Things couldn't get much worse for the Australian cricket team right now, losing a test series at home, losing a one day series at home and now the team finds itself on a four game losing streak. But after Sunday night's two wicket loss to New Zealand, Ricky Ponting finds himself once again having to defend his team's integrity.
The controversy arose after New Zealand batsman Neil Broom appeared to be bowled by spinner Michael Clark, but replays show that wicketkeeper Brad Haddin dislodged the off bail with his glove while the ball missed the stumps. Neither umpire saw any problem with the decision and Haddin chose not to recall Broom.
However the television commentary team saw the issue with the dismissal, with both Mark Taylor and Mark Nicholas stating they felt Broom was hard done by. Regardless of whether Haddin dislodged the bails, by reaching in front of the stumps the delivery should have been called a no ball, as wicketkeepers are required to remain behind the stumps until the ball passes the stumps, hits the batsman, bat or the batsman attemps a run.
New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori took Haddin to task at the post match press conference. "I think you saw from Haddin's reaction that he knew something was wrong so he probably should have made more noise about it," Vettori said.
Vettori's comments drew a swift response from Ponting, who said that Vettori would need to be absolutely sure before "basically calling him a cheat". Ponting went on to say that it seemed Vettori was having a crack at Haddin's integrity.
But Haddin is just continuing a long tradition in Australian cricket, push the envelope as far as you can, then complain bitterly when you get caught. Ponting himself took part in this tradition last year when he was quite happy to accept a poor umpiring, yet looked baffled when another poor decision went against him.
In fact, Australia like England at The Oval last year are lucky that the Black Caps won the game, saving them from a torrent of Kiwi bitterness. While Haddin might not equal Greg Dyer in his levels of dishonesty, Dyer claimed a catch off Andrew Jones after clearly grassing the ball, the Black Caps will no doubt remember this incident and remind Haddin of it for years to come.
Nobody can quite top Greg Chappell for sheer cricket villiany, and the fact that his brother Trevor's underarm delivery was legal makes it even more irksome, but it will be Ponting's continued defense of the indefensible which sticks out in my mind. His track record of honesty isn't all that good, and clearly it's rubbed off on his teammates.