Leading Edge: Sit down, shut up, move on

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Adelaide

EMOTION is to the truth what mints are in the mouths of cricketers – dangerous. And after days of much more emotion than truth we need to get back to the facts.

Here’s the only one that matters: if Faf du Plessis did not have contraband in his mouth, from which he fetched spit to shine the ball during the Hobart test, we would not have had the week from tabloid hell.

Don’t blame the television cameras for zooming in on the mint. Or the press for swooping on the story. Or International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson for charging Du Plessis. Or match referee Andy Pycroft for finding Du Plessis guilty of ball-tampering.

All of those things are as they should be. And none of them would have happened had Du Plessis not violated the laws of the game with gratuitous impunity – he would have gotten away with it had he the good sense not to flaunt his indiscretion open-mouthed.

This, then, is all his fault. He is the villain of this piece.

It doesn’t matter a jot that everybody does it, including – as Steve Smith admitted – the Australians.

It also doesn’t matter that the relevant part of law 42 is out of step with what has been happening on cricket grounds worldwide for decades.

What does matter is that what Du Plessis did, and did blatantly, is outlawed.

Guilty as charged. Do not pass go. Do not collect R200.

And yet South Africans both inside and outside the dressingroom have howled at the moon with disingenuous indignation.

They are one with that sorry class of homo sapiens who booed Du Plessis for scoring a century in Adelaide on Thursday.

We have to be angry with him for treating the regulations and conventions of the game that pays his bills like crap. But we have to celebrate him for adorning the same game with an innings of shimmering quality and not a little chutzpah. Simply, hate the tampering not the tamperer.

Let’s blame Donald Trump. Now that politics has been tipped into a post-truth abyss where everything is as someone says it is and not as it really is, why should cricketminded South Africans and Australians resist the primordial, illogical urge to think with their feelings rather than their faculties?

That South Africans watching this calamity unfold from home are pissed off is understandable. But they shouldn’t be pissed off with anyone except Du Plessis.

Of course the South African squad were upset at Du Plessis’ fate. So upset that Hashim Amla stepped clean out of his own character to say so at a ham-fisted press conference in Melbourne.

It was difficult not to draw parallels between Amla and Trump when Amla insisted he knew nothing of the theories of what sugary saliva could do to cricket balls.

That assertion looked sillier still in the days that followed when Du Plessis and Smith spoke of the pervasiveness of the practice.

None of which denigrates anyone mentioned. Du Plessis is a gutsy player, a canny captain, and the best leader of players in South Africa, in any sporting code. Amla is decency on legs, a powerful example of how the world could be a much better place, and a wonderful batsman.

But even paragons like these can get it wrong, and they have got it very wrong in recent days.

Now Du Plessis has decided to prolong this agony by appealling Pycroft’s decision. It would take some kind of lawyerly mumbo jumbo for this latest challenge to succeed, but even that won’t make it go away.

Here’s what will help that happen – Sit down. Shut up. Move on.

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