It’s time for a marmite post. You’ll either love this or hate it. Here’s Adam Kiddle on why it’s still ok to boo Steve Smith. Although I personally think the booing has got a tad tedious now, Adam makes some really good points …
Firstly, let me set my stall out here. I wouldn’t boo Steve Smith. In fact, I didn’t. I was at Edgbaston Day 3 and—while enjoying the atmosphere as much as anyone else in the Hollies—I saved my voice for cheering wickets and sighing audibly at the ease with which the Aussies piled on the runs.
However, less than two years ago, English fans endured a dismal sleepless winter as we watched collapse after collapse in an excruciating 4-0 loss Down Under – a series in which Mitchell Starc made the ball talk to the tune of 93mph off-breaks, while James Anderson, the greatest swing bowler of his generation, needed a pink ball and floodlights for any sign of his not-so-secret weapon.
The fact of the matter is that although SandpaperGate ignited in South Africa, no one really knows when the Aussie ball tampering started. Many England fans therefore wonder whether Australia’s Ashes win down under had as much validity as one of Lance Armstrong’s yellow jackets.
Sure, we can talk about punishment served, but certain fans feel as though Messrs Smith, Warner and Bancroft took the global reputation of the game they love into their own hands and handled it with reckless abandon.
Hence, the booing.
It might not be how I would choose to express myself, but some people think continued booing is justified, and I understand their dismay.
What’s more, I find the increasing number of pundits, commentators, and now politicians criticising the booing extremely frustrating. They mistake booing aimed at Steve Smith the cheat for booing aimed at Steve Smith the world-class batsman (or Steve Smith the brave team-player).
Now that Smith has scored two fine centuries and taken a nasty hit to the head, consensus among the commentariat appears to be that the booing should stop. “How can you boo a guy who has played like that?” they say. “How can you a boo a guy so brave to come back after that hit?” they say. Their contention, one assumes, is that 400 runs plus a Jofra Archer thunderbolt to the head erases Cape Town from the memory banks.
However, I repeat. Steve Smith’s ability as a batsman was never in doubt. Nobody is booing Smudger the batsman. They’re booing Smith the cheat. They’re two completely different issues. England fans respect the batsman but they don’t yet respect the man. And who are we to moralise and tell them when to forgive and forget?
Where is the same clamour for the booing of David Warner to stop? Ditto for Bancroft? I seem to have missed that. Would it perhaps be anything to do with neither being able to buy a run? Surely not. And herein lies the contradiction.
As so often in the age of cancel culture, people choose to conflate two separate issues about the same subject and engage in recreational outrage in order to serve their own agenda. In this case, people who don’t want Steve Smith booed—for one reason or another—are telling you that you shouldn’t because he’s the leading run-scorer in the series, despite knowing full well that his ability has nothing to do with it.
He cheated. And that hasn’t changed.
I will be at The Oval, too. I won’t boo then, either. But it won’t be because the 800-odd runs Smith has inevitably amassed by that point have convinced me to stop. Just as I have the right to make that choice, so do those who will continue to boo. No amount of runs or blows to the head will change that fact.