One would have expected some hyped up tete-a-tete verbal battles leading into the first Ashes Test. Instead a strange comment by England’s fast bowler, Stuart Broad, has left a large part of the cricket world stumped.

Broad pointed out to the punishment meted out to Australian batsmen, Steve Smith and David Warner, using terms like “hellish year” and “pretty brutal” even as the England and the Australian cricket teams prepped themselves for the first Ashes Test in Birmingham.

Alluding yet again to the sandpaper-gate that overshadowed the Cape Town Test in South Africa a year ago when the leadership was found guilty of colluding with Cameron Bancroft in attempting to tamper with the ball, Broad appeared to sympathize with the two Australian batsmen for the year they had to sit out of international cricket, a punitive measure imposed by Cricket Australia almost as a pre-emptive to action by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

But what raised eyebrows was the fact that the controversial fast bowler claimed that the two ‘world class’ cricketers were at the receiving end of a prolonged punishment for a “silly mistake.” It seems rather shocking coming from someone who hails from a country that is considered the origin of cricket.

That Broad should have such a blaze view of the attempt to bring the game into disrepute by violating the rules of the game has sent shockwaves. The successful fast bowler has had his problems in the past, running into trouble. The son of a match referee and former England cricketer, Chris Broad, Stuart Broad was expected to have a more educated and certainly enlightened view of what would be a silly mistake and what is a grave action amounting to violate the ethics and integrity of the game, not to mention the laws.

Apart from the fact that Broad hails from the heart of England’s cricket, it has to be mentioned that the same ruler would apply to Steve Smith and David Warner, who not only come from England’s arch rival nation on the field for over a century but also, are successful cricketers and captains in their own right to know better than to infringe upon such a common, well known but also, often violated rule.

While Broad is entitled to his opinion about the degree of punishment, even though it came at the initiative of Cricket Australia which has been accused of superseding the ICC and also, by some of being lenient to allow the two players to come back in time for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, what is alarming is that as a bowler and esteemed international cricketer, Broad could be indicative of more cricketers who are expected to know better when it comes to upholding the game’s integrity but hold such a scant view as far as adhering to the rules go.

Broad’s comments, coming as they do on ahead of the Ashes, throw a spotlight not only to the chronic malaise that assaults the fabric of the sport – to the point of some want ball tampering to be made ‘legal’ in a case of a warped solution, but also, of the kind of education expected but absent from the cricketers that make up the game.

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