Columnists 27.3.2018 12:03 pm

Far beyond the bounds of ‘hard but fair’

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

Despite his bluster and know-all attitude about anything in the sporting cosmos, the Arithmetically Challenged Golfer has a strong ethos of upholding the inherent ideal of fairness in any contest which involves antagonists.

This, it must be added, does not extend to getting his golf scores accepted with no reservations among his playing partners every time he reaches for the driver; a dense cloud of instant amnesia tends to envelop him and wipe away any trace of higher intentions.

He was cross, angry and a little more than annoyed by the revelations that the touring Australians – who have proved themselves to be one of the less popular groups of visitors – had been involved in ball tampering in the third Test at Newlands.

“There is a story, apocryphal no doubt,” he started out, “about a British traveller who approached the counter of a particularly gruff Australian immigration official, who flicked through the passport and demanded: ‘Criminal record?’

The traveller was momentarily taken aback.

“I didn’t realise this was still compulsory,” was his reply.

“I think that what we have witnessed on and off the field over the past few days has tended to underline the fact that those British judges of all those years ago were not entirely wrong in shipping the convicted criminals off to Botany Bay.”

As much as this was probably stretching the bounds of credulity, such was the overwhelming feeling among the inflamed members of the usual gathering that you could probably have made a killing on the spot hawking anti-Aussie T-shirts.

“It is my feeling that nothing much changes Down Under and their own definition of their cricket team as ‘hard but fair’ is just another catchphrase that doesn’t stand up under scrutiny.

“Don’t forget that this is the same nation where captain Greg Chappell ordered his brother Trevor to bowl underarm in the last ball of the game against new batsman Brian McKechnie which won the Aussies the game against New Zealand in 1981.

“That wasn’t against the international rules of the time but it was certainly against the spirit of the game … in short, a subtle form of cheating.

“This is also the nation who chanted ‘terrorist’ from the terraces at Hashim Amla. Hash might not be a saint, but he certainly is an upright and moral person who, because he doesn’t wear the Castle patch on his Test gear, donates his match fee to charity. He surely didn’t deserve that, especially from the Aussies.

“You can take ‘hard but fair’ to other extremes too. Take what Peter Kirsten said about sledging on return from a tour Down Under. ‘The worst of them is David Boon’, he recalled of the man later to become a match referee. ‘Huge moustache, under the helmet and in your face all day. I never thought people could say things like that about my mother’.

“No, you can keep the Aussies … and the further from me the better.”

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