Should anyone be worried the English press and Andy Flower think the Australian cricket team are a group of schoolyard bullies? Absolutely not. The ends will justify the means.
Wind back the clock ten years if you will. The Australian cricket team was led by Steve Waugh, arguably our most popular and revered captain of the modern era.
Waugh, his red handkerchief, tatty baggy green, steely eyes and resolve represented everything Australian cricket was about. Off the field he was renowned and still is for his humanitarian work in India, on it – he was a hard-as-nails player who believed in his team and he believed in something called “mental disintegration.”
While that term could be used as a segue into a jibe at Jonathan Trott, I’m not here to do that. If Trott is facing his own personal demons then fine, let him deal with them away from the eyes of cricket fans, but don’t demonize David Warner or the Australian cricket team for taking a hard-line approach this Ashes series.
Politically correct types will tell you that sledging on the field is tantamount to bullying. It’s been going on for centuries people, it’s ingrained in the game and the same English press and some Australian press for that matter who are out like a lynch mob for the ‘bully boy’ tactics of Australia’s cricketers are the exact same ones who thought nothing of England players urinating on the pitch at The Oval, and have said nothing about one James Anderson when he has his own tail up and fails to shut his mouth.
This is the same James Anderson, who once went to water because Matthew Hayden, who was never shy of a comment or two out in the middle described him as a “B-grade” quick.
Perhaps the problem lies with society or the changing trends of what is considered acceptable behaviour, but Michael Clarke, Dave Warner, Mitchell Johnson and company are hardly in the same class as Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins.
In fact because of that hard edge they are displaying, the Aussies are doing what might just be needed. If anything that edge will possibly endear Clarke, a man who despite his run-scoring feats many fans and media types have been indifferent to over time.
He hasn’t been viewed a great leader, there have been rumblings of locker-room discontent with him across his career, including infamous moments with Simon Katich and Mike Hussey as well as an oft-rumoured rift with vice-captain Shane Watson.
Maybe the very public perception of him as an aggressive leader, rather than a cricketer who sees himself as a rock star is just what he needs to become the hero Australian cricket needs.
Certainly part of the harder edge to the team now comes from the coaching of Darren ‘Boof’ Lehmann. Lehmann who despite his immense talent was a player in and out of the Australian side throughout his career, mostly due to some fitness issues and his desire to march to the beat of his own drum and never take a backward step.
His blackest day as a player came in the form of a racist sledge against Sri Lanka, but as I have written before, the day he came out and slammed Stuart Broad in the last Ashes series might have been the time Australia again took up the notion of war on a cricket pitch.
If you can’t handle it, leave.
Jonathan Trott did, and he’s not the first England bat in recent years to flee ‘the colony’. Marcus Trescothick did the exact same thing a few years ago on the back of his marriage collapsing and an admission he was suffering from depression.
In both cases I assure you Australian cricketers were not to blame, but rather English selectors for putting players with known issues in the middle of what has historically been a heated contest.
It’s why I also can’t agree with fellow columnist Grant Lawler’s stance on the current series. Grant recently wrote of the First Test victory:
“A team needs to earn the right to play the game with a flair of arrogance. Mouthing off in the press when an opponent is on the ropes is cheap. Calling another professional athlete scared or weak is disrespectful.”
“Watching our current leader sledge a tail ender bunny being peppered by hostile short pitch bowling (denying it, then subsequently admitting to it) was nothing short of embarrassing. That is not tough cricket.”
I wouldn’t say it was arrogance. Arrogance would be being dismissive of England as a threat in this series. That never happened. Arrogance would have been treating England with contempt and dialling back the aggressive approach, an approach the Aussies have vowed to continue as they look to physically and mentally dominate a shell-shocked England.
As for the “weak” comment made by Warner, no one can say whether he knew Trott had stress issues, but what is true is he does and has struggled in the past against short-pitched bowling. Why wouldn’t you take advantage?
As for what was written about Anderson, the man might be a No11 but he’s not in the bunny class in the truest sense of the word. He is no Glenn McGrath or to go back even further Danny Morrison.
Anderson can wield the willow and has been known to stick around for an inordinate amount of time throughout his career, even though he doesn’t score many runs.
Clarke might be considered a bully over in England but right here, right now what will matter is winning The Ashes not how the Aussies go about it, and if they do so in an aggressive manner it might even improve his standing with those who have previously derided him.
After all despite much more deplorable tactics, Douglas Jardine is still considered a cricketing legend in England for inventing bodyline, he’s deplored in Australia.
I don’t think Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson and Dave Warner will care what the English press and players really think of them if they stand triumphant after the New Year test in Sydney having evoked the legend of Steve Waugh and seeing the mental disintegration of England.
And nor should they show remorse.