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Who’s a cheat?

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(So here’s me thinking that I’d done a good job avoiding all scores and information from the first couple of days of the traditional New Years Test Match in Sydney.

That was, until this morning when a headline jumped up, telling me we’d taken a wicket in the first over of the match. So… I’m guessing they don’t start the game on January 1 anymore!)

Mike Hussey. Clearly not happy...

So, what constitutes cheating in sport?!

Firstly, a little back story…

In the first cricket test match against India, Australian Michael Hussey, struggling to keep his place in the team, came out to bat. With his career on the line, he was given out for zero when technology showed that his bat had made no contact with the ball.

Dejected and angry, he walked from the field.

In normal situations, he could ask for his unlucky decision to be immediately reviewed, and the technology at the game’s disposal would soon enough find out the truth, enabling him to continue his innings, and hopefully his outstanding career.

However, India is the one nation that refuses to agree to the implementation of the technology in its matches. They feel it is ‘unreliable’.

Amazingly, Hussey agrees.

(Just a terrible decision by the ‘International Cricket Council’ to relent to pressure from India and allow ‘teams’ to decide if they will use technology [only India refuses its assistance]. No wonder cricket is as far behind as they are. Why refuse the assistance if it helps make more accurate decisions? So what if it’s not perfect? It never will be. Just ask Bill Gates and Microsoft.)

A hero gone?

This situation with one of the more respected and admired batsmen in modern day cricket caused quite a ruckus. And it had people asking me, ‘If a player or team appeals against a batsman when they know him to not be out, does that constitute cheating??’

This of course crossed over to other sports. What about in football where players claim to have touched the ball before it crosses the line for a goal, only for replays to show that he was nowhere near the ball?

Kobe at work...

In basketball, where working the referees’ is an artform – just ask Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan – watch a game for 5 minutes and wait for the inevitable whining and complaining from players regarding a foul that they couldn’t possibly have made, before, again, seeing replays that show obvious contact. Rasheed Wallace, we’re looking at you

Rasheed Wallace. 'Who, me, foul?!'

Where does this behaviour cross the line from gamesmanship to cheating?

If a fielding team in cricket knows that an opposing player is not out but appeals anyway, putting the burden of proof on a single umpire, is that not cheating?

Players who continually complain to umpires and referees – are they not known as cheats before long, or is ‘everybody’ doing it, and so it just becomes the norm?

There’s no definitive answer here, but it’s a theme worth exploring.

Who doesn’t?!

I can’t think of many players I’ve played alongside who don’t wait for the umpire’s decision if, in cricket for example, they know that they are out, or for that matter, refuse the free throws in basketball if they know that there had been no contact against them. For mine, that doesn’t constitute cheating.

Cam Mooney and the free kick that wasn't. Fare thee well, 2010...

The discipline in this theory, however, is then accepting the umpire’s decision when they are given out when they haven’t made contact with the bat or are repeatedly sending opposing players to the foul line when little or no contact is made.

And that’s where we start to see the fireworks!

Some people handle the little innocuous refereeing mistake with a sly grin or some amusing banter with the player being rewarded for the error.

Others blow up out of all proportion, making for genuine amusement for everyone else, especially in basketball where referees are so well known for their love of their decisions being questioned.

It takes a strong-minded and disciplined individual to consistently see the bigger picture in light of a play, a series of plays or an entire game where everything and everyone seems to be against them… Not too many hold up under these circumstances. It’s just that some have shorter fuses than others. (And as an opposing player, there’s nothing more enjoyable than knowing which opponents are mentally fragile!)

Pakistan's Mohammad Asif cheating for money

Me and you

In cricket, would I appeal if I knew an opposing player wasn’t out? No. You? Would I ‘walk’ if I knew I was out and the other team appealed? No. I would wait to be given out. You? Would I gladly walk to the free throw line as soon as the referee’s whistle blows, signifying a foul, regardless of what contact I felt?! Hell yes. You?! Would I claim to have touched a ball before it went over the goal line if I knew I hadn’t touched it? No. You?

But what if it was the last minutes of a close AFL Grand Final. Would we do it then?

What if getting the NBA referees alongside meant that we would see increased playing time and minutes, and therefore increased stats, equating to more money and a longer playing career? Would we be so moral?

Would we appeal in an international test match if we desperately needed the player to be out, therefore helping us win a crucial game and possibly shoring up our position in the team in the process?

Um, yep, that's a handball

Would we blatantly stop a goal with our hands in a major soccer World Cup Quarter-Final? (That clip is horrible to watch. For the record, the handball was seen, the penalty was correctly given, but saved by the keeper, and Uruguay went on to win…)

Because that’s cheating.

But somewhere in between lingering at the crease when we know we’ve had a nick, complaining to basketball refs about fouls we don’t like and breaking rule no. 1 in soccer in the midst of a World Cup final – don’t use your hands – the line between gamesmanship and cheating has clearly been crossed.

A blurry line

It’s a blurry line and is one that crosses over outside of the sporting world. When does not telling the truth constitute a lie? Is embellishing or not including certain activities in your tax return really ‘cheating’? Would you support a mate no matter what or push for the truth to be told?

What would I do? What would you do?

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About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

2 responses »

  1. I find it amusing that when I play FIFA 2012 on the iPad, whenever a ball goes out of bounds, the nearest player from both teams raise their hand to appeal for possession. I think there’s something in that. I remember when playing footy or cricket as a teenager that I would almost will the decision to go my way. If you want it so much, in the heat of the moment, you appeal for things that may not be rational or truthful. Up the factor by 1000 in the heat of an AFL final or clutch playoff game and you can understand athletes backing themselves in and taking the fight with the ref. I think you raised a good point about MJ and Kobe ‘working the ref’ – I feel like that’s somewhat of an art-form in basketball and probably not as common in other sports. We have to remember that at the essence of sporting contests, no matter how much they may have been corrupted by big money, it’s a game. So I personally love the involvement of the referee in proceedings. I love the interaction between the players and the authority figure. I love the human error. I’m with Federer. Don’t replace all the humans with robots. They will get it wrong, but I think Jesse Hogan from The Age summed it up well by saying that technology has a role to play, not in perfection, but eliminating the howlers. Both decisions in the Boxing Day test that went against Australia looked very close to the naked eye, so I don’t think technology should necessarily intervene.

    Reply
  2. Who would want to walk in a cricket match? It can be a long time from one innings to another so I can understand the reluctance of batsmen to walk. Unlike basketball, if you don’t get the call then earn the ball back and go again, simple as that. However the ‘walkers’ in cricket always earn the respect of those around them, not to mention the self respect it brings which I think deserves a mention. The impact of self respect on ourselves should not be underestimated.

    Soccer is a weird on, that player may not have meant to hit that ball? Even when playing indoor I personally had several instances where I hit the ball, its was just a natural and sudden reaction. The hands are after all our most used and functional body part. The difference being however the Uruguay defender simply played on as though he’d done nothing wrong. Shame. Shame. He has to live with that.

    As for technology, if its not going to be used for the game then get it off the big screen and the TV so that we can avoid stupid debates and arguments over something benign as another game of sport.

    On a footnote, I’d like to state that I have probably played over 1000 games of basketball and in all that time the biggest blow up from a player I ever saw was from an individual who will be reading this reply. Perhaps you could enlighten us Mr Evans and list a number of quotes?

    Reply

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