Then, four years ago, two Australian women cricketers were discovered to have laid bets on the men’s team. One’s outlay was six bets totalling $15.50, the other five bets for $9. They were suspended for two years each.
“Bets totalling $15.50 might seem small, but it doesn’t matter,” Cricket Australia’s integrity chief Iain Roy said at the time. “We take a zero tolerance approach to any form of gambling on cricket by players in order to protect the integrity of the game.”
Ah yes, in-te-gri-ty.
Still they wouldn’t learn. Two weeks ago, journeywoman wicketkeeper Emily Smith posted to Instagram a picture of the WBBL Hobart Hurricanes team as it was written up on a whiteboard before a match against the Sydney Thunder in Burnie. It was a self-deprecating joke; she was batting below a certain teammate. The match subsequently was washed out.
It is hard to imagine a more inoffensive offence, and CA inferred no intention to cheat, yet Smith was banned for 12 months. Twelve months, hardly anyone needs to be reminded, was the sentence for Steve Smith and David Warner for actually and flagrantly cheating in a Test match. Among the collateral damage then was integrity monitor Roy.
Nine months of Emily Smith’s ban was suspended, but the other three months wiped out the rest of her WBBL season. She was also banned from club cricket. The men weren’t. They had massive incomes and lost some. She had a meagre income and lost it all. Still, right on cue from new integrity head Sean Carroll: there was an anti-corruption code and it was “critical to protecting the integrity of the game”.
A wholly suspended sentence and a hug would have done the job here.
Integrity. It’s one of those words to which we’ve all been conditioned to nod our heads knowingly and say no more. It’s motherhood. It’s a koala. Not even Andrew Bolt could deny it.
But how, exactly, has integrity been protected here? Who has been protected?
Authorities say the WBBL is popular on international betting markets. They also say it is susceptible to fixers because it is low-profile and lowly paid. To address this nexus of globalism and greed, they dwell the merest slip of the lowest in profile and lowliest paid.
Because, you know, integrity.
The anti-corruption code forbids “disclosing inside information” that might be used in betting. Smith transgressed this with her social media post. We in mainstream media agree as a condition of our CA accreditation to use the inside information we obtain only for “bona fide news editorial reporting”. That is, disclosing it, preferably before any one else does, even to bettors.
So it is, for instance, that top picks in the AFL draft were known in order weeks ahead of their unveiling. So it is that the Test team often is posted well before it is announced. How is that different from Smith’s Instagram post? (The editor says I’m safe because I haven’t disclosed anything for decades.)
I can’t even count the number of different standards in play here, but two is the minimum. Obviously, vigilance is important. Obviously, integrity is important. But, by the way, so is player welfare. And so is common sense. A wholly suspended sentence and a hug would have done the job here.
Instead, another tiddler wriggles around on the deck. It is 25 years since cricket’s seedy underbelly – as distinct from the one Merv used to scratch – was first exposed. One major and a series of minor convictions followed, and they’re becoming more minor by the day, but as far as I know, “John” is still roaming free.
Greg Baum is chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age.