CA credibility hangs on drawing line under Sandpapergate

You will recall the old philosophical zinger: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Cricket Australia’s equivalent seems to be, “If a player engages in conduct that is tabloid heaven, but the tabloids don’t know, or likely won’t print it even if they do know, does it actually matter?”

And we now know the answer.

Cricket Australia concluded the answer was no, but amid the smoking ruins of CA’s credibility, the definitive answer is yes, it did matter.

And yes, of course everyone makes mistakes, and Paine needn’t be defined by a moment of insanity four years ago, but the fact remains: from the moment CA decided to look the other way and hope for the best there was always a huge risk that the current disaster was going to befall them. But a still larger issue now beckons and it is this:

This was the same 2018 CA that faithfully told us that it had no doubt that after looking into Sandpapergate it was confident that the corruption at the core of the team’s soul was limited to just three players. I found that hard to believe at the time, especially when the two-day investigation limited to the events of Cape Town was clearly designed not to uncover the truth but sweep it under CA’s notably lumpy carpet.

Cricket Australia’s actions regarding Tim Paine, centre, raise fresh questions about the sandpaper scandal involving Steve Smith and David Warner.Credit:Janie Barret/Nine/Brook Mitchell

After all, does it seem likely to you that three batsmen organised doctoring the ball, and no one told the bowlers? Think again on Cameron Bancroft’s comments earlier this year: “Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory …”

Now that we know that CA were happy to hide the Paine imbroglio, it clearly casts even more doubt on what they knew about how much further the rot might have spread in the team. If the new board of Cricket Australia really wants to prove they are the new broom the game needed in 2018 but clearly didn’t get, let them now be truly transparent and try to get to the bottom of that whole disastrous affair.

IOC has priorities wrong

When it comes to IOC President Thomas Bach conducting a carefully controlled chat with Peng Shuai – all designed to show she is not being held against her will, so there can be no more talk of diplomatic boycotts against the Winter Olympics this February – it was Amnesty International Australia’s Kyinzom Dhongdue who said it best.

President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach during the Tokyo closing ceremony in August.Credit:Getty Images

Take it away, Ms Dhongdue: “I have to say there’s something deeply troubling about the International Olympic Committee president taking part in the staged video call with Peng Shuai.” she told Sky News Australia. “The IOC must not participate in any whitewash of possible human rights violations and the forced disappearance of an athlete. The question to ask is if she’s really safe and sound, why can’t she speak directly to an independent journalist instead of via the IOC, why has the Chinese government erased her completely from the internet in China? We cannot exactly know what the situation is regarding Peng Shuai, but her statements so far do not prove that she can fully and generally enjoy her human rights to freedom of expression, liberty, security and movement.”

Exactly.

Who thinks the primary motivation of Bach was the safety of Peng Shuai, and who thinks his primary motivation was to show something which would allow the Winter Olympics to go ahead without boycotts?

On the one hand the Olympics movement always carries on about the peoples of the earth coming together in peace and so forth. On the other, when the rubber hits the road on serious matters of human rights, on the safety of one of its athletes now threatened by very powerful and dark forces, the IOC to my eyes looks to be lined up squarely and unfairly on the wrong side of the equation.

‘The tragic truth is that the issue of Peng Shuai, as appalling as it is, is no more than the tip of a very ugly iceberg.’

All this, and we haven’t even talked of the Uighur genocide – an estimated 1 million of them now detained with no legal process – at the hands of the Chinese. Tell me again how China were awarded the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing?

The tragic truth is that the issue of Peng Shuai, as appalling as it is, is no more than the tip of a very ugly iceberg and the idea that Bach having a staged chat with her can make any of it go away is as outrageous as it is ludicrous.

Lillee a man of the people

Try this for a wonderful sporting reminiscence. After TFF ’fessed up on Thursday that, even though I’m 60, I still retain a slightly childish adoration of Dennis Lillee – the great man! – one of the readers, SteveA, posted a comment:

“Back in the seventies, you could front up at the SCG on the day before the Sydney Test and watch the teams go through their paces in the nets and it didn’t cost a cent. You also had free reign to wander pretty much anywhere in the hallowed ground, including the playing surface itself.

The ever-obliging Dennis Lillee mobbed by fans in Melbourne in 1972.Credit:Fairfax Media

“Anyhow, after inspecting the Test wicket, and having had my request for an autograph brushed by the great Richie Benaud, (‘not now son, I haven’t got time’), I was wandering across the outfield discussing my ordinary run of form in the U/14s with the legendary league caller, Frank Hyde. It was like a dream that couldn’t get any better, until I spotted the solitary figure of DK Lillee, sitting in the lower deck of the Members Stand soaking in the sunshine of a perfect Sydney day. I quickly bid Mr Hyde farewell, and made my way through the gate to where the great man sat in quiet contemplation. An autograph? Sure mate. He signed both my autograph book and my ABC Cricket Book. That’s how you do sporting hero.”

Another reader, DavidW posted this: “As a 10-year-old in the 70s waiting outside the SCG practice nets with other autograph hopefuls, getting brushed by other members of the Oz team, DK comes out and says “OK boys, get in a line”. I got the prized autograph, words of encouragement and a shake of the hand from the great man, and walked away with a grin from ear to ear that lasted for weeks.”

Did I tell yers, or did I tell yers? I told yers!

Davo’s fitting farewell

When you talk “gentlemen of cricket,” they simply didn’t come finer than the late Alan Davidson who passed away late last month at the age of 92. As noted in this column at the time, there will be a public memorial service in his honour, and it is this Monday at – where else but? – the SCG. All members of the public are welcome from 11am, and speakers will include former Prime Minister John Howard and former Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor. You can park at Driver Avenue or in the Entertainment Quarter, while entry is via – where else but? – the SCG’s Alan Davidson Gates. Vale, Davo, you were one of the truly good’uns.

What they said

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan on Australia being named preferred host for the 2027 World Cup: “This is a huge step forward in our ambitions to host Rugby World Cup 2027 and for rebooting the game in Australia. Throughout this process, we’ve held the genuine belief the time was right to bring the Rugby World Cup back to our shores.”

Chinese professional tennis player Peng Shuai, in a quickly-deleted post a fortnight ago about former Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli: “Why did you have to come back to me, took me to your home to force me to have sex with you? I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I asked myself, am I still a human? I feel like a walking corpse . . . Even if it’s like striking a stone with an egg, and courting self-destruction like a moth to the flame, I will tell the truth about you.” Shuai has only appeared in carefully stage-managed settings since.

NBA basketballer Enes Kanter tweets: “Move the Olympics for Peng Shuai’s Sake!!! It’s time for us to WAKE UP and SPEAK UP!! All the gold medals in the WORLD aren’t worth selling your morals, values and your principles. #WhereIsPengShuai #NoBeijing2022”

Rafael Nadal to L’Equipe: “The most important thing is to find out whether she is OK. All of us in the tennis family hope to see her back with us soon.”

Australian Cricketers’ Association CEO Todd Greenberg on the process to pick a new Australian cricket captain: “We are not appointing the Archbishop of Canterbury here where we are looking to appoint someone to the role that will lead our country and lead them well. What I do know is if our expectation is that the captain is perfect then we are in all sorts of trouble.”

Nick Kyrgios: “That’s why tennis is so hard, in my opinion. The mental game is ridiculous. Physically, you have to be an absolute animal. What other sport do you have to play for three-plus hours, possibly seven times in two weeks? It doesn’t happen. I’m pretty sure that’s why I lost my f****** marbles.”

Cricket Australia chairman Richard Freudenstein throws his predecessors under the team bus, when it came to allowing Tim Paine to continue as Australian captain, despite knowing he was carrying a ticking tabloid bomb: “The whole current Australian cricket board, including those members that were on the board in 2018, are very clear that if the same circumstances arose today, we would make a different decision.”

David Peever, chair of Cricket Australia at the time of the Tim Paine cover-up, in reply. The last sentence is the killer: “I’m disappointed to see a current chairman publicly criticising decisions of a previous board, several members of whom are still on the board and were part of the 2018 decision. . . . This issue has been doing the rounds in cricket circles for some years now. The current chairman has been on the board for two years and it is implausible he didn’t know about it. If he and his board felt so strongly about it, why wait until now to act?”

Dave Rennie, on speaking out against the refereeing in the Welsh Test despite the threat of being sanctioned: “The boys emptied the tank for each other and we deserved a better result than that. It’s important I spoke my mind. I’ve been a professional coach for 20 years, and I’ve never gone in the media and had a crack at a referee or the referee group. But I felt I had to tonight.”

Mark Taylor: “A decision was taken by the integrity unit and supported by the board to keep this in house. There’s obviously been a lot of conjecture about the rights and wrongs of that … Given what was happening at the time in the wake of Sandpapergate, they would make this same call 100 times out of 100.” How much can a koala bear? Only one scandal at a time.

Team of the week

Ashleigh Barty. The nation’s favourite daughter got engaged this week.

Amanda-Jade Wellington. Produced the best bowling display in WBBL history to help Strikers defeat the Brisbane Heat.

Alexander Zverev. Beat the world’s top two in consecutive days to win his second ATP finals title.

Ian Thorpe and Dennis Lillee. Both elevated to Legend status in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. As TFF ranted mid-week, the Hall of Fame – whatever that is, by the way – makes themselves look ridiculous by having taken so long to honour Lillee.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Fired as Manchester United manager making him the fourth permanent manager sacked by the club since Sir Alex left in 2013.

Wallabies. Not the best tour but lost to Scotland and Wales by a combined total of just three points.

France and England. Their wins over New Zealand and South Africa respectively made it the first time since November 9, 2002 that rugby teams of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand all lost on the same day.

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