Nannes slams Australia's 'horrendous sportsmanship'
Former Australia cricketer Dirk Nannes has made an impassioned plea for the national side to improve their on-field behaviour after decrying the failure of any member of the home side to shake Ross Taylor's hand after the conclusion of his epic 290 at the WACA Ground.
Relations between Australia and New Zealand have been strong in this series, with the teams sharing drinks after the Gabba Test and most opposition milestones being applauded. On this occasion the lunch break was encroaching and there was some confusion as to whether there would be one over for David Warner and Joe Burns to face.
However Nannes referred to the failure to acknowledge Taylor as "horrendous sportsmanship", and went on to expand his comments later in the day. While conceding the episode was not much in isolation, Nannes said this lapse was simply another moment to add to a "library" of incidents that did not reflect well on the sportsmanship of the Australian team.
"In isolation what we saw today is probably nothing, and at the end of the day yes they're going to congratulate him off the field and it'll all be fine," Nannes said while commentating on ABC Grandstand. "I think what rubs me [the wrong way] is the general trend that's happened with Australian cricket over the last number of years and the way they go about their cricket.
"The biggest thing that's irked me is the way Australia carry on on the field and as an Australian cricketer you sit there, shake your head sometimes and say 'stop carrying on', and it gets hidden or disguised or brushed off as being hard cricket.
"But playing hard cricket isn't about carrying on like an idiot on the field. Playing hard cricket is about always being up for the contest, determination, playing hard, playing skilful, never giving an inch. And they're values as an Australian that you're proud of about your cricket team. But it's also about humility and dignity and sportsmanship."
After the first Test, captain Steven Smith had publicly admonished Mitchell Starc for a wayward throw back in the general direction of the striker Mark Craig on the final day, an incident that also attracted an ICC fine. However Nannes pointed to numerous other instances, including this year's World Cup final and last year's fiery South Africa tour, when Dale Steyn was alleged to have been called a "cheat", as evidence of regrettable behaviour.
"I think by and large the players in the Australian dressing room are great people," he said. "But the carry on they have, and these moments, these lapses, just sour the overall taste of what the team's about. Yes you want your cricket team to win absolutely, but you also want them to win in a good way. There've just been so many incidents over the years that leave a sour taste.
"The World Cup final, the sending off of [Grant] Elliott, the sending off of [Daniel] Vettori. People don't need that sort of stuff - to disguise that under playing hard cricket, the match referee hasn't come down on any of us. I just don't think that's good enough. Do I want my children to go up playing like that? For me the answer's no.
"Some players need to get involved in the game, there's a bit of niggle and they play better cricket. But the personal sledging that goes on... Individually these little things aren't that important, they're non-events. But build up a library of these things over time, it just leaves you shaking your head."
In previous years Cricket Australia has worked at trying to change the way the national team plays its cricket, most pointedly as a reaction to the 'Monkeygate' dramas of 2007-08, but their efforts were clumsy and resulted in the players feeling like they were being unfairly targeted. More recently, the team performance manager, Pat Howard, was believed to have encouraged the players to be as aggressive as they felt was necessary to win, most notably during the 2013-14 Ashes campaign.
"We look at what happened out here today ... because of the behaviour over a number of years," Nannes said. "Ask any player in world cricket, they think Australia carry on like fools on the cricket field. To change that perception takes time, so that incident today just continues that image of the bad boy, no sportsmanship and stuff like that.
"As a player and watching I just wish I could hang my hat on a team that carries on well, plays really hard cricket absolutely ... but I'd like to be really proud of the team I have played for. And I'd like my son to have those virtues when he goes about his sport. I hope I'm not alone in those sentiments.
"When you've had this image for so long, maybe you have to go out of your way to change that image. The ball's in their court and I hope that in time that perception of Australian cricket can change. Time will tell."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig