The Aussies are back to their old, ugly ways of playing the game. Don’t get me wrong, other teams do too, but the Aussies are the mother of all that is ugly in the beautiful game.
Steve Smith proudly says “We play our best cricket when we’re aggressive, when we’re in the fight together and hunting as a pack as one…That’s part of being an Australian.”
Actually that’s not true, Mr. Smith: at least not according to your former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, or Governor-general, Michael Jeffrey. Back in 2003 in the home series against India, both lamented the loss of civility and grace from the game. Neil Harvey, one of Australians greatest cricketers, and an icon of the game said the Australian players behaved “like a pack of morons”.
Rather than accept the criticisms from his countrymen as an opportunity for reflection, then captain, Ricky Ponting, chose, instead, to launch a scathing attack on Neil Harvey. This is what Ponting had to say: “there is no one in our current team, and I don’t think there’s too many around Australia that actually sit back and listen to what Neil Harvey has got to say.”
Wow! Whether he knows it or not, Ponting owes the esteemed Neil Harvey a public apology, not to mention his fellow countrymen and teammates for whom he took the liberty to speak so recklessly. And “ditto” for Smith.
It is unfortunate that the captain and team management insist on such a disagreeable strategy because the Australian people are fun-loving sorts, and their players are of exceptional talent that when played in the right spirit, they can be the best of the best. Last week Australia needed just a few minutes on day five to secure a 118 run victory over South Africa in the first test in Durban. But the bust-up between the Aussie opener David Warner and South African keeper Quinton de Kock was the big story of the game.
Throughout the match, players were trading barbs, and the on-field chatter apparently continued as they made their way to tea on day four. Steve Smith, is alleging that what de Kock said “got a little bit personal towards Davey and, as we saw, it certainly provoked an emotional response.”
Smith did not reveal what de Kock allegedly said to Warner, but the implication is that he may have said something about Warner’s wife. Is it possible that de Kock might have mentioned the name of Kiwi rugby superstar, Sonny Bill Williams? Warner’s wife, Candice Falzon, is an Australian pro athlete and popular model who infamously had a “toilet tryst” with Williams in 2007. The steamy tryst, captured on a mobile phone camera, apparently took place in a men’s toilet cubicle after a night of partying at a beachside pub in Sydney.
Personal attacks can never be condoned, but context is also important. Could Warner have said something that might have provoked such a response from de Kock? In fact, that is exactly what the Saffies are alleging. If so, then it’s fair game. The Aussies continue to insist that they did not cross the line.
My question is this: who died and made the Aussies king of what is acceptable and what is not? This incident brings to mind another ugly spectacle involving the Aussies in Antigua. With Sarwan going great guns and the Aussies staring at defeat, McGrath maliciously asked Sarwan, “What does Brian Lara’s d–k like?” To which Sarwan, in true West Indian form, responded: “I don’t know, ask your wife.” And like this Warner incident, the Aussies at first tried to blame Sarwan only to end up with egg on their faces when it was later revealed that McGrath was the instigator.
The Aussie Board was so incensed that CEO James Sutherland telephoned Steve Waugh to denounce the ugly incident, and told Waugh: “if you can’t carry yourself in the right fashion, in the true spirit of the game at those times, then perhaps you need to have a good look at yourself.”
Ultimately it’s the leadership, captains and coaches that set the tone for the team. The Chinese sage, Confucius famously said: As the wind blows, so the grass bends. But what example can Coach Darren Lehmann set? He is no stranger to controversy. In 2003, Lehmann racially abused the entire Sri Lankan team exclaiming: “c–nts, c–nts, f—king black c—nts”. For which match referee, Clive Lloyd, only issued a reprimand. Lloyd’s decision was so offensive that the ICC was forced to intervene and issue a code of conduct charge that led to a five-game ban on Lehmann. Lehmann will tell you that he has learned from that experience. But has he? Is it possible that the Indian skipper, Anil Kumble, was right when he questioned Australia’s commitment to the spirit of the game? If he is, then that is a sad commentary on the gentleman’s game. And for that we must blame the ICC for failing to act.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.