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South Africa, World, Sport

SandpaperGate: Hansie Tears in the age of hypermasculinity

SandpaperGate: Hansie Tears in the age of hypermasculinity

With the Australian tour now done and dusted, the fallout of the ball tampering saga continues. At the centre of the storm, David Warner is a curious paradox. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

The definition of the South African colloquialism “Hansie Tears” differs depending on who you ask.

Some say it’s another way of saying crocodile tears. Others view it as the visceral repentance when somebody has been caught out for something they shouldn’t have been doing.

For others, it’s a paradox with elements of both. Somebody might be terribly sorry for a transgression offering some repentance, but sorry only for getting caught.

Whichever definition you subscribe to, there have been a lot of Hansie Tears in the wake of the ball tampering scandal that has seen former Australian captain Steve Smith and his ex-deputy David Warner banned from cricket for a year and Cameron Bancroft, the man caught red (or is that yellow) handed, suspended for nine months.

All three have offered emotional apologies. Those have courted mixed response – from bellowing down from the moral high-ground to the more sympathetic.

The narrative has been fluid and remains as such. It has shifted from condemnation to accusations in varying degrees. The English press were quick to pounce on video footage that allegedly suggests one of the tampering trio had done this before.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), the sport’s governing body, announced that it will be reviewing its punishment for ball tampering and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) has labelled the bans as “rushed” and “flawed”.

Some media reports from Down Under have suggested that Cricket Australia’s “head of integrity”, Iain Roy, may not have conducted interviews with all the players and staff.

The swift response from Cricket Australia was unprecedented. A visibly shocked chief executive of Australian cricket, James Sutherland, addressed the media in South Africa mere hours after the scandal broke.

The next day, punishment was meted out.

But what was it that so jolted Sutherland and the other suits at CA? Was it the actual act of blatant and orchestrated cheating or was it the reputational damage that his organisation might have suffered as a result of it?

Let’s not forget that this is the same organisation which handed the vice-captaincy to Warner despite him punching an opponent in a bar after hours.

Would Cricket Australia’s response have been so brutal had the public outcry not been so loud?

Perhaps not.

Mickey Arthur, the former coach of the very same team, writing for Players Voice, described how this implosion always seemed like the only outcome.

Despite generational change, independent reviews and too many behavioural spot fires to list, Cricket Australia and the national team had demonstrated no real willingness or desire to improve the culture within their organisation from season to season,” Arthur wrote.

He describes the behaviour of the team as “boorish” and “arrogant”. Indeed, were it not for the way in which the Aussies carried themselves, perhaps there wouldn’t have been so much schadenfreude.

And so, there has to be a question about what commercial value Cricket Australia places on winning – and whether that value, at least in part, played a role in the scandal that continues to unravel.

In a culture where hypermasculinity and win-at-all-costs are of paramount importance, enhanced by the industrialising of sport, this nadir is not unexpected.

But governing bodies owe a duty of care to their players – not just to halt dramatic escalations but to prevent creating an us-versus-them situation that makes for a hostile environment in the aftermath of regrettable incidents.

The duty of care extends beyond simply signing cheques for wages, especially in the modern sporting era – it is a near impossible balancing act in a time when maverick players, like Warner, offer something different.

And it is Warner’s downfall that has been particularly curious to observe.

As cricket continues to fight for its share of eyeballs, enigmas like Warner – one of the first to turn T20 aggression into Test-match tenacity – are considered drawcards and, perhaps, are allowed to push the boundaries of decorum further than some are comfortable with.

Warner, a central figure in the saga, is no fool though. He kept mum on some of the saga’s unanswered questions and is reportedly lining up an exclusive tell-all interview, all for a pretty penny to “recoup” some of the sponsorship losses he has been hit with in the wake of the scandal.

His aggression has spilled over on more than one occasion. Twice on this tour.

We do not know what discussions have been had with Warner behind the scenes – or if there were ever attempts to remedy his behaviour when he transgressed previously.

But considering he was allowed to carry on playing in one of cricket’s biggest series, the Ashes, right after his altercation with Joe Root in 2013, it is not unreasonable to assume that his bulldog attitude was embraced – and perhaps encouraged – rather than shunned.

And so, he has become a martyr who will continue to fight until the bitter end, all while those who stood by and allowed it to get to this climb on their high horses to gallop to ivory towers.

Society demands of its sports people – without their consent – to be their moral compass, forgetting that it is society with all its convoluted contradictions that calibrates that compass.

That society is one where the exaggeration of stereotypical behaviour is seen as a benchmark for competitiveness and, in some cases, embraced as a means to get ahead.

There is no excuse for what Warner or his cohorts did. And he might very well just be a nasty piece of work.

But pretending that he is an isolated example of what happens when things go too far or that the warning signs weren’t there is to be an ostrich with its head firmly buried in he sand. DM

Photo: Former Australia national cricket team vice-captain David Warner during a press conference at the offices of Cricket New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, 31 March 2018. Australian captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were each banned for 12 months by Cricket Australia after an investigation into the attempted ball tampering during the Third Test against South Africa. EPA-EFE/Ben Rushton

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