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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prazzo on July 1, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    As an Indian brought up in Oz, I was initially amazed that the English cricket team had such a number of foreign players who were embraced into the team. To me it seemed like a great strength indicating the open minded nature of the Brits which I don't think has ever existed in Oz towards local talent with foreign origins. I think in Oz, it is seen as some kind of aberration to have a non-white player in the team, so Khawaja has been having a tough time cementing his place even though he deserves his place more than the mediocre Cowan and the stop-start Hughes. They talk of this guy Fawad Ahmed but I think that is more of a curiosity then a reality. It will take a few years before Ozzies grow up and give a go to local talent with non-western roots. If there are signs of it now, its because England has taken a lead on it. Oz is mentally about 20 years behind, so this conversation should be revisited then!

  • lisadb99 on July 1, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    Geraint Jones was born in Papua New Guinea, not Australia.

  • Paul_Somerset on June 30, 2013, 15:39 GMT

    An all-time German XI would have been pretty useful:

    Justin Langer Michael Klinger Darren Lehmann Adam Voges Tim Zoehrer Shane Warne Andy Bichel Nathan Hauritz Paul Reiffel Ben Hilfenhaus Carl Rackemann

  • Brownly on June 30, 2013, 1:21 GMT

    I think this article is taking the joke a little seriously. Most Australians make it more out of the disbelief that these cricketers would CHOOSE to identify as Poms. Australian imports have the right idea.

    In all seriousness though, I agree with Debatable. "Your implication that, after the Aboriginal population, Anglo-Irish descendants are more Australian than European/Asian immigrants is both offensive and ignorant." I had trouble reading this article, even as a joke, because of this same reason. To the point where I'd reconsider parts of your wording.

  • brittop on June 29, 2013, 21:38 GMT

    @foxee1: My definition is any person who becomes a citizen of the country can play test cricket for it. How would you set your rules?

  • cricfan95582279 on June 29, 2013, 15:59 GMT

    @Brittop, excellent point(s). It's called International Cricket for a reason. Country Vs Country. It is a game, just like Monopoly or Scrabble with rules that everyone adheres to and follows. Yes we have human beings playing this game, nevertherless it is still a game.Therefore it comes down to what rules we cricket lovers want for International Cricket. Do we want anyone with any particular background to play for any country that they want to, which is fine if we want it, or do we want some sort of defined criteria with which all cricketing nations adhere to. This is why I highlighted the particular country's cricketing system as being a base with which we can use to set the rules of eligibility. Otherwise, anything goes, which is cool if we want it?

  • RodStark on June 29, 2013, 15:50 GMT

    I do think it should be easier for players from countries that don't play test cricket to play for ones that do than for players to move around between the test-playing countries, but in any case, the rules are in place, and as long as you abide by them, that's okay. I must say the Aussies went a bit far by changing the actual laws of their country to let the leg-spinner play.

  • brittop on June 29, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    @Foxee1: So a test match is one coaching system versus another. Does that mean that nobody should be allowed to participate in another country's coaching scheme? Does it mean that players should not be allowed to get any assistance from former players of another country? Also if you're in one country until the age of say 14 or 15, then move to another, which country can you play for? What if you move at 12 or 13? 16 or 17?

  • siddhartha87 on June 29, 2013, 13:15 GMT

    Well surely Aussies on a decline for past 2-3 years.But this nothing new to Aussies. same happened for few years in mid eighties. But my dear poms, you know what it means right? this only means you will be dominated for some 20-25 years soon.Remember the Ashes during those days? :D You always lose 4-1. The 1 game you won were normally insignificant dead rubbers.Damn in 2002 it would had been another white wash. But aussie declared on 172-4 in 3 th or 4th test. And England won that.In 2005 you won. In 2007 white washed :D you did well in 2011 only. MY prediction Poms gonna win ashes again in 2033.

  • siddhartha87 on June 29, 2013, 13:07 GMT

    why Strauss ,Prior, were not mentioned?