Posted by: nestaquin | August 26, 2008

The Spirit of Cricket

Back in 1999, two former England captains, both MCC members and living legends, Ted Dexter and Colin Cowdrey, sought to have a preamble added to the game’s laws that they called The Spirit of Cricket. It was designed to remind players of their responsibility for ensuring that cricket is always played in a truly sportsmanlike manner.

It was accepted in 2000 and the opening paragraph is as eloquent as it is idealistic.

Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains.

It is a simple seven point decree covering respect, conduct and responsibility. It was a grand sentimental idea that inspired Australian players, most notably Steve Waugh, to expand on the original and create their own preamble specifically for the Australian game.

In five short years, the document has become one of the most important in Australian cricket and applies to all levels of the sport from school children to the men and women who wear the Baggygreen. Some think it is naive and anachronistic but I am pleased that every cricketer has the compassion and wisdom of Steve Waugh and his associates to guide them through the interminably long and unbearably dry summer.

By empowering the players to set their own standards, Cricket Australia have created an atmosphere of responsibility, not forced administratively from above but created from within the Australian cricket community.

It has been a powerful force in resurrecting the interest in the game’s history and traditions especially among the youth and cricket, now and into the future, will benefit from Steve’s vision of clearly stating what is expected from everyone when they engage within Australian cricketing circles.

I am unaware of any other nation that has a document written and wholly accepted by the players explaining exactly how their cricket should be played. I sincerely hope that all cricketing nations have one or are in the process of creating one.

I expect that in the decades to come The Players’ Spirit of Australian Cricket will become Steve Waugh’s greatest legacy and I have included it below for all to scrutinise.

The Players’ Spirit of Australian Cricket

As cricketers who represent Australia we acknowledge and embrace The Spirit of Cricket and the laws of our game.

This Players’ Spirit of Australian Cricket serves as a guide to the shared standards of behaviour that we expect of ourselves and of the values we hold.

Our on-field behaviour

We play our cricket hard but fair and accept all umpiring decisions as a mark of respect for our opponents, the umpires, ourselves and the game.

We view positive play, pressure, body language and banter between opponents and ourselves as legitimate tactics and integral parts of the competitive nature of cricket.

We do not condone or engage in sledging or any other conduct that constitutes personal abuse.

We encourage the display of passion and emotion as a sign of our enjoyment and pride in the game, as a celebration of our achievements and as a sign of respect for our opponents.

Our off-field behaviour

It is acknowledged that we have a private life to lead but understand our off-field conduct has the potential to reflect either positively or adversely on us as individuals and also on the game of cricket.

We consider off field conduct that may be likely to warrant legitimate public criticism to be unacceptable conduct.

Our team

We take pride in our sense of the importance of the team and acknowledge the role of the team captain and our direct support staff. We demonstrate this by displaying loyalty and compassion to each other, by accepting our role as mentors and by supporting each other to abide by these values.

We value honesty and accept that every member of the team has a role to play in shaping, and abiding by our shared standards and expectations.

We strive to be regarded as the best team in the world. We measure this by our on field achievements and by exploring ways in which we might continue to raise the bar in respect of our own professionalism.

We acknowledge and follow the traditions of our game while encouraging and accepting experimentation that will enable us to create our own traditions and history.

We do this in the expectation that we will leave the game in a better shape than it was before we arrived.

Our opponents

We acknowledge and respect that our opponents may hold different cultural values and beliefs from our own, and value the diversity and richness this adds to the game.

By treating our opponents with dignity and forging bonds of mutual respect, we will overcome any cultural barriers.

Our supporters

We value our supporters and acknowledge those who support our opponents and the game of cricket. We demonstrate commitment to our supporters by always giving our best and demonstrating leadership in everything we do.

Our family

We value the contribution and sacrifices of our families that enable us to meet these expectations.

Respect
We respect the governing bodies of the game, our support teams in every capacity and our players’ association. We demonstrate this respect by seeking and offering frank and open communication in accordance with the Players’ Spirit of Australian Cricket.

___________________________________________

Tomorrow: It is The Don’s 100th birthday and like the rest of the southern continent and most of the cricketing world 99.94 will be celebrating and remembering the finest cricketer that ever walked the planet. We have something special planned so put on your party hats and pop in for a pleasant surprise.

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Responses

  1. I generally don’t have a problem with Australian cricketers’ behaviour (I don’t like umpire intimidation, but apart from that, I’ve got no concerns).

    Presumably the Australian cricket team believe that they play according to their spirit of cricket document, “hard but fair”. I want them to play hard but fair.

    But it’s just nonsense to suggest that it’s come kind of high-principled thing that sets cricketers on some higher ethical plane than professionals in other sports (or cricketers from other countries). Heavy appealing, repeated questioning of umpires, constant sledging, etc. They’re professional sportsmen, trying to push the boundaries as far as they can go without transgressing the code of conduct or the laws – things that earn actual punishment.

    Australia’s cricketers have been very unpopular at times since the adoption of this spirit thing, inside and outside Australia. Now I couldn’t care less about that, since I just want them to win. But either a) the players aren’t abiding by the spirit thing, which means that the document has so far been worthless, or b) the spirit document doesn’t remotely capture the feelings of much of the cricketing world about how cricket should be played. If b) is true, then again I couldn’t care less, but let’s not hold up the document as some great guiding light.

    You seem to be writing about Australian cricketers as though they’re these paragons of virtue, when they’re just not. Things seemed much nicer and smoother under Taylor, when there wasn’t an official spirit document.

  2. Dave, I agree that at the professional level the Aussies regularly overstep the mark and let themselves down in the heat of the contest.

    However, looking forward, the document, which is being taught to kids throughout the country, will have a lasting effect.

    International cricket is by its very nature elitist and is hardly representative of the cricket played in every town on this vast continent. It is at this level where the Spirit of Cricket is making the biggest impact.

    Perhaps the next generation of cricketers that wear the Baggygreen will be better behaved than the current lot but I wouldn’t count on it. The rewards and pressure are too great.

    However, in my recent experience, I’ve noticed a big change in attitude towards umpires and opponents at grade level and this can only be for the better.

    I think the captain does have a big influence on the way his team behaves and I’ve seen little indication that Pup will lead the team like Ponting or Waugh. So there is hope but only time will tell.

  3. There is much here that is laudable and it is useful to present young, inexperienced players with a context within which the game is played.

    As you might imagine, the phrase which is most foreign to an Englishman is, “…banter between opponents and ourselves as legitimate tactics…”

    “Banter” is a subjective descriptor of speech which is aiming to provoke a response (since banter implies two way communication). Here’s a definition from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/

    banter
    noun [U]
    conversation which is amusing and not serious.

    “Tactics” impiles a planned, coordinated behaviour aimed at gaining an advantage.

    I find it difficult to reconcile these terms. If the amusing conversation is purely that, it is welcome in any environment, but it is not. It is a tactic. It is serious and is not amusing if someone is being put off going about their work, earning a living for their family (respect for which appears later).

    This mismatch between terms may be the result of attempting to write a high-minded and useful document, whilst acknowledging the role of “mental disintegration” in winning cricket matches. Perhaps it should have been more frank – “Sledging short of personal abuse is part of the game and is available as a tactic to all players. Those players subjected to sledging have to deal with it or ship out”. Isn’t that the reality?

  4. I’m of the opinion that sledging is overplayed by the media – and oh, how I hate the media. Many followers of this game seem to believe that “sledging/mental disintegration” is personal abuse. It is not – mostly it is a remark on the batsman’s game or technique, or something totally irrelevant to take the batsman’s mind off the game. Ponting has been quite clear that personal abuse will not be tolerated, and he has been saying this since he became captain in 2002. Yet still, I do not know why so much mud sticks to the Australian cricket team, when every nation’s team sledges. Frankly, to me, the poor perception is ridiculous and unfortunate. I feel terribly sorry for the Australian players who continually put up with this perception.

    Just as an aside: Nesta Quin – this must be the most well written cricket blog I have come across. You have an eloquence that few can match.

  5. With regard to why “so much mud sticks to the Australian cricket team”, it may be because, firstly, the Aussies were the first – and to my mind, the only one – to defend sledging as a legitimate cricketing tactic. This is different from accepting it as something which happens on the ground. Sledging, to a lesser extent also happens in other sports like football (witness the Materazzi-Zidane incident) but I don’t recall any footballer coming forward to defend it as a legitimate footballing tactic.

    Secondly, the Aussies were perceived as making up their own rules in this regard. Abuse which Indians/Pakistanis/Sri Lankans and even South Africans (“Are you a quota player?”) found extremely offensive were okay presumably because it was something that was accepted as normal in Australia.

    I think chitchat in Cricket is inevitable as the game involves a lot of breaks in action. There is really no way of avoiding the chatter. The point is to keep it within bounds. Hopefully, cricketers will evolve a common code – it can’t be imposed, really. I am reminded of an American state where apparently, the legislators passed a law forbidding cartoonists from depicting them as animals. To which, a cartoonist responded by depicting the legislators as potatoes, tomatoes etc. Human ingenuity being such, I seriously doubt whether any formal restriction on sledging – unacceptable words etc. – will work. As I said, hopefully, cricketers will will evolve an acceptable code.

  6. On yesterday’s long and at times testy thread I wrote a few paragraphs about sledging and it seems appropriate to post them, albeit slightly edited, here also.

    There is a difference between sledging and abuse and it seems few outside the southern hemisphere understand the concept. Sledging (not abuse) is common and accepted on every sporting ground, pool or court in Australia.

    In my view it makes the contest more intense but what is said on the field is generally left on it and it is not unusual for the combatants to have a beer and a laugh about what was said after the match.

    I’ve also found that the best sledgers are the funniest and that makes standing under a hot sun chasing leather or building an innings all the more enjoyable.

    On-field banter is so entrenched within Australian sport that when the Manly Cricket Club of Sydney decreed that their players would not partake in sledging they won the competition as most opponents found the silence uncomfortable and disturbing. The Kiwis used the same tactic at Test level against the Australians with some success.

    I think it is incredibly honest of the writers of the spirit of cricket to include the sledging reference and I’m a little baffled, like many Australians, when other teams complain about it. Didn’t their Mum’s tell them that sticks and stones may break your bones but names can never hurt them.

    I’d like all countries to have their own version of the spirit of cricket as it illustrates the nature and style of their unique cricketing culture and can only assist in generating an understanding of each other despite our cultural, political and religious differences.

    Perhaps, when the English players find the time to pen theirs they could add a line something like the one that follows.

    We view the sucking of mints to enhance the shine on the ball as a legitimate tactic and an integral part of the competitive nature of cricket.

    Maybe it’s time to get all these shadowy yet common tactics out in the open so that every team has the choice to use them if they wish.

    All teams are welcome to sledge the Australians and the Kiwis, MCC and Proteas give as good as they get. The sub-continental teams are yet to understand the boundaries but I feel that in time, they’ll get the hang of it.

  7. There is a difference between sledging and abuse and it seems few outside the southern hemisphere understand the concept.

    Doesn’t this tell you something? That may be, it is the Aussies who are out of step here? And yet, you write blithely as though the “failure to understand” is completely with the “others”, in particular, the sub-continental teams.

    Didn’t their Mum’s tell them that sticks and stones may break your bones but names can never hurt them.

    Indeed. Then, what was the brouhaha in the Andrew Symonds/Harbhajan Singh affair all about? Words can and do matter. They do hurt. Indeed, isn’t that the whole point of sledging? Hurt the other guy so that he is distracted from the game just like Zidane was in the World Cup final?

    Regarding the distinction between abuse and sledging, well, what is a sledge to one may be abuse to another. In the Aussie context, words like “bastard” may not matter, in other contexts, they do. A colored South African player is hurt if asked whether he is a “quota player” even though no “abusive words” are involved. You cannot simply assume that the Aussie standard for what is acceptable is the “global” standard. I don’t think there is any such standard.

    The sub-continental teams are yet to understand the boundaries [between sledging and abuse] but I feel that in time, they’ll get the hang of it.

    Again, what “boundaries”? Who decides what they are? The teams of the “southern hemisphere”?

    I like your blog but your comment, I am sorry to say, betrays a perspective that the Aussie way is the “right way.” You say you’d like other teams produce their version of the “spirit of Cricket”? Why should they? Any reason other than that the Aussies have done so? I am sure if other countries find the need for a “spirit of Cricket” they will draft one. (Btw, the Aussies themselves didn’t find the need to have one until now!) But that doesn’t mean they will do so just because the Aussies have done so.

    As I said, in my previous comment, it is for cricketers to sort such issues out. I am sure they will ultimately find something acceptable to all but it will take time.

  8. suresh,

    My comment about other teams getting the hang of sledging was tongue-in-cheek and I apologise if I have caused you or anyone else offense.

    I, like many Australian cricketers, enjoy sledging, however, there are limits. Racism and abuse of one’s family are not acceptable.

    As I stated, the humorous sledge is far more powerful than the nasty variety for the latter only emboldens and strengthens your opponent. The former makes you laugh and that I have found is a sure way to lose focus in a tight situation.

    I think you have read far more into my comments than intended and I stand by the notion that every nation should develop their own version of the spirit of cricket so we can better understand each other.

    I have no idea what Indian cricket stands for. It would be welcome if the cricketers could inform us all of what they expect from themselves. To be completely frank, from afar it seems they only care for cash and controversy.

    It is not only Aussies that sledge well although like most things cricket we do excel at it. The South Africans, Kiwis and English are also very adept at the art. The Pakistanis aren’t too bad either.

    The quickest way to stop an opponent sledging you is to dominate the bowling. The fielders will shut their traps soon enough. It is very satisfying I can assure you.

    There is obviously a cultural difference and hopefully through discussion and respect we can find some common ground so that we can all play cricket fraternally and not as mortal enemies.

    So many of Australia’s opponents think that playing hard cricket is about insult and playing as close to the breaking the rules as possible. This is not what it means.

    To play hard means that you play with enthusiasm and passion striving with every sinew and nerve to give your best every ball. You literally play each match like it is your last.

    That will never change, for that is how most Australians, and all our athletes at elite level, approach every sporting contest.

  9. ‘[Indian players] only seem to care for cash and controversy…’

    Australian cricketers would of course never put money first.

    Unless it’s the IPL.

    Whilst it’s great that Australian juniors are being encouraged to abide by the “spirit of cricket’, non-Australian teams have always chuckled at the irony that they were introduced by Steve Waugh – it was his team, brilliant cricketers though they were, that really pushed the art of sledging to new highs.

    So ‘banter’ is ok but abuse isn’t. And it’s not abuse if it’s funny? Funny to who exactly? Is the criteria that it’s ok if the average Australian thinks it’s funny or amusing (ignoring that someone from another country still finds it insulting.)

    It’s all far too vague for my liking and so difficult to draw the line between what one team or culture considers banter and what another team considers abuse.

    And just to give you all a quick update on ‘mintgate’:

    Not a peep from Cricket Australia;

    Troy Cooley is still employed by Cricket Australia; and

    The ICC won’t be banning the eating of murray mints (or other lollies) during a game.

    Even here in Australia, the papers, after their initial outrage, are waking up to the fact they may well have embarrassed themselves with their initial reaction (see the sports headline in today’s “Australian”) .

    The press also seem to have cottoned on to the point that Tresco has a book he’s trying to sell…….

    This from Cricinfo:

    “Terry Alderman, the former Australian bowler who had a wonderful record in the Ashes, wasn’t too perturbed with Trescothick’s revelation. “He has retired now and he has just written that to sell the book,” Alderman told AFP. “I’ve never heard of that working. How much difference could a breath mint make?”

    As I mentioned the other day, my understanding is that reverse swing is aided by roughing up the non-shiny side of the ball (and of course the correct bowling action – according to Cooley its all about wrist placement on release.)

    PS Nesaquin, I understand that part of the “massive English conspiracy” to cheat their way to Ashes victory in 2005 was the cunning placement of ‘their man’ at Buckingham Palace. His job is to intercept letters from aggrieved Australians demanding that the English team return their gongs from ever reaching her majesty.

  10. every cricketer be it Indian or Australian, should follow the ethics and code of conduct for the game. And it is not the case that Indians put money first before cricket. People generally blame this because of they did not see their players any where in terms of earning money.

  11. An interesting discussion and I find Suresh’s questions have not been answered. Can we get a straignt answer?
    1) If sledging is not abuse, and is supposed to be humorous only, and only you guys in the Southern Hemisphere understand it, then what is Mcgrath asking Sarwan “How does Brian lara’s d*ck tastes like?” Sledging, eh? Humorous banter, eh? I know you wont answer that one because that puts a lie to all teh elaborate explanations Aussies give about sledging being legitimate
    2) why should otehr nations understand Oz? Why cant you understand others? why cant you simply say “I say bastard to Englishmen, they dont take offence, but Indians do so I will refrain” but then you wont. YOu will continue to say “in my culture it is ok, so why is not ok in your culture, you are neanderthals. How can it not be ok in a civilised nation to find someone calling someoneelse a bastard humorous?”. This is what Aussies like you say. Think about it

  12. raj,

    If you read my comments carefully you will find the answers to all your questions. In fact, your rant, rather than discrediting the argument, actually strengthens it.


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