Cricket Australia – Sportsmanship be darned

Alexander Penny
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Kevin Pietersen and Mitchell Johnson in one of several heated exchanges so far this series.

During the 2005 Ashes series, Shane Warne bowled a bouncer outside off-stump to Kevin Pietersen, a ball that was watched through with a smirk, followed by wry smiles and giggles all round.

It was a moment that recognised the atmosphere on and off the field, a mark of enjoyment, of a rivalry that has heart but is given the respect that it deserves. It is no secret that Warne and Pietersen are good friends, maintaining the passion for their countries while also embracing the fact that sportsmanship is a fundamental aspect of cricket.

Even now in the commentary boxes, former players of both nations enjoy one another’s company, reminiscing about battles past and toasting opponent’s accomplishments back in their hay day. It warms the heart for any cricket fan to see a game being enjoyed to the maximum extent, with the proper respect being given.

During this series, Australia have been dominant, they have outperformed England in all departments and fully deserve the rewards they are reaping. But it is astonishing that despite the job being done, Australia must continue to flog the dead horse, as they say.

Michael Vaughan wrote in his autobiography that it was such a blessing to win the Ashes in 2005 and put an end to 16 years of being ridiculed. It was pressure being eased on a wound that had not been allowed to heal by Australians’ who so enjoyed seeing England struggle.

Having spoken to several local cricket followers in Australia, they seem to be under the impression that the English media, public and every cricket loving Brit, brags about winning the oldest Test rivalry for the last three series; a far cry from reality, where respect is dished out in equal measure to both sides, no matter what the result.

In Brisbane’s Courier Mail I recently read that England had shown a lack of respect when Shane Watson scored a bludgeoning ton in the third Test in Perth, where only half of the team applauded him upon reaching three figures. Yet upon almost every camera shot of an England batsman at the crease, you can see Watson mouthing some tirade at them from the slip cordon, hoping to induce them into a momentary lapse.

Now sledging here and there is within the spirit of the game, it causes friction and is great entertainment, but to retain such a persona on the outfield, it is no wonder compassion is not shown when you do not give the respect you are looking for. When James Anderson had Watson during an innings, the Lancastrian simply smiled at him, the perfect response to someone waiting for a barrage of abuse, it embodied the atmosphere of the game.

Now don’t get me wrong, English newspapers are notorious for stirring the pot and fuelling sporting battles. However there is a line that should not be crossed in sport, as everyone from the media to the public, combine to enforce that respect that has been lacking this series.

Mitchell Johnson has been magnificent throughout all four Test matches, showing fierce hostility and aggression, matched with pace and accuracy, a far cry from his “he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right” jibes from a few years ago. England have admitted that he has ‘blown them away’, but his feisty follow-throughs, while trying to intimidate, become stale and tiresome, with his skipper being forced to intervene when England players bite back.

Brad Haddin, having a delightful series with bat and gloves, has almost single handedly taken promising England positions into dominant match-winning positions for the hosts. Yet it is a similar situation to that of Johnson, where sledging has gone beyond a jibe to simply lacking respect for your opposition, and it is a dangerous road considering the reputation the game carries for sportsmanship.

As mentioned, the media are pivotal in getting the nation behind their team and play a big role in reaffirming respect for not only their own players but also of the oppositions. On day two of the fourth Test in Melbourne, England were accused by commentators’ on Australian broadcaster Channel 9, of being ’slow’, ‘boring’ and ’sending the crowd to sleep’, however the following day Australia batted at a slower pace than their counterparts, yet it was deemed ‘patient’.

Now I’m not one to get petty, but being an Englishman based in Australia, you want to see that respect and passion being shown to one’s own team as well as that of the hosts. Albeit that there has been little for the English to support over the course of this tour, fans will not mind being beaten to the better team, as is the case in any sport, but it’s the ‘kick them while they’re down’ follow-up that has riled up fans.

From David Warner punching Joe Root, to the Jonathan Trott saga, and now Johnson insinuating that England’s players are using underhand tactics by deliberately backing away to put off the host’s seam attack, shows that respect is nowhere to be seen between the two current sides. The Ashes is about two nations, hearts on sleeves, being at each other’s throats on the field, and enjoying a beer in their opponents changing room after stumps, not mind games that are fuelled by media fallout and public expectations.

It is a trait in many Australians’, and a positive trait in that, to keep your foot on the opponents throat and refuse to give them an inch, and if they choose to do this with media assistance, so be it, England should not have taken the bait.

Whereas the tourists’ as we have all seen, have taken their foot off the throttle one too many occasions, and have almost been laughable at times. A transitional period is nigh, and Australia will rightly enjoy this time hammering the English into the ground, but cricket was founded on ethics and sportsmanship and the host’s have missed a trick in retaining dignity when glory beckoned.

Australia are worthy Ashes winners’, from both nations’ perspectives. However what matters is the manner in which the victor’s take their spoils, and thus far, overkill would be an understatement.

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  • Pauline

    Dear John, face facts, even the Australian players and their boofhead coach admit to a deliberate plan of using hostile sledging and verbal abuse to try to win this Ashes series. I have a much better plan, simply play better than the opposition. And while you are at it, get rid of that talentless left arm slinger who seems to hit the batsmen more than the pitch. Ugly run up, ugly bowling action, ugly face, ugly tattoo, ugly words that spew out of his mouth..what a perfect example of an Australian male. And in case you are wondering, yes, I am a decent Australian born cricket lover.

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