COMMENT: BBL Pom’s disgraceful ump incident deserves bigger ban – and shame on Aussie icon for ‘both-sidesing’ it
From the moment any child first starts playing cricket in the backyard, the first thing they are taught – aside from ‘hit the ball and run like the wind’ is to respect the umpire at all times.
It’s the most fundamental aspect of sport in general: officials tasked with keeping their respective games on track and running smoothly, for the benefit of players, administrators and us fans in the cheap seats or watching on TV, must always be held by said players in the esteem with which their position demands.
Sydney Sixers – and, we Aussies point out with not an unhealthy dollop of schadenfreude – Englishman Tom Curran’s decision to not only blatantly ignore reserve umpire Mohammad Qureshi’s (completely correct) insistence he abstain from practicing his bowling run-up directly on the pitch before their clash with the Hobart Hurricanes, but then nearly ploughing right through him anyway as he stood in his path, is about as disgraceful a violation of that key principle as I can remember in the BBL.
It’s clearly worse than the numerous instances of dissent thrown umpires’ way by frustrated players in the pre-DRS days of the tournament after copping a shocking decision; worse than Matthew Wade throwing his bat in a match last season, for which he was handed a one-game suspension; worse even, in this author’s opinion, than the infamous clash between Shane Warne and Marlon Samuels during the tournament’s formative years.
If anything, a four-game ban – which would sideline Curran until the Sixers’ clash with the Brisbane Heat in Coffs Harbour on January 3 – is too light given both the severity of the incident and the complete and utter disdain he showed for the umpire in the incident in question.
God knows the BBL doesn’t need its best players sitting out large chunks of the tournament, especially those coming from overseas – there are barely enough to go around as it is.
But if nearly deliberately steamrolling an umpire doing his job, and in the process brazenly flouting the rule Qureshi was trying to enforce, isn’t worthy of a season-long ban, then what would merit that sanction?
While it’s understandable that the Sixers are appealing the suspension to try and free Curran, it’s also a pretty poor reading of the room, especially now that vision has emerged for the whole cricket world to see.
Virtually every response to the incident has been overwhelmingly against Curran’s reprehensible behaviour – and rightly so – and trying to have it overturned or downgraded not only seems futile given what we now know occurred, it sends a pretty ordinary message to the cricket community to try and downplay what he did.
Not that that stopped Lisa Sthalekar trying to defend it on Seven’s The Spin on Thursday night, after the vision was first shown and the panel debated the incident.
Sthalekar is a women’s cricket icon and trailblazer for the game, and the weight her opinion and insight on all matters cricket holds can’t be disputed – but she had an absolute shocker in trying, inexplicably, to lay some blame for Curran’s behaviour on Qureshi.
Not remotely close to as big a shocker as Curran had, it needs to be pointed out – but still, it was deeply disappointing to hear from anyone, let alone a legend of Australian cricket with a position of respect and esteem on a national broadcaster.
“I think there was an element of two guys not letting go of their ego,” was her take on an umpire upholding the laws of the game to a player not only refusing to listen, but who then escalated the situation in an unquestionably physical and intimidatory way.
“I think both were actually slightly in the wrong,” she continued, before adding the required suffix, “…albeit the umpire always has the final say. That’s what we’re taught.”
Sthalekar trying to frame this incident as two alpha males butting heads in a classic display of male testosterone – or to use her own term, ‘ego’, is a disgraceful way to frame Qureshi’s involvement, while her smug quip during the debate that ‘I don’t think we would see it in the women’s game’ misses the point completely.
This sort of thing hardly ever happens in the men’s game, either – certainly not to this extent in such a public setting. And nor should it.
Sthalekar’s claim in defence of Curran that he may not have heard Qureshi insisting he stay off the pitch also doesn’t hold water.
Sure, Curran mightn’t have heard every word of what Qureshi had to say from the top of his mark – but that’s only because, as Qureshi was talking to him, he was sauntering away without the barest smidgeon of respect for the umpire, ready to flout the rules again.
If Curran had had the basic decency to stop what he was doing and have a conversation with the umpire, maybe he’d have come out of it without a four-game ban for intimidatory behaviour, and a better grasp of the rules to boot – but on the basis of the vision, it’s hard to imagine him being the sort of bloke capable of that level of humility.
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Curran earned every second of his four-game ban – indeed, he’s damn lucky his boorish behaviour didn’t get him a worse whack.
It’s also up to the experts to ensure acts as disgraceful as these get the harsh and unequivocal response they deserve – on this front, Sthalekar too failed miserably.