November 14, 2008

Michael Jeh

An un-Australian sight

Michael Jeh

Tonight, Australian cricket has proved a point to itself and to me. Australia played the AllStars team led by Adam Gilchrist in a T20 match at the Gabba. It was meant to be a sort of practice match and a sort of exhibition match.

Normally, Australia doesn’t DO this practice/exhibition thing very well. Anything that is not played to win is something that most Australians find hard to get their heads around. It’s just not in their nature not to be super competitive. If it means firing one past Grandma’s nose in the Backyard Test, well, she asked for it. That’ll teach her to get on the front foot and drive me on the up past the rubbish bin and over the bbq!!

That’s why I wasn’t quite sure why I was at the Gabba tonight. It’s normally not my cup of tea to watch a meaningless T20 game with nothing at stake, surrounded by rowdy patrons on a Friday night. But I’m glad I went.

It was a game played at high intensity and at a blistering pace. Shaun Tait was slinging it down at 150 k’s and Michael Dighton from Tasmania hit a six first ball over third slip. It was that sort of pitch. Peter Siddle, after 8 weeks on the slower pitches of India, let fly with a few searing bouncers that went straight over the keeper’s head for five wides. And he smiled.

Brad Hodge played some stunning shots to remind us all that if any Australian batsmen slip up, he can still mix it in the very best company. Justin Langer too peeled back the years and struck a few balls into the crowd.

What was most revealing though was that here was proof that Australian cricket can be played hard and fast but can also be played entirely in the right spirit. There was none of the snarling and muttering that we saw from both teams in the recent Border Gavaskar Trophy. It was just high quality cricket, played by high quality cricketers with no ‘mongrel’ necessary.

What this shows is that Australian cricket too often sells itself short. It's too easy to justify the on-field excesses by claiming that in order to be competitive, they need to fire themselves up by behaving poorly. The sledging and verbals apparently provide the spark to light the genius within.

Tonight’s game has just shown that trash talk for exactly what it is – rubbish. The skills, power and brilliance shown tonight owed nothing to that sort of behaviour. It was purely down to some wonderfully talented cricketers, evenly matched, going at each other with ferocity but without venom. Dropped catches, edges, french cuts and not a hint of the usual vitriol.

Even the behaviour of the crowd was in keeping with this civilised theme. Denied of a team to hate, they seemed to be transfixed by the wonderful entertainment on show from Australia’s best cricketers. They had their personal favourites of course – the local Queenslanders and Gilchrist were cheered louder than most but it just lacked that unpleasant edge that sometimes happens late at night after a thousand beers. This was Australian nightlife at it’s most generous and magnanimous. It’s such a shame that so many of our international visitors to the Gabba don’t get to see this.

The Australian team were ultimately beaten by the AllStars. Some people will point to that and say “see I told you. They were too friendly and that’s why they lost”.

Wrong. They lost because it’s T20 cricket and that happens sometimes. They lost because Australia’s depth is so strong that the ‘2nd XI’ were always a chance to win this game. Perhaps they were a bit tired after the long flight home from India and weren’t quite pumped up for this ‘friendly’ encounter. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that they weren’t trying to win. That would be an insult to both teams.

OK, let’s be realistic – they weren’t playing for sheep stations and perhaps it lacked that little 'something' that comes when you’re playing an International. Even allowing for that, my original point stands. Here were some wonderful cricketers, most of them playing for spots in the Australian team, enjoying cricket for the pure unadulterated joy of it. Smiles instead of snarls. Shrugs instead of sledges. This is what they mean when they talk of playing it hard but fair. Forget the other rubbish of having to abuse somebody to prove you really want to win.

It’s a good to be an Australian tonight. Played hard, played fair, played with a smile on the face. To use an awful cliché, cricket was the winner tonight!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

RSS Feeds: Michael Jeh

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by CB Daniel on (November 18, 2008, 21:08 GMT)

Prakash, agree the Aussies do a lot of sledging and as you say the ICC should react. But don't you think Indians the worst comes to racist abuse. When a white guy calls an Indian 'black', its racism but what about the Indians calling white people 'goras'. Since Indains use the term for every other white guy the see or talk about, don't you think Indians are the worst when it comes to racist abuse. Also, the monkey chants and actions during the last series in India. The Indain cricketing authorities say the fans were praying to Lord Hanuman. Dude, gimme a break, these buggers don't have time to pray at home or any other place of worship. So, judge yourself before you judge others.

Posted by digitaleye on (November 18, 2008, 19:33 GMT)

@CB Daniel. Stop exaggerating while making trying to make your point. The series against Sri Lanka was settled 1-2. India won the ODI series that followed (yeah! ABROAD). During that test series, India had to contend with Mendis, who AT HOME would be quite a handful against any team. Wait until SA, Eng, or Aus tours Sri Lanka to see how much of a 'kick in the rear' SL is capable of giving.

Posted by Prakash Savani on (November 18, 2008, 8:47 GMT)

Its not about Srilanka beating India in a one off series when they won. What has happened in the past ? Look at the record of India in the last 10 years against Australia. Both of them have won 10 each & have dominated in their home series. Australia looked no where convincing to beat India in their back yard.

Posted by Leonard on (November 18, 2008, 0:41 GMT)

Thanks for reminding the Indian fan about what happen in Sr1 Lanka.By his reconing Sri Lanka should be the world champs because they thrased India will he agree to that theory.

Posted by CB Daniel on (November 17, 2008, 19:33 GMT)

Jagdish, nice one. I'm an Indian but an Australian supporter ever since the days of Allan Border and I've got to say this. The Indians are good only in their backyard. They win a game/series at home and media and the people celebrate as if they've just conquered the world. If u recall, the Indian team just had been kicked in the rear by the Sri Lankans the previous month. Wanna be called the best, prove it by winnin' reqularly at haome and most importantly ABROAD, as the Aussies have been doing for the past two decades.

Posted by CB Daniel on (November 17, 2008, 18:52 GMT)

Jagdish, nice one. I'm an Indian but an Australian supporter ever since the days of Allan Border and I've got to say this. The Indians are good only in their backyard. They win a game/series at home and media and the people celebrate as if they've just conquered the world. If u recall, the Indian team just had been kicked in the rear by the Sri Lankans the previous month. Wanna be called the best, prove it by winnin' reqularly at haome and most importantly ABROAD, as the Aussies have been doing for the past two decades.

Posted by Prakash Savani on (November 17, 2008, 18:30 GMT)

We have been watching Australia play cricket from the last 10 years & the amount of sledging they do is good enough for the ICC to react adversely than they do for sub-continent players. We were laughing to hear Symonds say that he started drinking because of Sydney row. It shows Aussies are more vulnerable when it comes to pressure scenarios than any other top class teams both personally & professionally. Hayden comments on the third world country is unacceptable for the amount of time he takes everytime he face a new bowler. This a declining team & are showing every evidence available to the spectators & the opposition.

Posted by digitaleye on (November 16, 2008, 2:59 GMT)

aasad, you need to have your head examined. cricinfo blogs moderator needs his head examined too for letting people like aasad spout non-sense. Btw, just so you know, I am an Indian fan, but I still find your post offensive.

Posted by jonathan on (November 15, 2008, 23:06 GMT)

Michael, what do you think of this T20 game as the only warm-up for the Australian Test team between India and the Test this week?

Posted by Michael Jeh on (November 15, 2008, 19:24 GMT)

Sridhar, my point was that Australia can play good, hard cricket without the ugly stuff if they really want to. OK, it wasn't quite the intensity of a full-blown international game but Tait was still bowling very fast and just about everyone else was trying to impress national selectors. Even allowing for a bit of that 'relaxed' atmosphere, it was still very competitive. Which only goes to prove the point that you can still play good, hard cricket with a smile on your face. No real need for all the other stuff. Too many people confuse sledging with competitiveness. I don't. Friday night's game was a good example of how you can play with spirit but it doesn't need to become personal and abusive. I just wish we could see more of it. I'm just hoping that Aust can see that it's still possible to play cricket this way and still try to win. The two qualities are not mutually exclusive - it is possible to be a gentleman and still be competitive. I fear though that it won't happen!

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

All articles by this writer