A good Test spoiled - Bidwell

4:37 pm on 26 November 2019

Opinion - A memorable New Zealand Test cricket win has been spoiled.

England cricketer Jofra Archer.

England pace bowler Jofra Archer. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Worse still, an international sportsman's view of this country has been tarnished as well.

The racial abuse levelled at England cricketer Jofra Archer, at Mount Manganui's Bay Oval this week, is a stain on our collective reputations and has absolutely taken the shine off events on the field.

Starting with Brendon McCullum, and now under Kane Williamson, the Black Caps cricket team play in a manner that makes New Zealanders proud and represents who we like to think we are as people.

The team are honest, hardworking and humble. Whether they win or lose, they always conduct themselves well. They don't whinge and they don't abuse. They try very hard, and they clearly care, but they always remain respectful of their opponents.

Monday's innings and 65-run victory over England represented the Black Caps at their best.

Maybe Kane Williamson, Tom Latham and Trent Boult would make a combined New Zealand-England XI, but that's about it.

The rest of them appear to be world class teammates and produce world class effort, but you wouldn't describe them as world class players.

But boy do they contribute. Almost all of them could feel they played a part in winning at Bay Oval, by playing the kind of committed but fair cricket that's become their calling card.

Opponents and visiting pundits might overlook their qualities, but the rest of us don't.

Or didn't, until Archer took to social media and said he'd been abused by a fan.

I attended a day of the match in a social capacity. It was hot, the cricket a little slower than some fans could stomach, and people were well lubricated.

One or two clearly didn't get the concept of England's travelling fans, either.

The Barmy Army are getting on a bit now and, while their numbers swell and average age plummets on big overseas tours such as the Ashes, the group assembled at Bay Oval were quiet and unobtrusive on the whole.

But, again, that appeared lost on the odd fan, who'd clearly arrived expecting or wanting a confrontation. The Barmy Army are witty and good natured and an asset to cricket, but people still associate noise or vocal support for abuse.

These misguided folk don't have the repertoire of songs the English fans do, so settle for calling people names and hoping to get a laugh from their mates.

Only it's not funny. It's cringeworthy, at best. Mostly it's just offensive and Archer was right to be hurt.

Honestly, how many people at the ground over the five days were there just to see Archer? I know I was. Few things excite in sport quite like a genuinely fast bowler and Archer is among the very best exponents in the world.

He's also a stylish batsman, brilliant fieldsman and just a good all round advertisement for the game.

The Barmy Army during the first Test between New Zealand and England at Bay  Oval in Mount Maunganui, November 2019.

The Barmy Army at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui. Photo: Photosport

So who polices those fans who lack the ability to treat opposing players with the same respect the Black Caps do?

Is it fellow spectators? Maybe. But how many of us would really have the nerve to confront someone in that situation?

It's not like you can appeal to their better nature; after all, they are actively abusing a man for the colour of his skin.

The best we can hope for here is that Archer still feels safe in New Zealand and is happy to take the field, during the second Test at Hamilton's Seddon Park.

Sadly, the damage to New Zealand's reputation is done, though.

Of all the things we'd like to be known for, recent events such as this and the Christchurch mosque shootings cast the country in an unfavourable light.

People should be able to live here or visit here without fear of abuse, or worse. The fact they're not is actually quite distressing.

It's also taken the gloss off a cricket game that really ought to have left us feeling proud.

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