Right, first things first. I don’t like Stuart Broad.
As a professional athlete on the playing field, i think he portrays himself in a very negative light. Too often does he play the victim; too often his body language carries a “why me?” look and feel to it.
His condescending nature and propensity for whingeing are unparalleled in the modern game. In short, he is the embodiment of the first-world-affluent, privately educated WASP, bereft of humility, dignity and grace. But a cheat? Spare me.
Ever since Broad’s ill-executed late cut to Michael Clarke at first slip, all I’ve seen is social media outrage (as if that’s anything new) over his refusal to walk. But I can just about name one-and-a-half cricketers in the history of the game who have walked off the field in admittance and usurped the on-field umpire’s decision in an act of honesty. It just doesn’t happen.
Adam Gilchrist is perhaps the only player to have ever done so consistently, but his admirable stance ignored the realities of the game, the fact that human error can undermine even the noblest of intentions. I recall an Ashes test match in 2006, pre-the Decision Review System, where Jimmy Anderson had a caught behind appeal upheld by umpire and well-documented rare bloke Billy Bowden. Gilchrist played and clearly missed, did not walk, but was given out anyway. Walking does nothing to reward the batsman other than maybe than land them an advertising deal for a lie-detector company, a truly niche market if ever there was one.
The very notion that Stuart Broad should have ‘done the right thing’ and walked off the field, almost akin to retiring, is laughable. It was five years ago when Michael Clarke, now Australian captain Michael Clarke, played a similar shot off Anil Kumble in a highly controversial match at the SCG in an equally edgy series. (Andrew Symonds was called a “monkey” in the same game by Harbijhan Singh, you might recall.) In this case, Clarke edged a late cut straight to Rahul Dravid at first slip and stood there waiting to be given out. It was borderline embarrassing. On that occasion, however, he was given out by Billy Doctrove. But the obviousness of his guilt was just as transparent.
The core of this issue is not one based around morality. Would NZ fly-half Dan Carter stick his hand up for a knock-on if he fumbled one over the line in a Bledisloe Cup match? Greg Inglis didn’t in last year’s State of Origin. Should Stephen Bradbury have asked officials for a re-start of his gold medal winning 1000 metre final in Salt Lake City, bringing into light the unfairness on his competitors after they all fell over each other metres before the finish line? Where do we draw the line? Or is it that because this is cricket – “the gentleman’s game” – that we expect a level of decorum not required in other professional sports?
The umpire in question, Aleem Dar, has form for such a glaring blunder, mind you. I recommend a trip to YouTube to see AB DeVilliers edging a ball to Sachin Tendulkar at first slip off the bowling of Zaheer Khan in a one day game. Old mate Aleem missed that one, too.
Over the course of five days Australia received more favourable umpiring decisions than England. Ashton Agar was adjudged not out stumped by the third umpire when he was on just 6; however, he went on to make 98 crucial runs. But I’ll stop you there; he was definitely out. Jonathan Trott, meanwhile, was mightily unlucky to have his LBW decision over-ruled first ball – and before anybody even tries to argue, Brad Haddin smashed that ball to seal the win for England. He did. He did hit it. So did Clarke – and Michael knew it, but he was unfortunately still stuck in the troublesome method of using the DRS as a tactical ploy. England did not. And that is the core issue here.
“It was only a scratch. I might get away with it”. “It might be missing leg. I’m the last batsman. We have to use it.” “We need a wicket now. That looked close-ish. Let’s go for it.”
That’s how Australia have been using the DRS. If they hadn’t squandered their two challenges – including one on a Johnny Bairstow LBW which was missing leg stump by a foot – Broad would have been given out and none of this would have furthered. The DRS was brought in to remove the howler. That was a howler and so were Australia’s decisions to refer.
England have a method whereby, the bowler, wicket-keeper Matt Prior and captain Alistair Cook must all agree before using a referral. So guess who won the DRS battle?
The Australian players know that they are as much to blame as Aleem Dar, and that’s why you haven’t heard a single Australian – or English – player complain about the DRS in this game.
Sport is as unjust as it is a wonderful pantomime. We need heroes. We need villains. We need Ashton Agar as much as we need Stuart Broad. We need to love and we need to hate. Sport without theatre, without drama, is just a bunch of blokes in a field counting runs, or points, or desperately trying to avoid going home to their wives. That’s why you should hate Stuart Broad.
Stuart Broad is not a cheat. A shit bloke? Almost definitely. A cheat? Don’t kid yourself.
By Ian Higgins