Fast forward 18 months.
It’s the 2019 Ashes series in the UK and, after going 2-0 down, the Aussies claw it back to 2-2 for a decider at The Oval in London. Steve Smith is back after a period of exile (a Castaway-style banishment, where only he and his New Balance bat were stranded on a desert island) and he plunders a glorious first innings century to put his side (now led by Joe Mennie) in the box seat for their first win in England in 18 years. You enter the office buoyant, keen to wax lyrical with Greg, the token office Pom.
“Ah, see the cricket last night mate?”
“I know you did. We’re gonna tear you up. We’re smashing it!”
“Tear us up? Like you did to that ball in South Africa? ‘Smashing’ it? Like you did to the ethics of cricket, and life for that matter? Please, you’re all cheats”
“C’mon mate that’s all done now”
Mark from IT pipes up.
“Technically he is right, we are cheats. We might have cheated in this very series – who knows.”
That one hurts. You like Mark and he usually offers sound judgement on most things. His level of self-awareness in this moment, however, is annoying.
You leave feeling flat after just moments before being on top of the world. You realise that office banter, in the cricketing sense, died on March 24, 2018. No matter what happens on the field, any non-Australian fan now has the ultimate trump card. They’ve got the C-bomb, ready to throw and blow up any conversation. Steve Smith and his Australian side ruined a lot of things on the weekend, but the death of office banter may be the thing most widely felt, as anyone who thinks this will go away is kidding themselves. The underarm incident, now 37 years old, is still regularly brought up by every other cricketing nation as proof of Australia’s dodgy ways. And that was within the rules! In 37 years it will be 2055. In 2055, guys like Greg will still be getting stuck in for what happened on Saturday night. Just let that sink in.
The ball tampering incident made news everywhere, even even in far flung places like Denmark where cricket is describe as ‘like baseball’. If the Socceroos can edge past the Danish at this year’s World Cup, the polite Scandinavians will probably just label us filthy cheats too (with luck they’ll call us ‘unscrupulous’ or something less jarring). It’s a huge shame but our cricketers, who represent us, need to think about the bigger picture. Everyone is thinking about poor young Billy who, on the back of this ugly story, doesn’t want to buy David Warner’s Kaboom bat anymore. Or 82-year-old Derek who remembers the days where cricket was a gentleman’s game, and sledging had to contain the phrase ‘old chap’.
But what about the everyday worker, and their rights to completely rinse their colleague about winning a game they had nothing to do with? This whole saga is about more than just integrity and upholding standards beholden to our great nation. We want to take the piss out of others and now, because we got caught doing quite simply the stupidest thing anyone has done on a sporting field, we’re left with no comebacks, no retorts, just silence, dissatisfaction and smugness from the other side.
You’ve ruined it lads. Thanks a lot.