Duckett the issue: bingeing Poms the victims of (social) media’s fake morality

Nigel Henderson suggests that cricketers in a losing team are the first to come under attack in a post-truth world.

The husband of a good friend of mine once, when a student, split up with a girlfriend without extending her the courtesy of telling her. You might rail at his lack of consideration but you shouldn’t feel too sorry for her as she found a mightily effective way of getting her resulting displeasure across. Not only did her revenge prove to be a dish served cold but it was the gift that kept on giving: whenever she saw him out and about in the student union bar she would walk up to him, pick up his pint and empty it over his head. His friends found it so hilarious that after a while they stopped warning him if they spotted her creeping up on him and just enjoyed the spectacle that ensued.

This story is pretty much the only peripherally personal experience I have of this particular response to a difference of opinions although I did hear of one of my own ex-girlfriends administering similar punishment during an argument with the guy she had taken up with shortly after dumping me. Rather than providing me with the solace that signs of discord were already emerging in their fledgeling relationship, though, all I could think was that she never cared enough for me to throw beer in my face.

It is perhaps why I have always thought of this method of having the final word as a little ‘girly’; real men, surely, wrestle each other to the ground and roll around pathetically and impotently for a few minutes before being pulled apart, brushing themselves down and going their separate ways. Or glass each other.

Ben Duckett was furious when the Avenue ran out of Foster’s

It makes the antics of Ben Duckett, and by association Jimmy Anderson, in the Avenue bar in Perth, difficult to take too seriously even if the England hierarchy would have it that way. Incidentally, the Avenue, as host also to the Jonny Bairstow headbutting incident, is acquiring a mythology of its own – I’d be surprised if it doesn’t become a tourist attraction of its own in years to come, a must-see on the Australian backpacking circuit to rank with Sydney Harbour Bridge and Ramsay Street.

If, at worst, it does hint at a worrying lack of togetherness between the team’s senior and junior factions – there have been claims of cliques in the England set-up before – you could also argue that putting an unruly mob of sporting testosterone in a confined space, mixing it with the egos of has-beens, still-ares, wanna-bes and maybe-never-will-bes, potential county rivalries and alcohol was never going to be a recipe for a quiet night. Even with the security detail.

What I do find more strange – not that I’m doubting its authenticity – is The Times’s exclusive a few days ago that indicated that Duckett and Anderson were not the only members of the Ashes and Lions squads pouring beer over each other that night. Either this was a drinking game like no other or it brings to mind fight scenes in bars in old Westerns whereupon the throwing of the first punch between protagonists sets off a chain reaction in which drinkers turn to their nearest neighbours and send them reeling across the saloon until a new arrival is sent unceremoniously back through the swing-doors he has just come through.

The press’s nose for controversy grows stronger and stronger and that is only exacerbated by social media. We may not be quite in the position of the Eighties when red-top news journalists were sent Down Under – and plenty of other places – with specific remits to pick up dirt on the big-name English players, but it was noticeable that as soon as it was realised that Ben Stokes – the root cause of this latest outbreak of media morality – was on his way to New Zealand that at least two major newspapers pulled their correspondents off the Adelaide Test hours before it was due to start and put them on the plane to Christchurch. And, of course, fans with mobile phones can have incidents, often out of context, on air in the time it takes to say: “Don’t be homophobic about my friends.”

Looking for fall-guys, especially off the field, has become more the national sport than the cricket itself, especially when a team is not winning. And Duckett, whatever his faults – and to my mind they are mainly outside the off stump to teenage off spinners on a turning surface – has been made the biggest of all. Viewed in the light of the Stokes incident, even Headbuttgate, his seems to have been the most minor of indiscretions.

High-jinks have always been a part of the overseas tour – believe me, in my time on Guerilla Cricket and Test Match Sofa I have heard tales that would make your eyes water that didn’t make the papers – and we do ourselves a disservice if we cannot see through the bubble of social media-inspired, kneejerk opprobrium to the humour on the other side.

What would our media – mainstream and unofficial – have made of Donald Carr, captain of the MCC A tour of Pakistan in 1956, who encouraged half a dozen of his team-mates to join him in the kidnap and imprisonment of home umpire Idris Baig. To my knowledge, Duckett has not yet abducted, gagged and drugged with whiskey a tee-total cricket official, causing an international incident.

But authorities in most walks of life have never been slow to jump on a soft target to make it look like they’re doing something and at 23, the Northants left-hander has been put on notice that his international career could be over almost before it’s begun. Carr, by the way, went on to be secretary of the Test and County Cricket Board and a match referee.

And, if pouring liquids over people is your thing, surely no one did it better than Carr, whose coup de grace was to drench the unfortunate Baig with two buckets of freezing water.


Freddie was spoilt for choice as he plotted his escape to the Grennadines

They liked a beer or two

Alcohol and cricket. An often inseparable couple – and not just for players:

Andrew Flintoff: After a taxing 2006-7 Ashes tour that ended in a Baggy Green wash, captain Fred longed to get away from it all. After a couple too many sherbets during the World Cup in St Lucia he saw his opportunity as he stumbled on to the hotel beach and spotted a vacant pedalo. But 100 yards offshore his ill-fated night cruise to the Grennadines ended in capsize and a ducking for the adventurous all-rounder.

Arthur Carr: “Sometimes when you offer him a drink, he says no and gives you a glare that suggests he wants to kill you,” said one county cricketer of the man who captained Nottinghamshire immediately after the First World War. Nevertheless, following a series of low scores, he went on the lash to see if it would help his batting average. The next morning, against Essex at Leyton, he swallowed three double whiskies as hair of the dog and scored a career-best 204.

Percy Sonn: Beware the cricket official let loose in a hospitality suite. The president of the South Africa Cricket Board had overindulged at a 2003 World Cup match in the wine country of the Western Cape. First, he harangued ECB chairman David Morgan about England’s refusal to play in Zimbabwe, then, according to witnesses, fell out of his trousers. He told another guest: “I’m so fucking drunk I don’t know where the fuck I am.” When he got pissed at another cricket function one local journalist labelled him “the preposterous piss-artist of Paarl”.