Opinion: The one-punch demise of Sydney Grade Cricket

Sydney Grade Cricket is terminally ill.

The judicial system is destroyed.

The once fruitful and competitive game has been erased by faceless suits on the Cricket New South Wales board.

The first cracks appeared with the introduction of the Kookaburra ‘Turf’ ball in first-grade. The ball doesn’t seam, swing or bounce. Chuck this in with flat wickets and colossal-sized bats, and the idea of bowlers gaining any advantage vanishes before our eyes. It comes down to more runs, meaning longer matches, meaning more money on the professional stage. All lining the pockets of the corporates.

But recently pundits of the game were left with a foul taste in their mouths. A foul taste that could quite possibly finish the game for good.

Dismissed for a five-ball duck in Manly’s clash with UNSW on January 13, a Cricket New South Wales board member took offence to a few uttered words and proceeded to punch an opposition player in the face. It came out of nowhere. It was a cowardly shot fuelled by egoism and malice. The players were shocked, the umpires stunned. Those who play the game would know that despite heightened emotion on the field, you don’t cross the line of physical contact. It’s a gentleman’s game, or so they would have us believe.

The man in question is millionaire Danny Bhandari, who has been playing the game for 18 years. He is experienced enough to know better. At the time he was a Cricket New South Wales Board member. He should know better. Well, he didn’t. He threw a punch, walked off the field and the rest of us expected to never see him again.

Instead of exile Bhandari received a paltry slap on the wrist; a one game suspension with a one-game suspended sentence. The verdict is almost as laughable as it is concerning. Is it corruption? Or has the game completely lost its mind? We’re not assuming anything but it’s quite a coincidence that a millionaire who is a member of the same board that is hearing his case cops such a disgrace of a sentence. Boiled down, Bhandari is copping one week for assault. Embarrassing. Players receive a one-match suspension for swearing and yet this man struck another player, and receives only one match? Then has the gall to appeal the conviction? Please. Not only has this farce turned the game into a laughing stock, but it has also set a precedent. No one can be suspended for more than a week for physically attacking another player. Anyone from any club this Saturday could walk up, belt someone in the face and only get a week. Physical contact is so rare in cricket that most of us would be led to believe incidents carry a lifetime ban, but no. What this episode has done is break the shackles of what’s right and what’s wrong, the judicial system has been destroyed because these faceless men would rather look after their mate than look at the facts.

So I ask, where does it stop? What would be enough to cop a four-week ban? Stabbing someone with a stump? This mate-for-mate, it’s know what you know, it’s who you know culture has to come to an end. Someone threw a punch, someone copped a punch, and someone should be banned for life. How can it be so hard?


*Bhandari has since stepped down from his role on the Cricket NSW board. Read more here: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/cricket-nsw-director-danny-bhandari-quits-after-ban-for–avoidable-contact-to-head-20180122-h0m1y7.html


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