PETER DAY. Cricket’s lost trophy

OMG: Disastrous. Unbelievable. Shameful. Disgraceful. What the…!

Here we go again, yet another betrayal of trust from those who should know better: pre-meditated cheating by our national cricketers, including our captains, for goodness sake.

Cricket’s ‘backyard’ soul is long since gone. Its corporatisation has created a culture of privilege and entitlement and turned the game, and many of its sporting cousins, into a corporate behemoth – a dog eat dog world of intellectual property rights, franchises, lawyers, commercial interests, and ruthless power-brokers.

Winning is everything, and self-interest, the jockey. In such a hyper competitive environment, gaining an advantage, any advantage, becomes the Holy Grail; even a one per cent edge can be the difference between winning and losing, between keeping your job and looking for another. No wonder sporting organisations aggressively pursue all sorts of human expertise: corporate heavyweights, nutritionists, scientists, bio mechanists, dieticians, psychologists, hypnotherapists, life coaches, lawyers, motivators, and so on.

It is a terribly costly exercise that demands a 24/7 focus and a whatever it takes mentality. Within this milieu, risk-taking becomes an essential requirement. The temptations are enormous as administrators and participants weigh-up the pros and cons of pushing boundaries to the limit, of ‘tasting that forbidden fruit’ – of getting that damn ball to reverse swing as quickly as possible!

Exacerbating matters is the pervasive individual rights narrative that has taken hold: a narrative that has spawned an equally pervasive self-centred, me-ism. Think the recent and bitter pay dispute between the cricketers and their administrators: a “show me the money” battle won by those determined to protect their rights, determined to continue to be housed in their bubble of privilege and entitlement.

But men, even the good, don’t tend to do too well in this bubble. They become disconnected from their fellow citizens and fans, disconnected from ‘pub test’ values and ethics – and the bubble always bursts, anyway!

Perhaps it’s time to tamper with the narrative, to reverse its inclination from personal rights first to personal responsibilities first: from “I matter first” to “You matter first.”

Thus, the privilege of playing and contributing to the game takes precedence over the privileges and contributions sought from the game.

After all, cricket’s greatest trophy is not made of gold, or silver, or bronze, or ashes; rather, it is an alloy of grace and fairness.

This is the trophy that inspires true greatness.

This is the trophy we lost somewhere in the backyard all those years ago.

Peter Day is a Catholic priest in Canberra.

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John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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