Peter Roebuck

Australia has undone all the good work of the last few campaigns. After a period spent keeping on the right side of the beaks and even sportsmanship, the Aussies were at their worst in Perth. By the end of the match four locals and one visiting player had been cited.

Astonishingly, the only West Indian involved in the confrontations received a stiffer penalty than all the Australians combined. Not that Sulieman Benn was an innocent party. Nor was he the worst offender, a ranking reserved for Shane Watson, whose outrageous conduct was punished with a feather duster flogging. Chris Broad’s hopes of securing nomination to the Supreme Court cannot survive his verdict in these cases.

Physical confrontation

Trouble was brewing throughout a compelling contest. Certainly there was more yapping than can be hard at a dog’s home. Accordingly it did not come altogether as a surprise to find Benn, Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin embroiled in heated exchanges that deteriorated into physical confrontation on the field. At least two of the combatants had been spoiling for a fight, whilst Johnson was hardly whistling carols. Doubtless the dispute had its origin in previous matches but it’s no use endlessly banging on about yesterday.

Historians insist it all goes back to slavery and the founding of a convict colony and point out that pride persuades peoples from these backgrounds to stand tall in the face of insult. But that is no excuse for contemporary rudeness.

To set the scene, the Australian sixth wicket pair tried to take a quick single, Benn and Johnson contested the same ground and a toppling bowler grabbed the batsman’s shirt in order to recover his balance and make his point. Haddin was incensed and relations became so agitated that Chris Gayle was asked to intervene. Meanwhile, Billy Bowdon hovered around the fringes. At the end of the over, Benn pretended to throw the ball to his glove-man, a common enough practice. Haddin marched down the pitch. Benn had the same idea.

Hereabout ears were burning. Benn pointed at the home keeper and, intentionally or otherwise, his arm collided with Johnson’s head whereupon the fast bowler unceremoniously pushed him away. Even in the heat of the moment, physical contact is rare in cricket. Haddin brandished his bat and seemed eager to continue the dust up. It was not a pretty sight.

Eventually peace was restored. All three players were called to account, Benn was suspended for two matches and the Australians were slapped on the wrist. Afterwards Broad explained that the West Indian had denied the charges whereas the locals had accepted responsibility. That hardly justified the discrepancy. Justice is supposed to be even handed. Unsurprisingly the visitors were outraged and reserved the right to appeal. More likely they will let it pass. Already, though, Broad has lost ground in their eyes.

More verbal assaults

After these outbursts it might have been supposed that all and sundry would tread carefully next day. Shane Watson did not see things that way. Instead he continued his various verbal assaults and finally outdid himself. Delivered from round the wicket, his first delivery coaxed an error from Chris Gayle. As the catch was taken Watson went into frenzy. He ended nose to nose with the batsman, screaming in his face. It was as embarrassing as it was ugly.

Cheer leaders and spin doctors, species in abundance down under, put it down to passion. When did it become acceptable to cream the face of any guest let alone an international cricketer let alone a respected batsman let alone a visiting captain?

Far from showing remorse, Watson explained that he had been provoked. All the more reason to stand him down for two Tests.

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