Unlike many cricket watchers, I’ve never been completely convinced that Shane Watson deserved all the bile that came his way, despite his peroxide tantrums and fondness for flashing his pecs whilst loitering in towels.
Perhaps this is a misguided, possibly deluded, view, but it’s one which has been boosted by his valour in Ashes defeat and the way he’s carried himself on and off the pitch in light of events across Queensland.
On consideration, however, this newly upholstered decency of character has turned into just another of life’s rich sources of regret because it has become very apparent that cricket is suffering from a chronic deficit of dislikable characters.
With an ICC investigation into spot-fixing still hanging over the game, it might seem inopportune to suggest cricket is lacking in the villainous, but, quite frankly, where are all the brutes, louts and scoundrels to uphold the legacy of McGrath, McMillan and Greig?
Just where exactly are the snarling, eye-balling, unsporting antiheroes that doubled the pain of the defeats they inflicted because of their love of sporting despotism?
Even the quite recently retired André Nel already seems to have been hewn from the toxic lava of a bygone age, so rare is it to be able to genuinely work up a strong dislike of the modern international cricketer.
True, many of my English countrymen sneer and jeer at Mitchell Johnson and deride Peter Siddle as he does his best to flob venom down the track in tribute to his Victorian predecessor, Merv Hughes, but really it’s hard to find either truly hateable.
Siddle may well have given Prior an earful at Perth but he’s certainly never let rip like the big Fruitfly did, as Hansie Cronje can no longer testify.
Granted, Chris Gayle preens about on the world’s creases berating everything from Test cricket to the aforementioned Watto, but who wants a peacock in a laconic tizz when you’ve been treated to the bully with a kidney stone that was Matthew Hayden?
The newly renewed spirit of the game has spilt out of its bottle and doused everyone in a film of camraderie and brotherliness (and I say that despite the handbags at the WACA in December).
That’s fine as it goes and it may well gladden the hearts of some fans, but can the twin peaks of victory and defeat ever truly be as gratifyingly satisfying or elegantly painful when the opposition are thoroughly nice chaps?
Beyond the above pretenders, there are still some indecent sorts that continue to put their all into carrying the torch for the malodorous, with Harbhajan Singh a leading light for his credentials sheet that contains team mate face-slapping and all manner of alleged other nasties (the most obvious of which I’m obviously not condoning).
Many similarly still regard Jacques Kallis as a pompous lump, though I’d suggest such a term sits more easily with the odd member of Channel Nine’s commentary team than with a man who gives Sobers a run for his money.
Even the return of the, at times, psychotic Allan Donald to the international fold as New Zealand bowling coach brings mixed emotions: though we can nostalgically recall his numerous stand-offs with the few batsmen who refused to be speed-maimed – English fans fondly remember Mike Atherton infuriating him to new heights of apoplexy by remaining as phlegmatic as equilibrium while White Lightning tried to kill him round the wicket at Trent Bridge in 1998 – it also reminds us of the relative docility of his replacements.
True, Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel can certainly work up a grimace, but, as Wisden’s tweeted recently, “When SOUTH AFRICA’S opening pair of quicks seem like a sweet couple of lads, you know something’s badly wrong.”
I very much agree, but is it good for the game that the panto criminal element have left the stage? Should we rejoice that Punter can go match fee stripped nuts over the review system but still comes nowhere near the very low lows of Greg Chappell, is this whole premise flawed and there’s still plenty of players that get under your skin?
Come on, even KP’s surely a decent bloke now, eh?