Don't rein in aggression, say players
Australia's cricketers should not be reined in from the aggression they showed during the first Ashes Test and broadcasters have erred in exposing players to unnecessary sanctions from the ICC, their union chief Paul Marsh has said. Michael Clarke was fined for a comment to the England No. 11 James Anderson that was relayed by stump microphone during the closing moments of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, drawing an apology from Channel Nine.
Clarke's words to Anderson included "get ready for a broken f***ing arm" as the Englishman delayed facing up to the man of the match Mitchell Johnson. This advice was no great departure from what is commonly said on the field, but Clarke was nonetheless sanctioned for his words due to their broadcast around Australia and the world.
Australia's aggressive posture throughout the Test helped to reap a 381-run victory over England, their first win in an Ashes Test match since December 2010. Marsh, chief executive of the Australian Cricketers Association, said he hoped Clarke's team would not be reined in by Cricket Australia for pursuing a brand of cricket that was aggressive in both word and deed.
"That's how we play our best cricket," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "To be aggressive on the field is what I think the Australian cricket team needs to do and I thought it was terrific that they did that. I think the majority of the Australian public were very buoyed by the way they played, the aggression they showed on the field, so I hope there's no attempt to rein them in.
"We all know there is a line, and not for one minute am I saying the players should cross that line, but I think there's nothing wrong with aggressive cricket, not just what you say but how you go about it. The fast bowling in this match was first-rate and the players showed they weren't going to take a backward step. The words of the English players would suggest they were more than comfortable with what was said out on the pitch."
Marsh said broadcasters risked their access to on-field audio if such instances were not stamped out. "The broadcasters of the game have a significant responsibility when they're using stump mic," Marsh said. "The players put a lot of trust in them that things that are said on the field remain on the field - most times they get that right.
"But it's still disappointing and not acceptable to us that these types of incidents make their way into viewers' living rooms, because the players agreed to have stump mics and the accessibility they give all the broadcasters around the world on the proviso that it is used responsibly. If, as it appears, Michael's copped a fine because of the audio that was heard in people's living rooms that shouldn't have been heard, then it's very disappointing."
Marsh has written to CA expressing his displeasure about the incident. "I've written to CA this morning and had a response from them around the issue," he said. "These things have happened a few times over the years and it's something the broadcasters have expressed remorse over historically, and they're remorseful again, but it doesn't really help Michael Clarke in this situation."
Nine's head of sport Steve Crawley has offered an apology to Clarke for allowing his chirping to reach audiences. "Clarke is an outstanding Australian cricket captain who's just led his team to a marvellous and historic win. He doesn't need or deserve that to be tarnished by our error and we of course apologise," said Crawley. "It's obviously a very rare and isolated error on our part, and we'll do our best to ensure it never happens again."
James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, did not defend Clarke, saying the captain needed to remain calm "even in the most highly charged situations".
"Whilst on-field banter and defence of a teammate is as old as the game itself, there can be a fine line between gamesmanship and a Code of Conduct breach," said Sutherland. "All players have a responsibility to manage their emotions even in the most highly charged situations. Michael agrees with this, has accepted the charge and is now entirely focused on the second Test in Adelaide."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here