Of course they cheated: they’re Australians
My father, a man born into poor Yorkshire working class stock in 1922, hated Australians.
Of course, he’d never actually met any Australians and indeed, he never would, but he knew, with the sort of certainty that comes with a Yorkshire mother’s milk, that they were uncouth rotters and he had no qualms in bringing me up to feel the same, especially when it came to the playing of cricket.
“They’ve no morals and they’ll do owt to win, our John,” he used to say every time any Aussie sports person came in the TV. So wherever and whenever England triumphed over them at cricket, he felt it was a win for the good guys.
But in the mid-1970s for a couple of years, the Australians used to go through the England batting order like a dodgy prawn in your digestive system.
We all got used to seeing the timbers tumble time and time again as they comprehensively won five out of 10 Tests from 1974-1975 and England just one. The bowling attack of Dennis Lillee, Max Walker and Jeff Thomson was almost cruelly destructive. They were mean, vicious competitors who made England look like innocent boys in a dirty man’s world. Players like the Chappell brothers and or Rod Marsh had the look of spaghetti western bandits about them. Scowling dark eyed ratters who would do whatever it took to win.
Dad loathed the way Lillee would run down the wicket with a manic look on his face, screaming for an LBW, trying to intimidate the umpire into giving him the decision and looking at him in contempt when the finger didn’t go up.
It was largely the same situation from 1989 to 2006 when England won just one series in 17 years, winning nine Tests to Australia’s 34. Hard-faced, bad ass cricketers like Ricky Ponting or Glenn McGrath repeatedly put England to the sword with a combination of skillful play and an uncompromising scorched earth attitude.
Their no-holds-barred policy was what some loved and some loathed.
My father often said he’d rather England lost than stoop as low as to behave like an Australian cricketer.
He saw them as boorish, ungentlemanly thugs who won not by talent but by bullying.
This may have been a useful way to excuse frequent English capitulations but it was not an uncommon view and indeed, was one I shared, feeling that being sporting in a gentlemanly manner was something to celebrate, not decry.
However, as we lost every Ashes series for 16 years, you frequently heard fans urging England to be more like winners, be more Australian. Stop pratting around trying to be a jolly good chap, start getting harder, rougher and tougher and start playing the baggy green at its own game.
I never thought that it was a good idea to try and get down to their level. It’s never usually a good idea to fight bullying by being a bully.
But if dad was still alive, he would have not been surprised in the least that they were caught cheating this weekend. He expected such behaviour from them at all times. He always said one way or another, they were cheats.
I find it hard to believe that Lillee or Thomson didn’t happily grind the ball into a rough patch on the pitch whilst fielding, or each fielder picking at the seam quickly as they threw the ball from one to another.
But with the revelations of cheating that emerged this weekend, we can see where this unpleasant, over-competitive streak can lead. The fact they had asked for the microphones to be turned off in order for them to be able to, in that most euphemistic of words, ‘sledge’ the South Africans more frequently and presumably with ever worse language, all in the name of trying to win, is the perfect illustration of their horrible mentality.
Winning isn’t so important that it allows you to behave badly.
How on earth they thought, with so many cameras in the ground, they could get away with ball tampering, I don’t know. Maybe arrogance blinded them to the possibility or they just thought screw it, we don’t care.
This side has had a terrible reputation for a couple of years now, so it wouldn’t be surprising.
However, the outpouring of national grief at this latest revelation seems a little rich.
Didn’t the Aussie public know this sort of arrogance for years was the default attitude of their cricket team?
Did they think they were just chatting nicely to the opposition batters when in the field?
Don’t they remember Trevor Chappell bowling underarm, or Ponting refusing to walk even though he knew he’d nicked the ball, or any number of horrible sledging offences against taste and decency.
Michael Vaughan has said he suspected them of ball tampering in the Ashes series. Did the Australian public think all their cricketers were morally pure until this weekend? Surely not.
Yes everyone wants to win, but you have to have standards, you have to have a moral as well as legal code to play by, but does Australia have one? Have they ever?
I’m not even sure Steve Smith or David Warner are contrite. Why would they be? This was all premeditated. It was no mere spur of the moment transgression. It is just part of a bigger culture which he sees no issue with.
You can’t tell me the scales have fallen from his eyes after being caught. No. They thought it was OK to do it. They’ve always thought it was OK to do it and they won’t have changed their minds even now. What’s more, many others probably silently agree.
It was an expression of a common sort of Aussie sporting attitude embodied especially by the widely-disliked David Warner, as was James Sutherland’s statement.
No-one believes Darren Lehmann didn’t know about it or that only three players knew. It’s all part of a culture of dishonesty. Of trying to get away with as much as possible.
The only surprising thing about this whole sorry episode is how many people are actually surprised.
As dad would’ve put it: “What do you expect? Of course they cheated: they’re Australians.”
By John Nicholson, @JohnnyTheNic
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