Let's forget the sales pitch for a minute: Cricketers cheat.
Play or coach at any level and you already know the whole "gentleman's game" idea is about as true as San Serriffe.
Balls get tampered with, batsmen stand when they know they edged it and sledging is commonplace.
Misguided types will bury their heads in the sand and hold cricket up as king of fair play in sport. Play hard but play fair they say, swimming against a tide of sharp practice and outright cheating.
Admirable as these ideals are, they are built on foundations of sand and impossible to achieve. Just go to any cricket ground where serious matches are played at the weekend and you will soon see for yourself.
And when you know that is true the only question is: How far can you take it and get away with it?
Where is the line?
Fair play in cricket can be split into three areas. The controversial part is where you put certain practices.
The first area is things everyone considers fair, such as shining the ball on your trousers. The middle ground is the grey area that people dispute and the third area contains practices everybody finds unacceptable.
The trouble is nobody agrees where to draw those lines and players have always pushed the limits in an effort to get an advantage over the opposition.
So while a large number of players will come down hard on lifting the seam, a significant number of players will continue to do it, and get away with it.
What other practices are commonplace?
Respecting the umpire (but only to hoodwink him)
Shrewd bowlers know to respect the umpire. Not out of a sense of respect of fair play, but because they know they can lean the umpire in their direction by being nice.
Umpires are human and so are more likely to give decision to bowler's they like.
Keep appeals to a minimum and be respectful when the decision is not out. "Going down leg was it umpire?" said casually shows the official you know he won't be easily deceived (and puts you in a better light).
Sledging without words
The point of sledging in cricket is to put the batsman off by putting doubt in his mind. Old-fashioned outright abuse just doesn't work as well and is harder to get away with.
That's why really good sledgers don't need to say much, or anything at all.
The trick is subtle pressure built up over a number of balls. A well-drilled fielding team can put the squeeze on a batsman through good bowling and a wall of fielders cutting off favourite shots. There is no abuse, no staring at a play and miss, and no meaningless clapping.
The pressure builds and the batsman plays a bad shot. In the pavilion he wonders how he could have been so careless. He was sledged without even knowing it.
Walking when it suits you
Walking is almost totally gone from serious cricket now. So much so that nobody bats an eyelid when a batsman nicks it, stands his ground and is given not out.
Bad umpiring, the sages will say. Not unfair play by the batsman.
But make no mistake, it is cheating. You don't wait for the umpire's finger when you hit it to cover or are bowled middle stump. The only difference is those two dismissals are obviously out.
Batsmen will argue that the fielding side never call you back after an appeal is upheld that you didn't hit, so why should you walk?
Walking or standing your ground, mired in all this discussion is another trick a batsman can use.
If you do have a reputation for walking and are playing a big game, you can nick off but stand your ground. The umpire can be fooled into thinking you would have walked and give you not out.
Where do you draw the line?
These are just three examples of how the boundaries of the spirit of cricket can be pushed. How far do you push it?
Do you insist on nothing but fair play? Do you coach players how to sledge? Are you an outright cheat and don't care as long as you get away with it?