Controversy clouds Ashes before a ball is even bowled


Cricket’s oldest
rivalry pitting Australia against England always throws up on-field rancour,
but the upcoming Ashes series has been engulfed by controversy before a ball is
even bowled.

With the opening Test starting in Brisbane on December 8,
Australia’s preparations have been consumed by a text-message scandal while
English cricket is facing claims of institutional racism.

First to Australia and Tim Paine, who quit as Test captain
earlier this month when lewd text messages he sent to a female colleague in
2017 were about to be made public.

The 36-year-old, previously seen as squeaky-clean, had been
appointed to repair Australia’s reputation after the 2018
“Sandpaper-gate” ball-tampering scandal which rocked cricket and cost
Steve Smith the captaincy.

Paine has now withdrawn from the Australian Test squad
completely, despite team-mates urging him to continue.

The way Cricket Australia (CA) handled a 2018 inquiry that
cleared Paine, and the current administration now throwing him under the bus in
the eyes of some, has also been in the spotlight.

Former England skipper Alistair Cook said the drama would
inevitably upset “team dynamic”.

“It is the kind of external noise that a team does not
need going into such an important series,” he said in Britain’s Sunday

“There has been speculation that Paine’s absence will
make Australia stronger.

“It’s possible that his replacement… may be a better
wicketkeeper-batsman but the removal of an established captain, in such
circumstances, is a distraction that can only unsettle the team dynamic.”

Australia now head into the Gabba Test led by Pat Cummins, a
fast bowler with little captaincy experience and whose tactical decisions will
come under close scrutiny.

His appointment was nevertheless broadly welcomed, but Smith
becoming his deputy threatened yet more controversy. Spin legend Shane Warne
said that Smith should never even have been considered after

“His second chance is getting to play for Australia
again and in my opinion announcing him as vice-captain opens up CA for ridicule
and criticism,” Warne told reporters.


While Paine’s downfall sent shockwaves through Australia,
the British press rubbed their hands in glee.

“Career in Ashes,” Sky Sports screamed.

But the gloating was tempered by a racism storm rocking
English cricket, sparked by allegations from Pakistan-born Azeem Rafiq.

Rafiq told a parliamentary inquiry how racist language was
“constantly” used during his two spells at English county club
Yorkshire, where he played alongside England Test captain Joe Root.

He made allegations against several high-profile
individuals, including former England players.

Root broke his silence from the team’s Australian base to
demand change. But he also said that he had not witnessed racism during his
time at Yorkshire.

Rafiq called Root “a good man” who “never
engaged in racist language”, but also said that he was hurt by Root’s
reaction to his claims.

The 30-year-old Root hasn’t fronted the media since.

England managing director Ashley Giles admits there has been
reflection among the Ashes squad and they now have a “great
opportunity” to lead the way in how sport and society tackles

“We are in the public eye, very front and centre at the
moment with the issues we have in the game and it’s great that we can do
something about it,” he said in Australia on Sunday.

The five-Test Ashes series had already got off to a rocky
start with fears it could be cancelled after months of concern from England
over tough Covid-19 quarantine guidelines set down by Australia.

After tense negotiations a breakthrough was reached and a
full-strength team jetted to Australia for 14 days in quarantine, only to be
met by torrential rain when they emerged, largely washing out last week one of
only two scheduled practice games.

Author: desi123 is an online news portal that aims to provide the latest trendy news for Asians living in Asia and around the World.

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