‘Not cricket’ is a phrase that goes beyond those cultures where the game is actually played. Even Americans understand that it refers to acts of impropriety that simply go beyond the pale. It stems from the traditional uprightness of the sport itself, its respected laws, and the sporting conduct of its practitioners. When John Major unwisely (at least as far as political expediency is concerned) told us to ‘get back to basics’ in the ‘90s, he exemplified the point by saying that it would be a good idea for people new to Britain to understand the laws of cricket, for therein the foundations of civil society lie exemplified. To Tom Brown, cricket was ‘more than a game’: it was ‘the Birthright of British boys, old and young, as trial by jury and habeas corpus are of British men’. The historical weight of this kind of symbolism makes it all the more galling that cricket is being besmirched by corruption and greed, and is taking place in an atmosphere of suspicion and bad blood. Cricket at the moment is, for want of a better term, ‘not cricket’.
Although I am certain that the cancer will be cut out of the game, the recovery will be slow. It is not only the cheats who will not prosper. The honest are tainted by the misdeeds of their peers, and the public has had its trust shaken. Decisive action is necessary in order to demonstrate that the game values its integrity before all other considerations. I trust that the authorities will have the courage of their convictions.
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