“History reveals there is no moral high ground; there is only perspective. We often exhibit the same behaviors for which we condemn others” – Steve Maraboli.
Cricket is never the winner when a visiting team gets booed by supporters of the home team. As riveting as the on field action was unfortunately the Lords test will always be remembered for all the wrong reasons. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Was Jonny Bairstow out? Yes, he was. But what about the “Spirit of Cricket?” I have long believed that those three words are conveniently used as an excuse when decisions don’t go in your favor.
On the 28th of February this year I saw the spirit of cricket live in front of my eyes. After the Blackcaps beat England by one run at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, players from both sides who had fought hard on the field for five days were having a beer together and playing a game of football. That is the best definition of the spirit of cricket in my opinion. All the other so called definitions can take a walk.
Clapping when your opponent plays well is the spirit of cricket. Giving an opposing team member a guard of honor before they retire from the sport is the spirit of cricket. Accepting a wrong decision from an umpire and still walking without showing dissent is the spirit of cricket. Simon Taufel once gave Tendulkar out on 91 when he wasn’t. Tendulkar stood disappointed at the crease for a moment and then walked. Next morning at breakfast Taufel admitted his error of judgment to Tendulkar. Tendulkar’s response was “I know you are a good umpire Simon and you don’t get many wrong. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” That right there is the spirit of cricket.
Alex Carey will now be targeted wherever he goes in England but he’s not the only one. Deepti Sharma still gets abused for running out Charlie Dean at the non-striker’s end. So too does Ravi Ashwin and there are a number of others as well. Is it their fault that they chose to follow the laws of the game and refused a lifetime membership of the moral high ground club? Being targeted for doing the right thing? Sounds familiar doesn’t it? In the past Australian cricketers and teams have let themselves down by their own conduct but in this instance they did nothing wrong.
The ugly scenes that unfolded in the long room at lords on Sunday afternoon shouldn’t be anywhere near a cricket ground for sure. Has society become so intolerant that as soon as we don’t get something we want we resort to finger pointing and abuse? Grown men in suits embarrassing themselves in public. Now where do we see that on a daily basis? Definitely not at the so called home of cricket. For a moment I thought I had accidently changed the channel from Duke to Parliament TV.
Thanks to the Jonny Bairstow incident a number of notable performances will unfortunately never get talked about much. Smith’s 32nd ton, Ben Duckett’s runs in both innings and Nathan Lyon’s courage in coming out to bat in the 2nd innings on one leg. The show stopper though was Benjamin Andrew Stokes. In all my years of watching international cricket I cannot remember another individual whose sheer presence at the crease captivated the whole cricketing world for a couple of hours. Social media went into a frenzy and goosebumps spread faster than a pandemic.
They say Sir Viv had that presence, Tendulkar used to transfix an entire nation when he batted, Kohli at his peak used to have that same presence in a run chase. The ability to make everyone believe, the ability to make impossible feel possible, the ability to put fear in the mind of the opposition. While Stokes was there an England win was only a matter of time, once he fell an Australian win was only a formality.
So why isn’t Bazball working for England in this series? It worked against New Zealand, India, South Africa and Pakistan because the cocktail of aggression was mixed with a dash of smartness. If England expected to steam roll Australia by throwing caution to the wind, then they have got it horribly wrong. Test matches are won by winning sessions, playing according to the match situation and driving home the advantage when you are on top. Australia are world test champions for a reason. England need to show them the respect that they deserve.
Both teams will be forced to make injury related changes. As far as England is concerned Dan Lawrence looks likely to be Pope’s replacement. Another alternative is for Brook to bat at 3, Bairstow at 6, Moeen Ali at 7 and Foakes at 8. I know Foakes is not in the squad but wicket keeping lapses have cost England in the series. Anderson looks like he needs a break. Broad would be my pick along with the impressive Josh Tongue and Mark Wood. Chris Woakes offers all round abilities in case the pitch is anything like what we got at Lords. The batters all look in good touch but need to make it count when they get in.
Australia on the other hand will be forced to make a change due to the injury to Nathan Lyon. Todd Murphy was impressive in India and will get a chance to show that he is an able replacement. This will be the fourth test in a row for Cummins. The decision to skip the IPL now paying rich dividends. I don’t see any changes as far as the batting is concerned.
England have done a lot of talking in this series. Statements like results don’t matter, it feels like we won, I think we will win by 150 runs and we are here to entertain all grab headlines but they don’t win you a test match let alone an Ashes series. International sport is all about winning. Fans are paying astronomical ticket prices to watch their team. Yes, they want to be entertained but they also want to see England win. With the series on the line it’s time to let the bat and ball do all the talking else it won’t take long for glass houses built on moral high grounds to be shattered.
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