The Keeper of the Green

The ball tampering event in Johannesburg has saddened me as a fan. What has caught me by surprise is the depth of emotion I feel about it not just as a cricket fan but more-so as an Australian.

For reasons I find difficult to articulate, it threatens something deeper inside my national identity. Our nation, as it stands today, is a young one. We don't have the deep well of cultural touch-points and traditions of more ancient cultures like Japan, Italy, or England.

As much as we revel in our use of the word "mate" or our love of meat pies and good coffee these all come to us by boat. They aren't native to our culture. When you have so few defining characteristics, you become more protective of the genuine cultural traditions you do have.

Coupled with the genuine outrage that has been expressed this week is a mutual surprise we share at the depth and strength of our disappointment.

The reverence the Baggy Green is something Australians hold sacred and we'll defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. It's this love that has blinded many of us, myself included, from the cultural drift away from these values.

In the back of my mind something hasn't sit right with me about the behavior of the team is recent years. I've defended it, but somewhere, bubbling in my subconscious, were rumblings of discontent.

Like a lover who suspects infidelity but hasn't consciously acknowledged it. Now that I've walked in on the act, and discovered it wasn't a slip in the heat of the moment but the end result of a cold calculation, I have the fury of a lover scorned.

Investigations will be made, punishments meted out, and commitments made. Most of all we want to know how this can be prevented from happening. Just one week ago we'd have considered such a breach impossible. Now that it's happened there's an understandable paranoia.

Who can we really trust? How long has this sort of thing been happening? Is it really the first time?

Is changing the personnel really enough or is there a systemic change we need? Perhaps new (and old) faces will make the difference. At the same time, I have a simple proposal.

Upholding the culture of the Baggy Green

A position should be created for someone whose role it is to observe and guide the culture of the team. Their remit is to make sure Australian cricket is played in a spirit that embodies those of the Baggy Green. A spirit that Australians can be justifiably proud of.

It should by a former player that current players respect and the public trusts. They should talk softly and carry a big stick. They should have the power to make recommendations to the Cricket Australia Board, Selectors, and leading players.

If they request a sit down with a player that player should be contractually obliged to meet with them.

This shouldn't be a salaried position in a corporate org chart. It should be largely independent.

What would you call it? I suggest "The Keeper of the Green". Anything so long as it isn't spiritually pretentious, or corporate.

How should the first one be selected? The first by a secret ballot of former captains (who themselves are eligible). From then onwards they would appoint their successor.

They would draw no salary but their expenses would be compensated. There would be no term limits. They would also arrange for former players to talk to the team about fairness, character, and handling difficulty on the field.

They would help bridge the gap between the internal perception the team has and the external perception the Australian public has.

I imagine Steve Waugh would fill this role well. It's clear he has no interest in the travel that comes with coaching but one cannot help but feel he has a lot to still contribute to the team but no current vehicle to do so.

What the events of the past week have made clear is that we can no longer afford to have such a large disconnect between the culture of the Australian teams we grew up with and the culture we've seen in the current team.

The honour of the Baggy Green is the gold reserve of the Australian psyche and deserves similar protection.