Australia as a cricket nation has figured in more controversies than any other. Whether it is betting against one’s own team, passing information to bookies, or discrimination against players on grounds of race and colour, Australia has played a leading role in most of the cricket controversies over the years.
And now, the Australians are at it again. Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh began the trend of betting against their own team and made a big packet. Later, Shane Warne and Mark Waugh accepted money from bookmakers supposedly in exchange of providing information. Yet, neither the Australian Cricket Board nor the International Cricket Council thought it worth their while to penalize these men. Rather, they were allowed to continue with their cricket as if they had committed no crime.
While condoning their own players, Australians have always been among the first to raise their voice to condemn others. They charged Pakistan’s Salim Malik of offering inducements to fix matches without any evidence. They charged Muthiah Muralitharan and Shoaib Akhtar of “chucking”. They also raised a hue and cry over Sourav Ganguly’s “bad” manners, because he arrived later than Steve Waugh for the toss.
The allegations of doping against Shane Warne did not surprise me at all. The trait of stretching and bending the rules for their own benefit has always been typical of the Aussies — as also is their wont to plead innocence and assume victimhood.
Since the Australian sports scientists are well aware of banned substances, there is little ground for Warne to plead innocence. He has taken the familiar route of saying that he relied either on his parents or friends or coaches; or that he had the banned substances by way of medication; or that he had not taken the banned drugs for performance enhancement. These are the usual pleas of sportspeople who have been caught having banned drugs.
The point here remains that Warne had taken the drugs and also tried his best to have it removed from the system by using diuretics. That means he was not only aware of the illegality of having the drugs but he also made an attempt to hide their presence in his system.
Another important issue is the hurry in which he left South Africa for his homeland. It means that the ACB did not want to risk keeping him in South Africa and field him in the World Cup. If they had done it, then, in all likelihood, he would have come under ICC guidelines and been suspended for two years. Taking him away without any delay was actually to save him from more questions.
Their glass house
Australia has always taken pride in its “clean” image. Only recently, they had raked up a huge fuss, alleging that Chinese athletes were under dope. What do they have to say now'
Australia’s policies have always been marked by hypocrisy. While South Africa was banned from international sports for its apartheid policy, Australia managed to escape the wrath of the international community for an almost similar offence. Australian cricket has treated aborigine players very harshly. Great aborigine fast bowlers like Jack Marsh, Albert Henry and Eddie Gilbert were never selected to play for Australia because of the colour of their skin and their “low” class.
Warne himself has been involved in endless controversies. He was caught making lewd passes at ladies — which he initially denied — and even manhandled a photographer for taking his photo while he was having a smoke. It transpired that Warne was publicly opposing smoking and so, did not want to lose his sponsorship deal by getting caught smoking.
So, it is nothing new for Warne to get involved in illegal and immoral acts and deny them later. In fact, he thrives on the publicity that such acts attract. Modern sport is a form of showbiz. More controversy brings more pecuniary benefits. Warne is the ideal model for modern sponsors who use sport as their vehicle.