Michael Jeh November 14, 2008

An un-Australian sight

Tonight’s game has just shown that trash talk for exactly what it is – rubbish
25

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • pat on November 15, 2008, 10:22 GMT

    Jagadish - if this game was played so that an Australian side would win, then it was also played so that an Australian side would lose - what's the point behind your comment?

  • Markk on November 15, 2008, 9:59 GMT

    To Dave: What exactly do you mean by "look how discredited Kumble has become after his comments last year"? Kumble and Indian squad stands by whatever they did in Sydney. Bhajji didn't go unpunished for the slapgate affair - Kumble has nothing to do with it. He was probably) forced to retire purely on basis of his lack of utility - again nothing to do with what he said and what he did not. Anyone who believed Aussies's behaviour was un-sportsman like needs to get his head examined. And Michael Jeh is taking a softer line only because Aussies are not winning.

  • Adnan Siddiqui on November 15, 2008, 8:58 GMT

    Assad you are a fool to say that.Fear GOD as HE doesn't likes anyone cursing anybody. Australia lost mainly because some of their key palyers just returned from India and could not adjust to the bounce of the Wollongongabba pitch so quickly.Australia is in a transition period, give them some time.Give Dan Cullen some chances at international level and also Mark Cosgrove.

  • sridhar on November 15, 2008, 8:43 GMT

    If this is the spirit of the game, why not play like that against all teams. Is it because other teams are made of lesser mortals? If sledging is part true sprit of a winner, then I guess this match was not played in the right spirit. I am confused. Micheal help me here. unfortunate part is that other international teams are copying Aus. when all of them become like Aus it will be a sad day for cricket. Cricket will be will be more like gladiators fighting.

  • sps75 on November 15, 2008, 8:10 GMT

    Live and let live.I do not want the Australian Cricket down and out like the west indies.sure, I love the intensity, the thrill, the fizz, some sarcastic comments. Cricket is always not just batting and bowling. But why targetting family members, personal traits, disrespecting national leaders ( as you mentioned this happens after a thousand beers ). Its just the same feeling you develop when someone gives you back the same stick. So learn the human nature, look for mutual respect, live happily. If you doubt that the australian cricket is going down and they have started pre series practice matches, its good that at last you have passed the reality test. All the best for the revival of australian cricket with good spirits and hard cricketting talents. Please shrug off this sledging, snarling, complaining. If you stop, everyone will stop.

  • Aditya Mookerjee on November 15, 2008, 7:39 GMT

    I liked reading the piece. Even though Australia are very good at T-20, they were out of sorts playing the game earlier. Perhaps, the same can be said about Australia, when they first started to play One day Internationals.

  • Gururaj on November 15, 2008, 4:57 GMT

    I think at one stage Australians played every game of cricket like this. Back when the baggy green was just a cap to keep the sun off your face. We lost something important along the way somewhere. But hey Michael don't expect to see the same cricketers being civilized & smiling and enjoying themselves when the first test starts against NZ.

  • Dave on November 15, 2008, 3:13 GMT

    There’s nothing wrong with Australia’s behaviour. Look how discredited Kumble has become after his comments last year.

  • Dravid on November 15, 2008, 3:06 GMT

    Assad... Such hatred, must be sad to be you.

  • Geoff Plumridge on November 15, 2008, 2:40 GMT

    I agree with you that the game was played in a great spirit but this was because no-one was wearing a baggy green. I think at one stage Australians played every game of cricket like this. Back when the baggy green was just a cap to keep the sun off your face. We lost something important along the way somewhere. But hey Michael don't expect to see the same cricketers being civilized & smiling and enjoying themselves when the first test starts against NZ. I wonder now if it is the cricketers fault or the expectations of a certain kind of fairweather cricket follower (you know the ones that care too much about their chosen football code in the winter)being pandered to. Such a tremendous shame that this type of friendly entertaining cricket isn't the norm. What great role-models these people could be to our aspiring young cricketers. But no, we just get sour faced foul mouthed louts like Ponting. Pity.

  • Roger@1stSlip on November 14, 2008, 23:05 GMT

    Thanks Mike

    The night could have been further improved by not selecting players so soon returned from India. It was alot to ask guys who had only been back in the country for just a few days to come and perform. By selecting these players in the Australian team, it reinforces that cricket is rapidly dissolving into an uncontrolled, jumbled "caravan" of the different formats. It's asking alot of everyone involved in the game if Cricket Australia expect players to adapt & perform in a few days from a serious overseas Test Series of the highest quality to chucking themeselves around in a "slogfest" under lights. It's also asking alot of cricket fans in general to credibly support players and administrators as they chop and change in a few days from the "serious" to the "baseball" the "overseas" to the "domestic" and "day" to the "night" versions of the game.

  • Assad on November 14, 2008, 21:13 GMT

    cheesy article.....stop trying to make yourself feel better...australia is now a mediocre team...they even found it hard to beat West Indies...they would have lost to pakistan if they had travelled there instead of whining like little pussies.... it feels good to see the aussies down...i pray for more misery and worse days for these pathetic individuals...

  • Daniel on November 14, 2008, 21:05 GMT

    That was good, Michael...It was really wonderful to read that they played without any sledge or abuse or that sort of tactic...I wish they play like this always, against all teams, we do not need these tactics to win...hard, fair with smile but no sledging...

  • Jagadish on November 14, 2008, 21:04 GMT

    The game was played so that an Australian team would win, regardless of the result! Ego-massaging, really!

  • Sundar on November 14, 2008, 18:57 GMT

    "It was just high quality cricket, played by high quality cricketers with no ‘mongrel’ necessary". Well, there was no mongrel necessary because there was nothing at stake. It something had been at stake then we would have seen.

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  • Sundar on November 14, 2008, 18:57 GMT

    "It was just high quality cricket, played by high quality cricketers with no ‘mongrel’ necessary". Well, there was no mongrel necessary because there was nothing at stake. It something had been at stake then we would have seen.

  • Jagadish on November 14, 2008, 21:04 GMT

    The game was played so that an Australian team would win, regardless of the result! Ego-massaging, really!

  • Daniel on November 14, 2008, 21:05 GMT

    That was good, Michael...It was really wonderful to read that they played without any sledge or abuse or that sort of tactic...I wish they play like this always, against all teams, we do not need these tactics to win...hard, fair with smile but no sledging...

  • Assad on November 14, 2008, 21:13 GMT

    cheesy article.....stop trying to make yourself feel better...australia is now a mediocre team...they even found it hard to beat West Indies...they would have lost to pakistan if they had travelled there instead of whining like little pussies.... it feels good to see the aussies down...i pray for more misery and worse days for these pathetic individuals...

  • Roger@1stSlip on November 14, 2008, 23:05 GMT

    Thanks Mike

    The night could have been further improved by not selecting players so soon returned from India. It was alot to ask guys who had only been back in the country for just a few days to come and perform. By selecting these players in the Australian team, it reinforces that cricket is rapidly dissolving into an uncontrolled, jumbled "caravan" of the different formats. It's asking alot of everyone involved in the game if Cricket Australia expect players to adapt & perform in a few days from a serious overseas Test Series of the highest quality to chucking themeselves around in a "slogfest" under lights. It's also asking alot of cricket fans in general to credibly support players and administrators as they chop and change in a few days from the "serious" to the "baseball" the "overseas" to the "domestic" and "day" to the "night" versions of the game.

  • Geoff Plumridge on November 15, 2008, 2:40 GMT

    I agree with you that the game was played in a great spirit but this was because no-one was wearing a baggy green. I think at one stage Australians played every game of cricket like this. Back when the baggy green was just a cap to keep the sun off your face. We lost something important along the way somewhere. But hey Michael don't expect to see the same cricketers being civilized & smiling and enjoying themselves when the first test starts against NZ. I wonder now if it is the cricketers fault or the expectations of a certain kind of fairweather cricket follower (you know the ones that care too much about their chosen football code in the winter)being pandered to. Such a tremendous shame that this type of friendly entertaining cricket isn't the norm. What great role-models these people could be to our aspiring young cricketers. But no, we just get sour faced foul mouthed louts like Ponting. Pity.

  • Dravid on November 15, 2008, 3:06 GMT

    Assad... Such hatred, must be sad to be you.

  • Dave on November 15, 2008, 3:13 GMT

    There’s nothing wrong with Australia’s behaviour. Look how discredited Kumble has become after his comments last year.

  • Gururaj on November 15, 2008, 4:57 GMT

    I think at one stage Australians played every game of cricket like this. Back when the baggy green was just a cap to keep the sun off your face. We lost something important along the way somewhere. But hey Michael don't expect to see the same cricketers being civilized & smiling and enjoying themselves when the first test starts against NZ.

  • Aditya Mookerjee on November 15, 2008, 7:39 GMT

    I liked reading the piece. Even though Australia are very good at T-20, they were out of sorts playing the game earlier. Perhaps, the same can be said about Australia, when they first started to play One day Internationals.