CHEATING in sport is unambiguously wrong. Even Lance Armstrong admitted as much, even if it took the Texan a considerable time after he was caught before eventually conceding that perhaps his seven Tour de France titles hadn’t been achieved on the level after all. What a dope.

Gamesmanship, though, is another debate entirely, when the laws aren’t broken but stretched as far as they can possibly go without snapping. And what you’re left with are more grey areas than a barber’s floor after Craig Levein’s been in for a haircut.

Whether sporting success achieved by stealth and sneakiness can be considered fair game or poor form really depends on an individual’s viewpoint. And whether it is their team that has benefited from the shenanigans or not.

Those against the deployment of sport’s dark arts often say it sets a bad example for children. Although, as anyone with kids could tell you, they don’t usually need the influence of an adult to misbehave. They are more than capable of acting up all on their own.

This week in the cricket Under-19 World Cup there was the increasingly rare sighting of a mankad, the method of dismissal named after Vishoo Mankad who, despite scoring more than 2100 Test runs for India, is best remembered for stopping midway through his bowling action to whip the bails off an Australian batsman who had drifted outside his crease at the non-striker’s end.

On this occasion it was a young Afghanistani bowler who had the foresight to spot his Pakistani opponent had crept too far up the wicket and took advantage.

The sight of the Afghanistanis gleefully celebrating the wicket answered any questions about whether they felt even the slightest bit sheepish about this course of action. Not even a little bit, it quickly became apparent. The Pakistani victim on this occasion was playing his first match at this level. He won’t make the same mistake again in a hurry.

The Twitter reaction was predictably varied. The bowler was either “merely playing by the rules” or this was “a very dark day for sport”. Needless to say there was no middle ground as is traditionally the case on social media.

The history of sport is littered with similar tales of competitors stretching the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable to try to gain an advantage without falling foul of the match officials or governing bodies.

Greg Chappell technically did nothing wrong in 1981 when he ordered his brother Trevor to bowl the final ball of Australia’s innings underarm to prevent New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie hitting the six needed to tie the match. It had the desired effect but the Machiavellian move haunted the Chappell brothers for years to come.

The New Zealand prime minister called it “a true act of cowardice” and his Australian counterpart mercifully agreed, staving off the threat of a war in the Tasman Sea. The ICC banned underarm bowling not long after. The Australians quickly learned from the experience and never cheated in cricket again. Wait, hang on…

There was greater sympathy for Michael Chang when the then 17-year old American tennis player served underhand to flummox Ivan Lendl in their French Open match. Chang was clearly exhausted and barely had the strength to lift his racquet above his head.

Proving that sports fans are fickle and inconsistent, there was none of the same backing for Nick Kyrgios when he pulled a similar stunt on Rafa Nadal. Although the Aussie’s continued use of the move afterwards perhaps explains why few have commended him for exploiting the rules to his advantage.

In football, James Scott earned Motherwell a goal but also the wrath of every fan inside Celtic Park when he kept the ball after an injury stoppage to set up team-mate Gboly Ariyibi to score. Again, it wasn’t wrong but try telling that to an enraged Kieran Tierney who had steam coming out of his ears.

Gamesmanship is rife, then, in every sport at every age group. Cheats may never prosper but bending the rules clearly never did anyone any harm. It’s just not cricket.


A cantankerous chap who is forever falling out with people. A sh**-stirrer, a pedant, a stubborn old goat who always thinks he’s right but with a mischievous sense of humour. Someone who found fame a few decades ago but has since returned to television in a different role and been embraced by a new audience.

If they were to ever make a Scottish football reboot of Curb Your Enthusiasm, then Chris Sutton would be perfect as Larry David.

The greatest American comedy of recent times returned to our screens last week, following Larry as he bumbled around his favourite Los Angeles hotspots, arguing with coffee shop owners, offending people with his MAGA baseball hat, and getting annoyed with everyone wishing him Happy New Year in late January.

You could just imagine Sutton reprising the role, visiting Scottish football grounds, falling out with ground staff for walking on to their pitch, and arguing with fans for blocking his view from the TV gantry. Rope in Stephen Craigan as trusty sidekick Jeff Green, and Neil Lennon as old-time friend Richard Lewis and it’s a ratings winner.

BT Sport, make it happen.