I really admire the Australian cricket team: here’s why.
Cricket is a peculiar game in that it largely consists of a contest between individuals. The bowler bowls to the batter and the other 11 players on the field have very little to do with it a lot of the time.
But the Australian team seems to have figured out that as soon as that phase of the match stops, they must work as a team. And they do, quite magnificently, IMHO. Watch them play and you will see more movement, more application and more pressure applied to their opponents than any other team generates. Scarcely a ball passes without aggressive action that shows the opposition they must match Australia for alertness because Australia will always seek every conceivable advantage. And that’s before anyone talks to you.
I don’t have a problem with onfield chatter, sledging or whatever it is you want to call it.
For me, the quest for every possible advantage has come off the rails when it started to include pressure on the umpires, who are hectored by being asked to make more and more decisions when the appeal is dubious. That, to me, is not in the spirit of the game and shows that the fine aggression and application of the Australian cricket team can go too far.
It cannot be too much fun to play such mentally strong, well-drilled opponents. It is also easy to feel that this very modern style cricket somehow goes against the languid spirit the game evolved in earlier years. When it reaches its zenith, it would not be hard to conclude that the team playing in this way is not sporting.
That said, there’s no excuse for racism on the field. And there is no excuse for failing to report racism. Moreover, India have form as bad losers and spoilsports.
So I do not think that Australia is off the rails or damaging cricket. I think the team needs to consider how its hard-edged play creates the potential for offensive behaviour.
I reject out of hand Peter Roebuck’s call for Ponting to be dismissed in order to right the team’s culture. Australia’s playing culture is a wonder to behold. Learning how to make sure that disciplined, controlled, clever play does not sometimes seep out as ugly behaviour is the next step.