Monday, 26 March 2018

“Integrity?” [updated]

As of this weekend, there’s a new oxymoron to add to 'Australian culture': Australian integrity. And a lesson to be drawn about owning up.

The position of Australian cricket captain in the country’s pecking order is just one down, or even one up,  from Australian PM. It bears with it all the virtues and values the Australian likes to think are embodied by those from the broad brown land: courage, fortitude, tenacity, a relentless drive to succeed, integrity.

Look however at this press conference over the weekend with the most recent Australian cricket captain to wear that mantle, just after his team were found to be cheating by illegally tampering with the ball in the method described by the newest member of the team, Cameron Bancroft:

It makes for painful viewing, and not only for  Australians. It isn't cricket -- and there's a reason that phrase still does have some resonance, because it still stands for some kind of rectitude in a world in which that quality seems in such dreadfully short supply.

IN MANY WAYS, THE the press conference says more than the blatant cheating. In this interview his integrity, or lack thereof, is fully exposed. It is an apology without offering an apology, a mea culpa without the slightest intention to change. Listen to the words, which betray more than he thinks:

The leadership group knew about it, he says, we spoke about it at lunch. ('We spoke about cheating, and decided to get the new bloke to do it.' That tells you all you need to know about his team's 'leadership.')

I'm not proud of what happened. Um. ('I'm really not proud of you blokes noticing the young bloke putting that stuff down his trousers.' But would he, you wonder, have been really proud of winning if they hadn't been caught?)

You know, it's not within the spirit of the game. (From Smith's career, and that of recent Australian captains, there's little evidence he even knows what that last phrase means. And if he did, why did he sanction the cheating and the manner of it? Blank out.)

My integrity, the team's integrity, the leadership group's integrity has come into question, and rightfully so. (Mate, it's not under question, it's fully revealed. But note how in his own mind, it's still a question.)

Um, it's not on. It's certainly not on, and it won't happen again, I can promise you that, under my leadership. (Note how he appears to try to convince himself it's not on. ('It's certainly not on.') But we already know you're a liar and can't be trusted, so what exactly are your promises to anyone now worth?)

There is nothing in this about which to feel proud. (And he doesn't look it, does he. And this is precisely the consequence of cheating to achieve a value: shame in other's eyes and, most importantly, in your own.)

It's not what we're about. (But, mate, in every sense, it is. This is who you are. And that's the bit on which he really does need to stop and reflect.)

ON WATCHING IT A second time, and cringing as much as the first, I thought back to the ignominious end of South African Hanse Cronje, and reflected how reality is so often Shakespearean in being the final tragic arbiter of poor choices. Smith clearly thinks he can control this (as we move on) because he still doesn't see the full magnitude of what he's made happen. That too speaks bucket loads about how important he truly views it in the scheme of things.

Sure, it's not the first time a test cricket captain has been caught tampering with the ball. Even the opposing South African captain in this series Faf Du Plessis was caught earlier in the season smearing his breath mint over the ball to help it perform more wildly. "It's so difficult to know whats right and what isn't," this cheat laughed unapologetically after being sprung. That his team's supporters laughed loudly too raises equally 'many questions' about their integrity as well.

But, "difficult"? No, what he is saying is purely evasive bollocks. Virtues pertain to our choices -- the choice to focus, or not; to act with courage, or not; to put illegal substances on a ball, or not. The choices are only difficult when you've forgotten, or never fully understood, what it is to do right. That is to say, to do right by yourself.

It really isn't that hard to know what to do when you do know, and Australian cricket did it back in 1988 when it dropped wicketkeeper Greg Dyer after he'd falsely claimed he'd taken a catch against New Zealander Andrew Jones. Back then, a cricketer's word was a given, and Dyer's was taken. When the truth emerged however he was dropped, just like he dropped that catch, and he never played for his country again. It wasn't cricket.

THERE ARE TWO VIRTUES involved here: honesty and integrity, both being based on the recognition that real values (like a test victory) can never be earned or lastingly enjoyed if they were obtained by deception.
Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud.
It is not the fear of being found out that undercuts success: it's your own knowledge that victory was achieved dishonestly. And to the extent you don't evade that awareness, it's knowledge that immediately diminishes you in your own eyes. (The only fool you can't fool is yourself.)

And if you do elect to evade that awareness of who you really are? Then you're immediately on the road to making reality your enemy, rather than your honest ally, which is a long and slippery slope to total destruction. (Objective morality being about achieving your own lasting happiness, based on unvarnished adherence to reality.)

Integrity is the recognition of this fact in action: that one's primary orientation must be to reality, not to putting something over on others.

Because trying to win by deceiving others, that would be the mark of a coward.

Or of today's Australian cricket captain.

The ABC's Jim Maxwell answers the question:  "Why is Australia so outraged at Steven Smith's team?"

A cricket-writing colleague, not from Australia, asked me that question on Sunday. It was a valid query. Ball-tampering does happen in cricket, probably a lot more than anyone outside the game realises. Players have been sanctioned for it before. In the ICC's Code of Conduct it is ranked at the same level as making a seriously obscene gesture, and is less grave than intimidating an umpire. The maximum penalty is a fine and suspension for one Test, which Steven Smith received and Cameron Bancroft did not.
So, why is that not the end of the story? Why was there such widespread national outrage over an incident that cricket's governing body views as only of moderate severity?
To answer a question with another question, what do they know of Australia who only Australian cricket know? READ ON >>>
 And by the way, it's not just Australia. And it's not just the cricket world. "Test cricket was front page news across the world over the past [few] days, for all the wrong reasons."



  1. Spot on analysis and evaluation, Peter!

  2. I once heard a definition of "Integrity" as being "Doing the right thing, even when no-one is watching". Interesting parallel with this situation and all the TV cameras rolling.

  3. Excellent post, linking the core issue to the most talked about issue in Australia over the past two days. Why, even the Prime Minister called for Smith's sacking.

    Yet, Smith's mea cupla is punctuated with "I still think I am teh best man to lead the Australian team."

    Pretty bad disconnect there. But Smith will wake up soon enough.

    1. He had by the time he got to the press conference back at Sydney Airport.

    2. But he didn't did he. He said "I'm the captain and I take full responsibility." But he didn't did he.
      He just blubbed. Like a sook.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated. Links to bogus news sites (and worse) will be deleted.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say it, it's important enough to put a name to it.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.