Rambles up Hypocrisy Mountain

One of the side effects of back-to-back Ashes is back-to-back Ashes hype, a continuous feedback loop of witless trash talk

Andrew Hughes

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Tough job: Darren Lehmann watches Australia's performance, England v Australia, 2nd Investec Ashes Test, Lord's, 2nd day, July 19, 2013
Why walk when you can sit on a high horse? © Getty Images

Stuart Broad cheated at Trent Bridge. It doesn't matter that cheating is de rigeur, or that WG Grace used to distract bowlers by sticking out his tongue and making raspberry noises, or that Yorkshire children are beaten with sticks of rhubarb if they walk in a school game.

If you know you're out according to the laws of the game - in this case Law 32 - but you remain at the crease, then you are acting dishonestly to gain an advantage, or to put it another way, you are indulging in behaviour not unadjacent to cheating.

In my brief cricket career, cheating was usually not an option. When a man's stumps are lying in a splintered heap, it is pushing credibility to take the Fifth Amendment and wait for the umpire to incline his digit. I was a walker. I walked frequently, cheerfully, and without hesitation; the pavilion being a place of cake and refreshment, as opposed to the pitch, which was generally frequented by meanies and bullies.

So I can call Broad's actions cheating. You can call it cheating. Anyone can call it cheating, in fact, because cheating is what it was. The only people who can't call it cheating are people who start the sentence in which they intend to call it cheating by saying this:

"I don't believe in walking… "

It is like opening a speech condemning the President of Syria with the caveat that you don't believe there's anything necessarily wrong with gassing civilians. For Darren Lehmann, as for most cricketers, "cheat" is one of those irregular verbs, thus:

1. I let the umpire make the decision 2. You indulge in gamesmanship 3. He cheats

But disappointingly, having saddled up our high horses, we had to rein in our indignation, because on closer examination, it appears that Lehmann's half-hearted ramble up Hypocrisy Mountain had nothing to do with upholding the integrity of the game. It was just more wearisome grist to the Ashes banter-mill.

One of the side effects of back-to-back Ashes is back-to-back Ashes hype, a continuous feedback loop of witless trash talk, boring badinage, and Beavis-and-Butthead-level repartee (see Vaughan, M, of whom more later). Most of this is harmless drivel, and, like a Ravi Shashtri commentary spell, you can easily tune it out. But not all of it.

"I just hope the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer… "

By "give it to him" Darren did not mean "warm Australian hospitality". In most sports, when those in positions of influence address the crowd, it is to ask them if they're having a good time, or occasionally, to request that they behave themselves. Only in cricket is it cool to have coaches, or former captains asking spectators to verbally abuse the players.

"I want 25,000 at Trent Bridge, giving them pelters."

That was from the egregious Michael Vaughan, earlier this summer. Lehmann and Vaughan might see winding the crowd up as serving a short-term interest. In their world, winning the next game is all that matters, and everything else can go hang. The problem with winning at all costs is that when you get the bill, you might find you're not happy with all the items on there.

What if someone hits Broad with a bottle? What if a player is attacked, as John Snow was in 1971? What will Lehmann say then? You can be sure that blokey banter will be out, to be replaced by cross frowns and sombre condemnation, while an outraged Michael Vaughan takes to Twitter to explain that he had no idea pelt was a verb.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Posted by Simon on (August 27, 2013, 3:54 GMT)

Come on N_A_K_E, bias? Ya kiddin' right? Andrew can be accused of using irony & sarcasm, but bias? He's a humourist. Go back through his catalogue and you'll find plenty of similar articles with the same tone directed at players and officials of all nations, including Pomgolia. If you don't get it, then there are plenty of writers on this site who take themselves too seriously, that should appeal to your lack of humour.

Posted by Simon on (August 26, 2013, 3:28 GMT)

If ya right Andrew and players are being disingenuous by waiting for the umpire to make a decision, then shouldn't we just have a hat rack behind the stumps? I find it strange all the talk is about the poor moral form of the player and not about the complete and utter lack of ability of the decision maker. As for the pot/kettle of Lehmann; you're spot on, it's all about promotion. Sadly when England can only produce 2 & 1/4 out of a possible 5 playing days, all the actors look for other diversions. With 2.5 million accredited media attached, there'll be some who want the diversions to be the main act.

Posted by clair on (August 26, 2013, 3:08 GMT)

John snow was not "attacked", a spectator grabbed he's shirt, at least report the facts.

Posted by clair on (August 26, 2013, 3:03 GMT)

Andrew I hope one day you come up with something unbiased, but I will not hold my breath.

Posted by Dummy4 on (August 25, 2013, 11:41 GMT)

ICC should have declared Lehmann persona non-grata anywhere around any match organised by ICC, not just a token 20% match fee fine. If I was managing ECB, I would be writing to CA stating - "your coach has advised your crowds to abuse an English cricketer who did what Australians have been doing all these years. Now that your coach has asked Australian crowds to misbehave, CA have a moral responsibility to protect Broad from any action taken by your crowds on Lehman's advice. In case any Australian spectator takes Lehmann's advice & gives Broad any manner of unwarranted trouble, England will walk out of the match on grounds of crowd misbehaviour. England will be declared default winners since the crowd misbehaviour is driven by the Australian Team's coach (the way Sri Lanka were awarded a World Cup Semi Final at Calcutta)."

Posted by Andy on (August 25, 2013, 8:41 GMT)

Surely it's time to clarify this whole 'walking' issue, because whilst the Broad incident was probably the most blatant example, it is the norm, not an exception. Almost no one walks, not from any side. Broad did not claim to have not hit it, he merely stood and waited to be given out, as most batsmen do. The umpire somehow missed it and Australia had wasted their reviews. Lehmann's comments on the other hand are almost an incitement to violence, and let's remember Aussie crowds don't need much winding up where Poms are concerned. Lehmann's own contemporary, Ian Healy, responded the way most batsman do these days: "Walk? Only if your car runs out of petrol". Was it the German teams' responsibility in the 2010 World Cup to say that Frank Lampard's shot had crossed the line? No, it was up to the referee to signal a goal.

Posted by Yuji on (August 24, 2013, 13:00 GMT)

"When a man's stumps are lying in a splintered heap..." As a perennial tailender, I've certainly been there on more than one occasion. Although I once argued that the wind knocked the bail off. The opposing keeper actually agreed! (I later learnt he had an hour to kill before an appointment, so he didn't want my team to be bundled up too early...)

Either as a member of the batting team or as a neutral observer, I don't believe in walking. While I've occasionally wished the batsman would walk, usually when fielding, I think it undermines the umpire's authority to walk. (More so in the games I've played, where the umpire usually was appointed by the batting team... By the time the tail was batting, it was usually my captain who was umpiring.)

Posted by Dummy4 on (August 24, 2013, 10:26 GMT)

the last paragraph is very true.if something does happens to broad, many will consider lehmann to be responsible. clearly he should have thought more before giving such a statement

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Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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Andrew Hughes Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73
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