January 24, 2009

Michael Jeh

What is not Australian?

Michael Jeh



The response to NSW signing Brendon McCullum for their Twenty20 Final against Victoria on Saturday night has divided certain sections of the local cricket population. Andrew Symonds lit the fire by claiming that it was “not Australian” and Dave Gilbert, the CEO of Cricket NSW has responded by labelling Symonds a “hypocrite”.

It’s an amusing little by-play to a competition that needs to be kept in context. It is Twenty20 after all, a bit of a circus, a bit of fun but never meant to be taken too seriously. Unless of course the Champions Trophy prize money warrants it being taken very seriously indeed. So seriously that a team is prepared to fly in an international ‘import’ to help them win a game.

To Symonds’s comments first though: he is obviously referring to the fact that a local NSW player must make way for McCullum in the final. By invoking the ‘un-Australian’ theme, he has chosen to follow the lead of opportunistic politicians and aim a blow at the very heart of the national psyche. For those of you unfamiliar with the gravity of being labelled “un-Australian”, it is a tactic that is regularly used in this country to describe the lowest of low acts. Once you have been labelled thus, you are nothing but a cad and a bounder, lower than a snake’s belly, deserving of contempt. Being called un-Australian is about as shameful as it gets (apparently).

Politicians use it all the time to describe anyone who unfairly sacks their workers or someone who steals a pensioner’s handbag or deserts a friend in need. It is an act that goes beyond being merely wrong – it strikes at the very heart of national pride. With these cutting words, Symonds has ensured that all of NSW will choke on their barbecued prawns and sausages on Australia Day on Monday. It is a mortal wound, this un-Australian business.

As trivial as this particular incident is in the larger scheme of things, it begs the question of why Australia seems to have monopolised some basic human qualities and turned it into an exclusive moral high ground, firmly contained within our own borders. We like to think of it simplistically as a “fair go”. I’m sure the rest of the world has other names to describe similar qualities but is it couched in nationalistic jargon? Some things are just wrong or right, regardless of which culture or country you identify with.

If one was to ever take politicians seriously (fortunately, no one here does – that would be un-Australian of course!), one could be forgiven for thinking that no other country on Earth shared these common values of mateship, decency, honesty, loyalty, generosity etc. It’s almost become a joke now when people label something universal as un-Australian because it is so clearly something that would apply to any people of the world. As if knocking an old lady down in the street, stealing her purse and kicking her dog is perfectly OK in any other part of the world. How ridiculous.

Cricket NSW is not going to stand for that sort of insult though. Anything but that. Once you’ve been called un-Australian, you have no choice but to defend your honour to the bitter end. They’ve fired back by asking how Symonds can justify his moral stance against the McCullum signing when he is happy to play for an IPL team and deny a local player a spot in his local team. What about Symonds’ stints in county cricket? Is that not denying a local his place in the team? Using that logic, surely playing a whole season and denying a local boy his spot for 6 months is worse than McCullum's cameo.

There are slight differences of course. This is a final, McCullum hasn’t played any of the lead-up games and most Australians love hating NSW. It’s un-Australian not to. What about the fact that Sohail Tanvir and Umar Gul have played for other teams in the competition? What about the fact that if the Deccan Chargers reach the final against his beloved Qld Bulls (if they hadn’t been knocked out), Symonds would be happily playing against his own mates, against the team that nurtured him to his current stardom? Would that not be un-Australian?

There's another twist in the tale. Apparently Victoria are thinking of hiring Adam Gilchrist or Shane Warne to play for them in the final. Is that un-Australian too or is it different if one Australian player replaces another, despite not having played a single game for this team in the current competition? Warne is at least a Victorian but Gilchrist is as removed from Victoria as McCullum is from NSW.

Perhaps where big money is involved, misplaced notions of national pride conveniently disappear. Is it un-Australian to have a selective memory? Or is that a trait that mankind shares in common?

It’s only Twenty20 cricket, a bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously. I write this in that vein, tongue-in-cheek and irreverently poking fun at my own country. With Australia Day just two days away, it’s positively Australian to take the mickey out of your own mates. Anything less would be…….yep you guessed it……un-Australian!

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

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Posted by Noelene on (February 2, 2009, 17:55 GMT)

Typical of a lot of immigrants,come to our country,and criticise the people or life style.It is where the term whinging pom came from.Symonds is entitled to express his opinion,just as a born and bred Englishman is entitled to tell people what is Australian or not.I am not your mate,so why are you taking the mickey?Taking the mickey is not criticising your mate in front of a room full of people.Keep trying,you may be Australian one day.

Posted by R Sivasubramaniam on (January 25, 2009, 16:35 GMT)

Symonds has a lot of talent and he is one person (when in form) can turn any cricket match around - but of late his performances outside cricket seem to be making headlines. Rather than chide him, CA or those involved in his welfare should make him see the error in his ways. There is still a lot of cricketing talent left in him and it would be a shame to see it go to waste. Can someone please help him. Siva from Singapore

Posted by Adhil on (January 25, 2009, 8:00 GMT)

Hi guys! Theres no need to apologize,i was furious when i read that article,i can get really annoyed when the nz team gets picked on espically brendon whose my cricket hero

Posted by jogesh99 on (January 25, 2009, 6:46 GMT)

How 'un-Australian Test cricketer' of you Marcus. You would never be picked by Ponting and his Crusaders. :)

Posted by Marcus on (January 25, 2009, 6:05 GMT)

I've seen those comments now, and I apologise to Adhil, and anyone else I may have offended.

Posted by Roy on (January 25, 2009, 3:14 GMT)

Don't mind me, I'm just losing it in my old age... Since I gave up playing cricket for fishing and getting into bar fights I just need to run my mouth to keep myself from getting bored... Dont mind me!

Posted by Mahek on (January 25, 2009, 0:42 GMT)

Why does anyone give a damn about Symonds anyway? Him and Harbhajan deserve each other for they lack the conduct that is expected from international sportsmen. And yes, he is a hypocrite to say McCullum is going to rob an Australian of a place.

Posted by graeme on (January 24, 2009, 23:47 GMT)

While the epithet 'un-Australian' is used in some dubious ways by various people it is obvious that this move to install a player just for the final is repugnant.

While professional sports all over the world drafts in almost anyone it pleases it usually requires you to live and play in the local community for at least one season. In that way you can form some kind of bond with the team and the area that you live in and create some sort of meaningful relationship with those you play with and the fans who support that team.

When I saw that NSW had drafted in McCullum for one match I felt disgust. There has to be some sort of minium qualifications for playing in a final otherwise it will just degenerate into farce. This has already happened with the possibility that McCullum could play for 3 teams in 20/20 champions league! who the hell does he pick? The team with the most money of course.

This may be the way of the future but such mercenary actions are not sport.

Posted by Chris on (January 24, 2009, 23:01 GMT)

Uh @ Marcus, Symonds did indeed refer to Mccullum as a lump of shit on radio. Something similar to:

"He's a lump of shit, sorry cow dirt"

I don't know if I would consider it to be abuse however simply because the tirade that he spewed out was a collection of semi sensical garbage that he seemed to be pulling out of his ass as he could think of it. If you actually hear the recording it sounds like hes constantly tripping over himself.

Posted by Ross on (January 24, 2009, 22:54 GMT)

Adhil as a Otago supporter I am annoyed that McCullum has missed his last game against the Firebirds... but with the comments on Australian Culture, bang on... You'd think the Australians had a monopoly on mateship, honesty and hard play... Kiwis only go to Australia for the money now...

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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.

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