Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller Andrew MillerRSS FeedFeeds  | Archives
UK editor, ESPNcricinfo

The behaviour of the Australian team

Aussie moralising smacks of double-standards

So how is it that the same team who grinned and bore it throughout the English summer are now being castigated Down Under for their lack of sportsmanlike behaviour?

Andrew Miller

January 19, 2006

Text size: A | A



Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist: under fire for their team's behaviour © Getty Images
Enlarge
It's funny how quickly things can change. It was only last summer that Australia's cricketers were being lauded as shining white beacons of virtue, as they contested an Ashes series for the ages which was embellished with some of the smiliest, most good-natured behaviour imaginable.

The respect was reciprocated all throughout the summer. There was Shane Warne congratulating Andrew Flintoff for his biffing at Edgbaston; there was Flintoff consoling Brett Lee after the two-run defeat in the same game. There were smiles and back-slaps aplenty, for Kevin Pietersen at The Oval and for England in general in victory.

In fact, the most notable moments of discord were prompted, by and large, by English actions - Simon Jones's shy at the stumps that struck Matthew Hayden on the shoulder at Edgbaston, the lack of concern for Ricky Ponting's cheek injury at Lord's and, if we are to stretch a point, England's contentious use of substitutes at Trent Bridge that caused Ponting to blow his top after being run out by Gary Pratt.

So how is it then, that the same team who grinned and bore it throughout the English summer are now being castigated Down Under for their lack of sportsmanlike behaviour? The whole situation smacks of double-standards, especially when men such as Bobby Simpson and Lou Rowan start to weigh into the debate.

Simpson, lest we forget, was the coach at the helm around the time that Allan Border decided that "no more Mr Nice Guy" was the best way forward for his team. His snappy, snarly approach to the 1989 Ashes - in which at Trent Bridge he responded to Robin Smith's not-unreasonable request for a glass of water with: "No you f***ing can't. What do you think this is? A f***ing tea party?" - resulted in a 4-0 hammering and instant legend status.

Border was the archetypal "little Aussie battler", a breed that has gone out of fashion of late, as Australia's effortless supremacy in world cricket has allowed them to buck their usual style and get, to borrow Michael Vaughan's phraseology, "a little cute with the game". Short-lived initiatives, such as taking the fielder's word on disputed catches, were only ever going to last as long as the Aussies were on top.



England's captain, Ray Illingworth, remonstrates with umpire Rowan during the acrimonious Sydney Test in 1970-71 © The Cricketer
Enlarge

Such niceties are completely out of the window now. The Ashes have been lost and the realisation has dawned on Australia that the tried-and-tested method of getting them back is to get, well, a little bit ugly. The process began in that Trent Bridge flare-up, when Ponting and Simon Katich both lost their rag. Other sides might have folded at that moment - Australia on the other hand were galvanised, and almost fanned the flames of injustice into a thrilling final-day comeback.

As Lawrence Booth wrote in The Guardian last week, Australia have got a bit of the mongrel back in their game. The ICC made a laughable attempt to stamp out their war of words with South Africa - and specifically Graeme Smith - ahead of last month's Test series, but that is as nothing compared to the vitriol that will rain down on England in ten months' time, when the revenge Ashes get underway.

So when octogenarian Test umpires such as Rowan do their best Fred Trueman impersonations and start muttering "it weren't like that in my day," you can write their opinions off to forgetfulness. Rowan, after all, was an official for five of the seven Tests of the 1970-71 Ashes, one of the most filthy-tempered clashes of all time.

In that series, Ian Chappell took the art of sledging to new highs (or lows, depending on which side of the fence you are currently sat), England prevailed despite being denied a single lbw in seven matches, and Rowan's main contribution came at Sydney, when he called John Snow for intimidatory bowling. That decision inflamed an already feverish stadium and led to the infamous incident of Snow being grappled by a drunken spectator on the fine-leg boundary.

The mongrel was certainly present in that match, on the pitch and off it. But if the renewed hard-nosed approach has had the desired effect by this time next year, it's unlikely that many former pros will have much truck with the chosen method.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Andrew Miller

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Andrew MillerClose
Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
Related Links

    'Everyone stares at you when you're 6ft 8in'

Boyd Rankin talks about giants, playing for the enemy, and being mentored by Allan Donald

    Bravo's withdrawal highlights cricket's stress malaise

Tony Cozier: He and Kieran Powell should follow Lara's example by seeking professional help to resurrect their promising careers

    Four afternoons into immortality

Rewind: In 1899 a 13-year-old orphan at Clifton College established a world record which stands to this day

    A crisis that defines the age

David Hopps: In England, changes in social attitudes, the demands of work, and other factors are contributing to a decline in recreational cricket

The multifaceted Mr Ravi Shastri

Stuart Wark: We might know him better as a commentator, but in his day he was a fine spinner and, when called on, a gritty opener

News | Features Last 7 days

Pakistan should not welcome Amir back

The serene team culture cultivated by Misbah and his men shouldn't be allowed to be disrupted by a player with a tainted past

'I don't blame Arjuna for my early retirement'

Former Sri Lanka batsman Asanka Gurusinha talks about playing and coaching in Australia, and tactics during the 1996 World Cup

'I'm a bit disappointed not to get that Test average up to 50'

Mahela Jayawardene reflects on his Test career, and the need to bridge the gap between international and club cricket in Sri Lanka

Dhoni's absence a guide to India's future

He's past his use-by date as a Test captain and keeper. India now have a chance to test Kohli's leadership skills

Rohit's record, and captains' equal scores

Also, scoring a hundred and opening the bowling, the youngest Australian player, and scoreless in three Tests

News | Features Last 7 days