It underpins everything that happens in society. For without trust in each other and our institutions, everything breaks down.
Imagine how we would be if we didn’t trust our medical schools to produce the best doctors? Imagine how we would be if we didn’t trust our banks to look after our wages? Imagine how we would be if we didn’t trust our farmers not to use harmful chemicals on their crops? Imagine if we didn’t trust our judicial system?
Trust is everything.
Australians by nature are a very trusting mob. Whether by luck, good fortune or blind stupidity, we tend to give the benefit of the doubt before we question motives. Everyone starts as a good bloke. The same with institutions and business.
And we also believe strongly in a fair go for everyone. If you are successful, do it through fair means. Sure, we might headbutt the line now and then, but ultimately those that cross it are tainted and pulled quickly back into line.
It is often said in Australia that the captain of the Test team is the second most powerful man in the country behind the Prime Minister. Whether that still holds true is another debate, but the fact remains that the role does come with an immense responsibility.
There is a requirement for the Test team to win. This is for sure. But there is also an unwritten law that it should be done fairly and within the rules. Australians don’t ask for this. They demand it.
One thing we hate is a cheat.
Steve Smith today has been stamped a cheat. An outcome contrived by his own actions. The repercussions of which are yet to fully play out.
There is no point debating the semantics of who did what and when. This will all fall out in the fullness of time. James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia, said as much in his most recent press conference. He won’t jump to conclusions other than to commit to a proper and swift investigation so that the facts can be laid out in full before knee jerk reactions are made.
While in an unemotional state this can be viewed as a fair and considered response, the Australian public are hungry for blood. Almost everything I have seen on social media, heard on talkback radio or discussed through chats with my mates shows that no-one here is accepting of what Smith and his cronies did.
We would rather lose a Test series 4-0 in a fair fight than stoop to cheating.
And it is not as though we have been comfortable with the actions of the team this series. Nathan Lyon dropping the ball on AB de Villiers after his run out dismissal in the first Test did not sit well with many. Lehmann calling the crowd a disgrace after his history of racially abusing Sri Lankans also felt misplaced.
Some will argue that ball tampering is at the low end of the cheating scale. It is trying to take advantage to win a match. To help your team. Compare this to to spot fixing which is taking money to lose a match.
But Australian’s don’t care. When we win, let’s do it properly.
Now Smith’s problem is that this wasn’t just another “brain fade”. He didn’t just look up to the stands to get a sighter on whether to review an LBW decision. This was a planned and compos choice made by what he describes as the “leadership” team. He wouldn’t name names, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude that the Australian leadership team has Smith, Warner, Lyon and possibly Lehmann in it.
There is nothing in Australian culture that accepts the captain of the Australian Test team walking into the room at a lunch break, and asking “should we tamper with the ball?”
Maybe a new kid might propose such a thing, but we as a nation without fail would expect that this thought process would be shut down immediately and with conviction.
“We don’t cheat to win mate.”
But this didn’t happen.
Grown men, Bancroft included, chose a different path. The ugly one.
Australians are the first to pipe up when someone is convicted of taking money to throw a match. Or of taking drugs to gain an unfair advantage. Or if they tamper with the ball.
But right now, dependent on how Cricket Australia choose to act in the coming days, their right to grandstand has been removed.
Perhaps Smith didn’t think that they would get caught? Perhaps he didn’t understand how seriously Australians view ball tampering?
He should have known.
The outcry when Faf du Plessis was convicted for a second ball tampering offence in the summer of 16/17 in “MintGate” was more than a subtle clue.
One could even argue that how serious he saw this is irrelevant. Cheating is cheating, and as captain, Smith shouldn’t have tolerated any thought of it.
Smith’s response to all of this is that he believes he is still the best person to captain Australia and that he will learn from this. Unfortunately for Smith, we no longer trust him.
He is not trusted to be the guardian of the captaincy role. He is not trusted to put values ahead of anything else. He is not trusted to make the right decisions.
He is a cheat.
Over recent cricket history, ball tampering has been a massive issue. Since the “discovery” of reverse swing in the late 80’s, many have lived on the edge in an effort to gain an advantage. Cricket royalty such as Sachin Tendulkar have been convicted of doing it. Perhaps many don’t think it is that bad a thing?
The problem with that argument is that ball tampering is against the laws of cricket. It is also against the spirit of the game, and the laws state that the responsibility for upholding both these things lies with the captains.
Steve Smith may survive this. David Warner may survive this. Cameron Bancroft may survive this. Darren Lehmann may survive this.
But the overwhelming sentiment at the moment is that they shouldn’t.
Values are important to Australians. We embrace good people who work hard and do what’s right. We shun those that look for shortcuts.
Our trust has been broken. And as a sport loving collective, we are all currently at a loss on how to handle it.
But one thing is for sure. The people are angry.