Cricket Australia – Grace and Humility (or lack thereof)

Alexander Penny
clip image002 150x150 Cricket Australia   Grace and Humility (or lack thereof)

Anderson and Clarke in heated exchange

They are virtues that are paramount in all sports across the globe and should not be devoid from the limelight. We have seen a huge lack of it in recent days and it has caused a stir around the cauldron of the Gabba as Australia routed a paltry England in less than four days.

With grace and humility, every sport has a duty to provide upcoming generations of sportsmen and women with a sense of sportsmanship,  to perform for their sides or nations, and doing their following proud.

Now with the Ashes, particularly back-to-back series, there was always going to be a heightened fervour surrounding both sides that would ultimately envelope both nations in all forms. There is always going to be banter thrown around on the field, it would not be an Ashes series if there wasn’t, and as England skipper Alastair Cook so politely put, “On the pitch it’s pretty much a war”.

Yet the phrase ‘bad winner’ has been thrown around a lot since England’s pugnacious verbal adversary, David Warner,  claimed that the tourist’s batsmen had ’scared eyes’, suggested Jonathan Trott was ‘backing away’ from Australian seamer Mitchell Johnson and also that his second innings dismissal was ‘pretty poor and pretty weak’.

The Australians’ have indeed earned back the bragging rights at present, but the attitude in which they have expressed their delight borders on the personal and downright silly. Newspaper campaigns, threats from former and current players, and an article from an Australian tabloid suggesting that the home players’ wives and girlfriends’ are “hotter” than England’s; these are just a few exploits.

Now Australia were undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with, and they blew England away with terrific seam bowling and clinical batting performances. They have earned victory, no one doubted this, yet it almost seems as if they still must prove themselves to the English, even after the battle has ended.

As Australia’s main rivals in most sports, it is without doubt that the English bring with them a certain reputation every time they compete against one another. Yet from an English perspective, they have a range of rivals such as Germany in football, or Scotland in rugby union, and therefore seem to perceive the rivalry a little less intense than the Australians’ believe it to be.

The rivalry is a great one by all means, one of the finest in the history of sport, but recently it seems as if it is all rather calculating and below board in terms of sportsmanship and friendly competition. Past generations have enjoyed one another’s company with jokes, alcohol and a firm bond, but I think Joe Root’s jaw and Warner’s subsequent ban may say differently about recent friendship with the Australians’.

Captain Michael Clarke insists that he has a “mutual respect” for England and that they “deserved to be at number one” in Test cricket, which is gracious no doubt, but is this merely a facade for the cameras and the world’s media who want to see that the Cricket Australia does possess some form of grace and courteousness, and is not a pretentious sporting nation? Yet his response, albeit maybe in the heat of the moment, in which he approached England’s James Anderson at the finale to say “get ready for a f****** broken arm” after Anderson had chirped back at George Bailey identifies that they are more than happy to dish out the insults, but have faces of thunder if someone responds to a jibe.

Speaking of Bailey, in his opening Test and as former England player Geoffrey Boycott puts, ’still wet behind the ears’, his to-ing and fro-ing with Anderson instigated Clarke’s outburst . Again, saying “get ready for a broken hand”, it all seems a little too far in terms of friendly banter.

I may be reading in to it to much however, and it may just be the dust settling after a bad-tempered affair in the opening Test. The Ashes is often a feisty affair that sees players as the worst of enemies on the field, but the best of friends off of it, much like the fans attending the match.

But something seems different this time around. I recall when England beat Australia at Edgbaston by 2 runs in 2005, a match that had everything, including a touching moment when Andrew Flintoff consoled Brett Lee for a terrific effort, before celebrating with his own team mates. Despite the vast difference in scoreline this time, there was a supreme lack of grace when Johnson had Anderson caught and bowled, including a barrage of four letter expletives aimed at the England number 11 upon his departure from Peter Siddle.

I for one enjoy the competition, the healthy nature in which two fierce sporting nations come together to fight it out tooth and nail for an Ashes urn steeped in history. The usual 18 months between series gives both countries a chance to recover and build for the next duel.

The mere 3 months this time may have ensured the blood keeps pumping in this rivalry and the Australians’ have not forgotten that they have been subjected to English taunts for the past 3 Ashes series. English banter however contain both teams, where criticism and praise is dished out where it is seen fit and not for the sake of insulting individuals, or a nation, as the Australian players and media have been inducing.

It is almost as if there is an insatiable appetite for Cricket Australia that they must outdo the England cricket team at all costs. Several times I have heard through Australian media, “Good news if you’re an Australian, the English team lost today” or some form of Australian fist pumping quote to get the home nation pumped up prior to the Ashes, again, effectively ensuring that blows were going to be given as soon as England’s plane hit the tarmac.

Do not get me wrong, England dish it out as good as they get it from series to series, and ultimately deserve some of the backlash that comes their way. However England are always prepared to enjoy the on-field exchanges, Graeme Swann getting patronisingly congratulated by team mates in Australia’s second innings for having 100 runs scored against his name.

It is ultimately always a heated environment, particularly this time around for a determined and eager Australia side who had not won a Test for the past 11 months; 9 matches and seven defeats ago. The follow up to any cricket match between England and Australia always leads to the same response of Australia, and their media, assuming they must convince themselves that the English are a group of cheating, whining nobodies who are not worthy of taking to the field opposite the green and gold; just compare the language used on Australia’s Fox Sports website and the BBC and you will understand.

If Australia truly wishes to retain their honour during this series, they should do so with a sense of dignity and sportsmanship, not personal insults, silly media campaigns and a sheer lack of respect. For that recognition, Australian cricket should acknowledge the following, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

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