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Leadership and loss of Integrity!

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Australian Cricket team 1961

I awoke on Sunday morning to a bad dream. AUSTRALIAN CRICKET CAPTAIN ADMITS CHEATING (with leadership team support.)

AS a child I was a cricket fanatic – see above photo – I spent my Christmas present money on a miniature cricket bat with the signatures of the 1961 Ashes Tour side. While on holiday at the Gold Coast (I was 12) I played at school, at University in the summer, and played winter cricket as well as Rugby in the winter. I watched my first Test v England in 1958 in Brisbane when Jim Burke and Norm O’Neill hit the winning runs. I went to all the Sheffield Shield matches and collected autographs. Sadly, I did not see the Tied Test but did see almost every Test in Brisbane for the next 40 years. Our honeymoon was in Sydney and as it happened so was the 4th test against the West Indies. At school, the only books I ever read were cricket books. Some might say a tragic! (or tragic) The memories are a flood.

This week to say I am upset is an understatement, but I am not surprised. What was once a great sport has been reduced to an entertainment product. The more product, the better. Test matches, one-day matches and 20/20 – it is bewildering.  Bangladesh, England and South Africa – the whole box and dice.  Mostly a form of reality TV to fill a voracious media. I wonder what it feels like to wake up in the morning to think, which country? Which city? Which game?  AND how much am I worth?

These players live in an unreal world – talented sportspeople from a young age they are nurtured as an elite grouping, and this continues throughout their playing life? I am not suggesting it is easy, and they don’t have the same life issues as us all BUT Where and how do they get any perspective? Is it a “privilege bubble”?

Treated as an elite, they demand and expect the best and their only focus is winning and money (the recent strike!). Team Values are for show, and the concepts of respect and integrity are just words beyond understanding.

My initial tweet when I saw an article in the Australian was:

Admits cheating: First Plane home; Life Ban

My second tweet was:

Cricket Australia launches a probe!! That’s the problem. Admits cheating – instant dismissal.

And then I read Steve Smith is reported to have said he still believed he was the best person to lead the team! I have no idea what planet he lives on!!

He should never lead Australia again ever (and the ICC only suspending him for one match is a big part of the problem.) It’s a joke!

And for his colleagues who conspired with him?

Anything that he gets – they get. But if anyone of them represents Australia anytime in the next five years – It is unlikely I will be watching.

Australian Cricket is a cultural phenomenon. The Australian test team is a symbol of Australian sport. The position of Australian Captain (apocryphally described as second only to the Prime Minister) in status is a symbolic sense. ! I have heard it many times today.

In cultural terms symbols are sacred.  Right now a  symbol is trashed!

Australians play hard but fair – we don’t cheat – we push the boundaries. I think one of the current players has said we play to a higher standard! What nonsense in this context?

Steve Smith has failed at multiple levels:

  • Participating (possibly leading) in the actual conspiracy to cheat
  • Conspiring to corrupt much younger and much less experienced player and
  • Not standing down (immediately) after admitting it and accepting responsibility
  • I am confident there are other failures!
  • Not have any sense of the obligations and responsibilities he and his team have as custodians of a tradition (or a great story).

The one positive is he was honest immediately, and he accepted responsibility, BUT he then says “he is still the best one to lead”!!!

Instead of leaving Smith standing alone (with the Bancroft) his co-conspirators should stand up with him – the leadership team?

  • Those who were a part of the conspiracy and
  • Those who knew and did nothing

I have to wonder about the culture of this team and the high-performance system.

Cricket Australia -Leadership: The response

  1. Initiate a probe and suggest a process must be followed.

What nonsense! In a time of national crisis -and this is that – strong symbolic action is required, and we got a probe! Too bad someone did use the probe and turn it into a spine!

Leadership is an extraordinary responsibility and imposes more obligations than it grants freedoms. It is in crises that leaders step up AND they have a position. It is critical. For a period of time, we have had nothing.  Steve Smith digging in and then some sanity. Smith and Warner “step down”.  What happened to an old-fashioned dismissal? A sacred symbol has been violated. Nothing less is acceptable! What is happening? It is now Tuesday evening and very little.  Why has it taken so long?

Steve Smith has admitted it. We know it happened. Everyone in the world saw it.

What we know about great sporting teams is:

“. that the most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.” Sam Walker -The Captain Class page xv

He also talks about some sporting team leaders who broke the rules (with positive outcomes.) When is it appropriate to break the rules? A good subject for many Blogs.

Sport and society

All sports (in fact all of society) are based on rules, guidelines and mores which govern our behaviour. In the end, our behaviour is based on a “set of values” we acquire as we mature.

A ‘good society’ has a set of rules which govern human behaviour.

Is Cricket a good society?

Up till recently, there is some evidence although one defence to this event is that everyone is doing it so maybe there is doubt?

There is a term “it’s not cricket’ which generically is interpreted as “there are rules and high standards, and they should be followed”.  Cricket is a gentleman’s (and now women’s) game. So now after one hundred and fifty years – IT IS NOT CRICKET!

The Game of Cricket

The game of Cricket is based on a set of rules laid down by International Cricket Board – the game has many rules simple and complex.

Over time players learn the rules and learn to respect the rules. The Umpires are appointed to ‘arbitrate’ on the rules in situ to ensure both teams play by the rules. In recent years technology improvements have been introduced with debatable impact. In this case, it is technology which is used to make the behaviour “transparent”- catch the offender. In the 21st Century, it is hard to believe this level of stupidity.

The structures in some ways have reverted to the old professional and amateur days – what is different is the commercial explosion. It is not unique to cricket, but this story is about cricket.  The majority of players play on weekends amateurs for the love of the game.The professionals now play ten months a year’s in a never-ending circus of relatively meaningless competitions. Who knows and who cares?

As it happens the professionals are the heroes and the entertainers and make all the money – they are the product. Their role is to play at a high standard, be competitive and be entertaining. Everything about the game is professional.

In our lifetime there have been events in history which have tarnished the game and the players.Who will forget:

    • underarm delivery or
    • the test when some of our leading Australian cricketers bet against their team in a test match.

At the time of these events, there was an uproar, and our sense of integrity was questioned not unlike the current uproar.

The Importance of cricket in Australia

One element of an Australian national identity was formed around playing the “old country” in cricket and in 1880’s there was real passion around the colonies playing England –there still is – as has been said to me on more than one occasion “The Ashes series is the only series that matters.”

It is important to remember there was a time when Amateur Cricketers in England were held in much higher regard than professional cricketers – separate dressing rooms and walking on the fields through different gates. This nonsensical barrier eroded in mid the last century and then the significant shift. The Packer revolution and the entertainment business emerged. Since then there has been an explosion in product, media exposure and money. With the voracious appetite of the media, all sports are struggling to capture their share of the entertainment dollar. Sponsorship, media revenue at a national level and for many at a personal level the same scramble for dollars. It might be argued since professionalism has come it has been all downhill!

In the 21st Century once a player reaches the “top level” the goals change:

From representing your country as an honour, it morphs into to optimising the value of your brand. A seductive and lucrative shift for some.

Cricket was a game that had traditions values and an unwritten code that governed the players and administrators. When that tradition was challenged, or code was broken all hell was loosed. Over recent years the significant shifts distorted reality. The monomaniacal focus on winning at all cost and money does this!

I had such a wonderful time when my sons played cricket, and I took them to the Gabba – just the other day one of my sons posted a clip of Dean Jones scoring 145 saying – “we were there!”. Memories!

No words describe the “gutted” feeling from Sunday but somewhere inside a broken-hearted young boy is looking at his heroes profoundly disillusioned! And now an enraged grandfather is pondering what to say to his grandsons when they ask me to take them to the cricket.

In the emerging discussion about punishment – one match from the ICC is pathetic – possibly one year for a couple of players is manifestly inadequately. Hardly a blip on their calendar – a refreshing break. What signal does it send?

What are the factors to consider?

Many years ago, in another life, I was interested in the evolution of the professional sport and spent some time reading about ethical leadership and moral character, and at the time the website of the Australian Sports Commission had an article in which I found the following:

“If sport loses its integrity and value as something worth honouring, it will have many detrimental effects, not least of all, challenging the cultural importance that sport has in Australia. Other effects include:

  • Diminishing sports ability to provide positive role models for young people
  • Diminishing community support and respect
  • Diminishing its ability to be an agent of social cohesion
  • Decreasing corporate support
  • Decreasing membership
  • Increasing litigation and insurance costs
  • Increasing negative media coverage

It is also worth noting that many of the inappropriate behaviours occurring in sport are not only socially unacceptable but are in fact illegal and have long-term negative effects on people’s lives.” Author Unknown

Reference: Australian Sports Commission – Ethics in Sport – paper on Web Site (2006)

In the early paragraphs of this, I said I was upset but not surprised. Over many years I have watched the evolution of professional sport, and it seems there is a continuum.

What is a game, or activity becomes a sport; the sport becomes an entertainment product, and then on an intermittent basis it becomes A JOKE! (the entertainment system thrives!)

Then it moves between entertainment and JOKE!!

On reflection all of those issues raised by the Australian Sports Commission need to be considered but how does one value the destruction of dreams?

A young boy whose heart is broken and

A Grandpa whose answer to the question “Can you take me to the cricket?” is caught up in a sea of rage!



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