Samir, with respect to your generous portrait of Australian cricket fans, I beg to differ.
There’s no doubt that Samir’s 'friends' exist in Australia, as is doubtless the case with knowledgeable cricket lovers from Mumbai to Manchester and exotic places in between. What I’m referring to is the loud, obnoxious minority, who by virtue of their sheer ability to make complete idiots of themselves, makes you think that they outnumber the genuine fans that Samir fondly eulogises.
There’s a pretty clear pattern though. In international matches, the behaviour tends to get progressively worse after the first few hours of play. Any early rowdiness, normally restricted to on-field happenings, becomes increasingly less cricket-centric as the day (night) wears on. The poor behaviour reaches a crescendo towards the end of the day before it easing off into a drunken stupor at the close.
This type of parochial Australian fan (who only care about beer, beer and more beer) are a particularly unedifying sight to those who’ve paid good money in the forlorn hope of enjoying good cricket. The mere glimpse of a $2 beach ball is greeted with a louder roar than the most sumptuous cover drive or delicate leg glance. If not for the giant replay screen, they’d miss all the highlights.
Then there’s the ubiquitous Mexican Wave. What more is there to say about something that is about as amusing as toothache? Round and round it goes, a shower of beer and food scraps thrown to the heavens and proud ‘high fives’ from a thousand oafs who would barely know (or care) if The Don himself had been reincarnated. Their interest in the cricket, marginal to begin with, has now clearly been washed away with the last 12 beers in the hot sun.
It is about now when the really clever ones start to come out of the woodwork! You know, the ones whose ancestors thought that “Hadlee’s a wanker” was our own unique contribution to literary genius. Twenty years on and nothing has changed apart from a few other choice insults to any foreign player who has the temerity to actually field the ball or inhale oxygen. Any foul-mouth hooligan who attracts the attention of the police becomes an instant hero, a modern day Ned Kelly or Robin Hood. Poor old Hadlee’s alleged personal preferences are now attributed to the constabulary and “Hurray for the Drunken Idiot” is adopted as the new national anthem.
Speaking of anthems, no one comes close to us for sheer imagination. “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” is right up there with the great poetic works of all time. When matched by the equally brilliant “Enger-land, Enger-land, Enger-land”, one could be forgiven for thinking that Shakespeare was nobbut an illiterate peasant.
To be fair, I haven’t seen enough international cricket in other parts of the world to know if this is a uniquely Australian trait or not. Perhaps a few bloggers might enlighten us with some salutary tales of national embarrassment from their corner of the globe.
One redeeming feature of Australians though is our ability to readily laugh at ourselves when the joke is reversed. At one of the ODI matches in Brisbane, a burly South African man wearing a Springbok rugby shirt was being mercilessly “sledged” by the local crowd. As the fast bowler was steaming in from the Vulture St end, the fans started beating the advertising hoardings in a frenzied call to arms. When the noise died down, our brave African friend stood up and proclaimed in a guttural Afrikaans accent, “don’t worry about the convicts – they’re just calling for their dinner”.
Once the laughter had died down, he was instantly swallowed up by a sea of Aussie supporters. No need to fear for his welfare though - he was last seen weaving unsteadily towards the Aussie National Pub, arm in arm with a dozen of his new best friends, proudly croaking “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie……..”
Meanwhile, those of us who stayed till the end of the game watched South Africa narrowly beat Sri Lanka. Australia play tomorrow!
Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane