I have been around cricket a long time as player, umpire, coach, columnist and now a senior broadcaster. And I’ve never seen player behaviour, on and off the field, as bad as it is now.
Players need to stop and think what they look like because what they are getting up to is deplorable and looks infantile to the outside world. The way they are trading insults shows a total lack of respect for each other, the officials and, most of all, for the game. I just cringe. What are they doing?
I am not just talking about what has gone on around the South Africa-Australia Test series — and I’m not aiming this at any particular player — but what happened in Durban and carried on in Port Elizabeth is a tipping point.
Kagiso Rabada was hit with a Level Two charge after brushing against Australia’s Steve Smith
The South Africa bowler appeared to lean into Smith after dismissing him in the first innings
What baffles me most is all this talk about a line that players will or will not cross. What is this line? Is it invented by the players? Is it the Maginot Line? The Plimsoll Line? Nobody knows where it is but it’s not in the laws of cricket.
The laws make it perfectly clear that responsibility for the team is with the captain. So that’s where we need to start with cleaning up the game. But, make no mistake, umpires are in the wrong too. They hear it and don’t report it.
The match referee has to earn his corn as well. Get down to the real nitty gritty. And that is improving behaviour.
In theory, umpires now have the power to send players off — but they must be able to show actual red cards, and yellows too.
That way the people who pay their money to get into the grounds and those at home will know exactly what’s going on.
If a player does something really bad — and that includes behaviour on a stairwell on the way to the dressing rooms — then show him a red and remove him from the game. Then he is suspended for the next three games. That will stop it.
David Warner escaped a ban for his off-field spat with South Africa’s Quinton de Kock
Umpires must be able to show actual red and yellow cards to players acting out of line
Slow play would get a yellow in Bumble’s code too. The constant changing of gloves and having drinks brought on within five minutes of a drinks break — get on with the game!
But it’s behaviour that concerns me most. I watch league cricket and you can see the influence top players are having on the grass roots. There’s no respect for the umpires. At that level they officiate for the love of the game but they are being driven away. Why stand there to be insulted for six hours?
Our own Nasser Hussain has young children and he umpires at school level and he says bad behaviour is rife. They are trying to think of the next sledge because they’ve seen their heroes do it.
Michael Holding is one of the greatest bowlers that ever lived and one of the greatest men in the game. Never sworn in his life. He’s been saying in South Africa that enough’s enough. He’s telling them to stop the chat and play.
People say to me, ‘you played in the 70s, it must have been bad’. Well, the players were tough, hell they were, but there was nothing like what goes on today.
The behaviour of players in the modern game is getting worse and worse
Ian Chappell was one of the greatest captains ever. His team played tough cricket but at the end of the day they invited you in for a drink. They showed respect for the opposition.
I’m still good friends with a number of the Aussies I played against. And if they said anything it was good fun. It was banter. Not foul-mouthed inanities. So much of what is going on today is vindictive, insulting poison. They are taking it further to insult family members and things like sexuality, race and personal appearance. Get them off the field and report what’s said.
Stump microphones have been an issue, with some players wanting them turned off. Why? What have you got to hide?
I’ve just watched a one-day series between England and New Zealand that was as tough as it gets with no quarter asked or given. But the behaviour of both sides has been exemplary. Why can’t it always be this way?
It’s time for administrators to clamp down. Time for captains and coaches to set the right example. Time for umpires to get tougher. We need respect before it’s too late.
Ian Chappell’s team played tough cricket but they always showed respect for the opposition