June 28, 2013

Who's an Australian then?

England gets stick for playing "overseas" players. It's time the old enemy got some

Fawad Ahmed: doesn't quite have the ring of Shane Warne, does it? © Getty Images

Excuse me a minute while I… yaaaaawnnnn. Right, now then… No, need another. Hang on. YAAAAAWN.

Phew, that's a bit better. Touch cream-crackered. See, I've been chin-wagging - at ridiculous, excruciating length - to a couple of carping Australians about cricket. More specifically, about English cricket. On and on and on they went about how "England" (their speech marks) can only win by plundering the Commonwealth ("a-bloody-gain"); about how there will be times in the Ashes when there isn't an Englishman on the paddock ("KP, Trott and 11 blokes in the baggy green"); about… sorry, going to have to yawn again.


…Yeah, so, they were bleating about how now we've got, like, Compton too? About how, next, we'll be picking, like, Ugandans? And Falkland Islanders? About how England don't develop their own players? But just cherry-pick them. From the former colonies? Yada, yada…

Fair go - I'm not actually denying that historically the England team has availed itself of some exotic talents, pulled in from far-flung un-English lands. Just that, well, they came to us. As well as KP and Trott, we've borrowed more than a few Saffers (Lamby, the Smiths), several West Indian-born players (Phil DeFreitas, Gladstone Small, Devon Malcolm), Kiwis (Andy Caddick), Zimbabweans (Graeme Hick), Irish (Morgs), and a few born on the subcontinent (Owais Shah, Usman Afzaal, Nasser Hussain). Pick and Mix. But, amidst this frankly laudable openness toward the auslander, what particularly seems to rile the Aussies are, yes, the Aussies who, committing the ultimate sin, opt to play for the Mother Country: the Hollioakes, Geraint "Grant" Jones, Allan Mullally and Martin bloody McCague. Lower than a snake's scrotum, mate.

Anyway, with all this moral high ground-seeking, a few things have been overlooked by our antipodean cousins. (I won't mention how the Australian Rugby Union side has not been averse to requisitioning the best South Sea islanders: Fijian-born Lote Tuqiri, who scored the try in the 2003 World Cup final, or Papua New-Guinean Will Genia from the current group. No, I'm not going to mention that. Gonna stick to cricket…)

The first thing to query is the very notion of what constitutes an Australian. Our Strayan friends seem to forget that, save a tiny minority of players with some aboriginal bloodlines (Jason Gillespie, Dan Christian), strictly speaking, they are all descendants of immigrants. Trotts and Morgans every last one of 'em. More to the point, which country isn't a mongrel?

Let's leave aside for now the fact that there obviously wouldn't be any "Australia" (my speech marks) - let alone England-Australia Tests - had Britain not set up a colony there and shipped off various unruly elements to help "nation-build" (i.e. steal resources). But again: what is an Australian?

If we start from 1877, it's clear that the ethnic make-up of their team has been chiefly Anglo-Saxon or Celtic. In fact, out of their 433 capped Test players, 26 are Mc/Mac variants, with six O'Whatevers. That's 32 ultra-Celtic names. This is what the majority of Aussies are referring to when they invoke "our identity": displaced Celts.

Bearing this heritage in mind, here's an XI taken from some of the players who have popped up in Aussie sides in the last 20 years or so, since the dawn of their (now sadly faded) dominance:

1. Michael Di Venuto
2. Simon Katich (c)
3. Phil Jaques
4. Usman Khawaja
5. Darren Lehmann
6. Adam Voges
7. Luke Ronchi (wk)
8. Ashley Noffke
9. Jason Krejza
10. Mike Kasprowicz
11. Ben Hilfenhaus
12th. Nathan Hauritz

Some pretty flamin' fair-dinkum Strayan appellations there, eh cobber? Haven't even mentioned Lennie Pascoe, né Durtanovich.

The second thing about the jockstrap-twisted froth they get into over England's foreign-born players is the implication that Australia has never played anyone who wasn't born a weak sheila's half-slung boomerang from a coolabah tree. Strewth. But here's the thing: the man (retroactively) given Baggy Green No. 001, Charles Bannerman, Test cricket's first centurion, was born in Woolwich. In London. Not the one in Ontario. In fact, six of that Australian side for the inaugural Test match were born abroad. For our friends Down Under, that's more than half of them. And I hear the new legspinning hope doesn't look a great deal like Warnie.

Out of interest, here's an all-time Aussie team of players born offshore:

1. Kepler Wessels - Bloemfontein, South Africa
2. Charles Bannerman - Woolwich, UK
3. Usman Khawaja - Islamabad, Pakistan
4. Andrew Symonds - Birmingham, UK
5. Dav Whatmore - Colombo, Ceylon
6. Moises Henriques - Funchal, Madeira
7. Luke Ronchi - Dannevirke, NZ (ODI, T20)
8. Ken MacLeay - Bath-on-Avon, Wiltshire (ODI only)
9. Brendon Julian - Hamilton, NZ
10. Steve O'Keefe - Malaysia (T20 only)
11. Clarrie Grimmett - Dunedin, NZ

So there you go. Nothing more to discuss. Take your medicine.

Shot, Trotty lad.

Scott Oliver tweets here