew: Anderson had done nothing wrong and the story was just a ‘beat up’. How interesting that the umpires themselves, who were right there when the supposed incident took place, should use this expression. It’s almost like they know how the Australian media works.
Obviously yesterday’s play was curtailed due to rain so there was little to talk about. But cynics might argue this row was a deliberate attempt to deflect attention away from the state of the game: England have outplayed Australia in Melbourne and probably averted a whitewash. How unfortunate that they can’t simply say “well played” and perhaps enjoy a little harmless “well you’ve already lost the series” banter.
I like Australians. I have Aussie second cousins. I spent six months out there after university and I loved the country and the people. However, it’s all rather tiresome when banter crosses the line into something sour and, in this observer’s opinion, somewhat underhand. I lost some respect for quite a few people yesterday.