All gentlemen out there in the middle

FINALLY we have it from the horse's mouth. A man who has been out there in the middle with foul-mouthed Australian cricketers has spilled the beans and without acting as a one-man censorship board either.

South African batsman Graeme Smith's comments about the type of language used by the Australians to try and unsettle him does not come as a surprise. The Australians have this one flaw which sometimes backfires on them. When McGrath tried to unsettle Brian Lara in the Caribbean in 1999, it made the West Indies captain even more determined to win a Test than he already was and the result is well known.

It is pathetic that Australian cricket officialdom does not consider this a problem. No member of the board has made any attempt to get into the debate and clear things up and Steve Waugh, himself one of the worst offenders according to plenty of reports, has kept his mouth shut as well.

But then, neither does the media. It is alright if the foulest language possible is used on the field, provided it does not leak out. "What happens on the field stays on the field", is a famous mantra made popular by the likes of McGrath who probably have more to hide than most. No Australian newspaper has thought fit to criticise this kind of approach and one doubts whether they ever will. The only mistake in committing such offences in sport is getting caught.

Of course, the moral shutters are pulled down when someone gets caught. Shane Warne has been at the receiving end more than once because his sin was to get caught. Then the righteous indignation on display is nothing short of hypocritical. And after such episodes, the ICC normally utters a few words that have as much meaning as the hypocritical utterances that emerge from politicians when a man dies.

You can be sure that when the next summer season of cricket begins, this issue would have been buried. It will not rear its head unless and until some allegation surfaces again. No commentator has the balls to call it what it is. Each and every one of them is scared of the officials and the players. No-one, but no-one, likes to call a spade a spade. If anything, people would like to lend a note of respectability to it so that there is one less thing to worry about. After all, in the 21st century, there is no time for moral scruples anymore. Money is the only thing that drives sport.