Cricketers around the world should consider taking a leading role in adopting their own honour code under which they operate, according to Tony Irish, chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA). Responding to several incidents in the global game over the last few weeks, which reached a climax when Australia’s captain Steven Smith admitted to a premeditated plan to tamper with the ball during the Newlands Test, Irish said players needed to take it on themselves to act within the spirit of the game.
“Players are the shop window to the game and they have a great responsibility for the game,” Irish told ESPNcricinfo. “What happened at Newlands falls way short of where that responsibility should be. Everyone wants to see hard-fought Test cricket but we are also seeing many instances in which player behaviour, and not cricket, is the focus. The seriousness of what has just happened has brought things to a head and will hopefully be the catalyst for change.
“The ICC code of conduct has to be consistent and effective in dealing with player behaviour and that should be a given. But perhaps it’s also time to start the conversation with players around what they feel should the fundamental principles around how the game is played. Perhaps this could lead to their own honour code, which will contribute to the promotion and protection of the unique values and traditions of cricket. This would be a proactive and collective shift led by the players.”
Though the ICC has a code of conduct in place, Irish feels FICA, which represents players from nine ICC members, should also engage with the senior players from all countries to get their views on how the code is working. “This should be done in a positive way so that it contributes to solutions around player conduct,” Irish said.
The ongoing South Africa-Australia series has seen seven disciplinary issues across three Tests, from ball-tampering and sledging to a shoulder brush. At the same time in Colombo, Bangladesh players were involved in arguments with the umpires over a decision they were unhappy with during a T20 against Sri Lanka and the anger then spilled off-field, where a glass door was shattered.
While sanctions have been handed down in all cases, the severity of the punishments differed, causing consternation in some quarters. Kagiso Rabada was initially given three demerit points for the contact he made with Steven Smith (this was reduced to one on appeal) while the Bangladesh players only picked up a demerit point each.
Irish said he hoped the players could agree among themselves what constitutes worthy behaviour and how they chose to act when representing their countries.
“The ICC code of conduct requires player compliance but standards set by players themselves would hopefully make it less about what one can and can’t get away with under the code,” he said. “It becomes important to look at how players across the world can collectively and proactively take responsibility. One common standard may be a challenge but I would like to think it’s achievable. Different teams have different cultures and approaches, but they are all playing the same game with the same unique history. In my experience, most players recognise how special and unique cricket is and want to do the right thing”
Asked why he thinks matters have become so heated of late, Irish was unsure but felt that intensity was good for game, as long as it is contained. “Maybe a lot of this, certainly in this series [in South Africa], is the passion and the heat of this series,” he said. “In a way, that’s positive because it shows you how much players care about Test cricket and winning these games but clearly what just happened is not acceptable.”