In a series of “Why oh why oh why” articles and sneeringly superior posts on social networks, we have been asked to believe that cricketers are the finest, most sporting gentlemen on the planet. The thoroughly decent Indian team showed their true spirit in their 4-1 thumping by England in the recent series watched by literally tens of thousands of people on Sky. All cricketers are like that, aren’t they? Hmm.
All except, perhaps, England’s loveable all rounder Ben Stokes, drunkenly trying to get into a nightclub in the early hours and knocking unconscious two men. Stokes was not guilty of affray, so he is an innocent man; doubtless a role model.
And of course those great Australian cricketers, examples of fair play indeed, who got caught trying to alter the shape of the ball and subsequently got banned for a damn sight less than they should have been. It was obviously a one-off, an oversight. These boys are the best sportsman ever.
Apart from whichever Australian cricketer abused Moeen Ali, referring to him as Osama during the last Ashes series. It was all a misunderstanding, you see, probably a harmless joke. It wasn’t actually suggested that an England player of Pakistani heritage was responsible for the mass murder of thousands on 9/11, or that by definition Ali, being a Muslim, would have supported flying jets into buildings. Where’s your sense of humour gone?
Even in local cricket, no one cheats. Apart from those who cheat, that is. You know, the ones who appeal for decisions in the full knowledge that there is nothing to appeal for. No players field the ball from beyond the boundary and then pretend the ball didn’t cross the boundary. And certainly no one in local cricket sledges an opponent. In fact, no cricketer has ever done that, ever. (I would describe all cricketers as ‘whiter than white’, but apparently that’s against the law these days.)
As ever, it’s the footballers who are the bad guys. Never the cricketers or anyone else for that matter. Tennis players are never pulled up for taking drugs, rugby players are never convicted of brawling in Jersey nightclubs and their coaches would never dream of encouraging their players to chew on a blood capsule to feign injury. It’s only those sweary, edgy footballers who do bad things.
It’s easy to paint a picture of only angels playing our summer game. With participation on the decline, with Sky owning all the live rights in this country, leading to less people watching cricket on TV than at anytime since the 1960s, we can believe everything we are told.
If footballers are less well behaved than cricketers – and in my experience, certainly in local sport, they are largely the same people – it’s probably a matter of numbers. And anyway, how on earth can you compare a full-on passionate game of football with the genteel niceties of cricket? If you are seriously comparing them, may I suggest you have never played one or possibly both?
Credit to India whose players were, apparently, a credit to their country. But spare me the ludicrous comparisons between the world game, which is football, and a summer game which is played at a decent level by perhaps half a dozen countries from the former British Empire.
As cricket continues to retreat to its comfortable suburban home and its participants at international level come increasingly from private schools it will become a class issue, too, if it isn’t already.