Steve Waugh has added his authoritative voice to the cheating scandal that has engulfed Australia’s Test team, revealing that he has been “deeply troubled” by last weekend’s events in Cape Town that have failed the strong culture that bonds the brotherhood of the Baggy Green Cap.
In a statement released exclusively to cricket.com.au today and published on his official Facebook page, Waugh claimed that Australian players had shown a “serious error in judgement” in pursuing action to deliberately tamper with the ball during the third Test against South Africa in contravention of the game’s laws.
The former Test skipper also noted that error was a clear breach of the ‘Spirit of Australian Cricket’ pledge that was drafted and adopted by players during his tenure as leader, and which now needed to be urgently revisited in order to re-establish faith and trust in the game among the nation’s aspiring young fans and participants.
Waugh voiced his support for any “positive action” that would help Australian cricket emerge from the current controversy.
But while acknowledging the actions undertaken at Newlands deserved condemnation, the 52-year-old also called for perspective to be observed in media coverage and judgements passed to ensure the wellbeing of players and others involved was looked after.
“Like many, I’m deeply troubled by the events in Cape Town this last week, and acknowledge the thousands of messages I have received, mostly from heartbroken cricket followers worldwide,” Waugh said today.
“The Australian Cricket team has always believed it could win in any situation against any opposition, by playing combative, skillful and fair cricket, driven by our pride in the fabled Baggy Green.
“I have no doubt the current Australian team continues to believe in this mantra, however some have now failed our culture, making a serious error of judgement in the Cape Town Test match.
“In 2003, we modified the Spirit of Cricket document originally created by the M.C.C., to empower our players to set their own standards and commit to play the Australian way.
“We must urgently revisit this document, re-bind our players to it and ensure the spirit in which we play is safe-guarded for the future of the sport, and to continue to inspire the dreams of every young kid picking up a bat and ball and for every fan who lives and breathes the game.
“A focused and balanced perspective is needed in the condemnation on those involved in this, with a clear and critical consideration to the social impact and mental health of all players.
“I will support all positive action to ensure an outcome for the betterment of the game, regaining the trust and faith of every fan of cricket.”
Waugh, who among Test captains to have led their nations more than 10 times holds an unsurpassed winning ratio of 72 per cent (41 victories from 57 attempts), was at the forefront of drafting the fit-for-purpose ‘Spirit of Australian Cricket’ pledge for his team in 2003.
Under an initiative proposed by Cricket Australia - and driven by Waugh and his then deputy and ODI captain Ricky Ponting with the endorsement of the national women’s team skipper, Belinda Clark – Australia’s leading men’s players set down the standards of behaviour and values they believed they should uphold.
It became known as ‘The Spirit of Cricket Project’ with Waugh and Ponting to undertaking discussions with CA’s then chairman Bob Merriman and (current) Chief Executive James Sutherland.
Conversations between the leaders of the team and CA culminated in a documented drafted by Australia’s centrally contracted cricketers at a player camp that preceded the two-Test series against Zimbabwe in October, 2003.
The resulting pledge contained commitments that specified the players’ behavior on and off the field, the shared values and principles within the team, treatment of opposition teams, cricket fans and players’ families, and respect for game’s governing bodies.
In addition to vowing to accept “all umpiring decisions as a mark of respect for our opponents, the umpires, ourselves and the game”, the document enshrined a team culture that acknowledged the vital role of captain and support staff and promised “compassion and loyalty” towards one another.
“We value honesty and accept that every member of the team has a role to play in shaping, and abiding by our shared standards and expectations,” the document - designed to ensure the highest standards of behavior while encouraging a competitive culture - says.
“We strive to be regarded as the best team in the world.
“We measure this by our on-field achievements and by exploring ways in which we might continue to "raise the bar" in respect of our own professionalism.
“We acknowledge and follow the traditions of our game while encouraging and accepting experimentation that will enable us to create our own traditions and history.
“We do this in the expectation that we will leave the game in a better shape than it was before we arrived.”
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.
Australia squad: Steve Smith, David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test South Africa won by 322 runs. Scorecard
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage