Steve Smith, Dave Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been banned from first-class cricket for ball-tampering in the fourth test in South Africa, 22-26 March 2018.
Why did they do it? Smith admitted, "We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage … poor choice and, yeah, we're deeply regrettable". Bancroft admitted, 'I saw an opportunity to potentially use some tape and get some granules from the rough patches of the wicket and try to change the ball condition'.
It is easy to pass this off as a violation of cricket's rules and not being in 'the spirit of the game'. Also, there have been other ball-tampering incidents with less punishment than for Smith, Warner and Bancroft.
The bigger problem
I have not read the mainstream media's diagnosis of what I consider is the greater infection. It runs through many sports. Rugby league uses the sin bin, as do rugby union, basketball, ice hockey, soccer and other sports. A player is sent off the playing field for a time, after breaking rules of the game that are not serious enough to deserve expulsion.
There's a bigger problem that many journalists will avoid describing because it comes from a Christian worldview. Could you imagine this headline?
We are all infected with the ball-tampering virus
This would not be a theme in the mass media's diagnosis of the cricket crisis as it is an analysis from a Judeo-Christian worldview – and that's too religious for worldly-wise readers.
The prophet Jeremiah blamed the inside of all individuals for the problems we see in society: 'The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?' So, the headline should be: 'A deceitful heart is real problem for Australian cricketers'. Proverbs 4:23 nails the reason for the crisis not only for cricket, 'Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it'.
It is a major problem for the whole human race. Not one person is exempt from the ball-tampering 'virus'.
We see it openly in the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin and Mao's genocides, terrorism and mass shootings around the world, lies, bullying, theft and adultery. It runs through every human being from infancy to old age.
The cricketers need consequences BUT….
I urge you not to single out the banned Australian cricketers for their deceitful actions. The core problem is devastating for all human beings. The Aussie cricketers provide one more visible example of this evil heart.
This predicament of what is behind ball-tampering runs through us and it springs from the heart. The prophet Jeremiah and the wise man of Proverbs dealt with.…
The heart of the matter
The source of all human difficulties is the total inner being of a person, including reasoning and the will. It's a comprehensive internal wickedness (depravity) that is the root problem. The heart is more corrupt and incurable – from a human perspective.
You'll see it with classroom cheats, lies to cover up, bullying, speeding on streets, drugs, crime, violence, terrorism, adultery and sexual abuse. The list goes on and on. Some sports get close to the cause when a severe infraction of rules causes a player to be sin-binned.
Cameron Smith, captain of the Melbourne Storm, experienced it in a Good Friday 2018 match against the Sharks. It was his first sin-binning in a 362 game NRL career 'for some backchat towards referee Matt Cecchi'.
This is a problem that a secular society doesn't want to diagnose in this way. There are examples on the sporting field and in the law courts. It is a sin problem.
What is sin? According to the Judeo-Christian worldview, it is breaking God's standards (1 John 3:4-5; Isaiah 64:6).
It runs through all of us – not only criminals, murderers and terrorists.
I, the writer, am infected with the same 'disease'. I've lied to get my own way, had outbursts of anger, and times of withholding certain information. Even though my heart has been changed through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, to my dying day I have to battle this sinful nature within that wants to follow the theme of Frank Sinatra's song, 'I did it my way'. But I do have added strength to deal with my sin through God's power.
Cricketers sought forgiveness
Why would banned cricketers seek forgiveness – a very Christian action – from the cricketing public? There is a solution for those who want to experience radical inner change. It has brought change to Queens and no-hopers, sports people, music superstars, and ordinary folks on the streets or in the country.
Who wants to quit cheating (ball tampering, on exams, work pilfering), lying, deceit and adultery through this radical commitment to Jesus Christ?
It's for all who seek God's forgiveness.
When former captain, Steve Smith, arrived back in Australia on 29 March 2018, he said: 'I am sorry…. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness. I've been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It's been my life and I hope it can be again.'
Bancroft explained: 'It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. All I can do in the short term is ask for forgiveness'.
Warner: 'I'm here to take full responsibility for the part I played in this. It's extremely regrettable. I'm very sorry' (31 March 2018).
When Darren Lehmann quit as coach of the Australian cricket team, on 29 March 2018 at Johannesburg, a day prior to the start of the fourth and last test against South Africa, he echoed similar repentant sentiments: 'I hope the team rebuilds from this and the Australian public finds it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the XI who are going to take the field tomorrow'.
What is forgiveness?
It was a coincidence that these announcements came the day before Good Friday which celebrates the greatest act of sacrifice for sins committed – Jesus' crucifixion - to provide forgiveness for sin.
To forgive, is to surrender my right to get even with or hurt someone who has hurt me. It means to wipe the slate clean after some sin against me. I am pardoned and the debt is cancelled when I am forgiven. We don't forgive because the other person deserves forgiveness. We do it out of grace love and mercy.
The Christian worldview maintains we forgive others because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).
The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:5 confirms that if God's unconditional love has changed a person, 'it keeps no record of being wronged'.
Wouldn't it be a game changer if Australians so understood the need for loving forgiveness towards the three Australian cricketers that they will return to first-class cricket and no record of their wrong-doing will be kept, to be repeated.
The issue is the sin nature running through all of us and the cricket ball-tampering is one public example that has exploded in coverage through the mass and social media.
Hang on! There are serious objections to your indoctrination.
I anticipate some harsh opposition:
- That's only your opinion;
- You're forcing your religious view on people;
- It's propaganda and you are using the Aussie cricket cheating fiasco to promote your religious fairy tale;
- How dare you push religion like this!
This is an On Line Opinion piece. Such writings uphold the writer's views. I could address these protests, but that is for another time.
Telling the truth
One of the New Testament Greek words for truth or truthfulness is aletheia, which sometimes means true to reality as opposed to mere appearance. As this article has attempted to show, not only the ball-tampering scandal, but all of humanity is contaminated by the sinful nature. That's the truth, the reality.
A secular society needs to face the music of consequences of a non-religious worldview.
The cricket scandal was played out for most of us to see via the media. What about that stolen exercise book from school, slipping a Mars Bar into your pocket as you pass through the check-out, self-service check-out fraud at supermarkets, lies of convenience, and sexual immorality? Turn on the TV or read newspapers to see examples of crime and violence, killing by speedsters on the roads, mass killings of students in schools or on the streets.
These examples are not exceptions. They are the norm and should be expected because all people have problems with deceitful hearts.
There is a permanent fix for the problem but the solution is very Christian. We need to follow the advice of the newly released persecuted prisoners, Paul and Silas, to the Philippian jailer: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and everyone living in your house will be saved'.
Some NRL players are unashamed to display and promote the solution through Jesus Christ's salvation. Kevin Naiqama of NRL team, Wests Tigers, has tattoos of the Last Supper across his lower back and Jesus Christ's crucifixion on his upper back. The Bible verses John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 are on his chest.
What is his purpose in doing this? His words were, 'I want them to identify me with my faith and know that I am a follower of Jesus and not ashamed. It's my identity'.
There is a permanent solution to the 'cricket cheating' disease infecting all of us. It offers a worldview of a difference.