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Confessions of a lapsed supporter

Hot dogs, get your hot dogs here! Am I the only one who knows Peter Siddle's prescription?
Roar Guru
1st January, 2012
12
1111 Reads

I have a confession to make, but first – the backdrop to my admission. I’m a proud Australian. There is nowhere in the world I would rather call home, and I take great pride in the achievements of fellow Australians who succeed on the world stage.

This nationalistic pride in the green and gold has always extended into the sporting arena and I will happily cheer as loudly as the next person.

However, a few years back, my nationalistic sporting pride came with an asterisk.

While the Wallabies, Socceroos and all our individual athletes still had my support, towards the Australian cricket side, I became indifferent.

While I admired the unparalleled skills of the Australian cricket team, there was something about the players’ approach to the game which irked me.

To my mind, the Australian cricket establishment began to mistake out-and-out bullying with the quintessentially Australian values of grit and determination. The securing of a victory rendered the method with which it was achieved acceptable, and it grated with me.

There is a difference between tough and uncompromising play on the cricket field, and shooting your mouth off at every minor grievance. I didn’t feel that this distinction was clear to those who wore the Baggy Green, and those peripheral to the team were complicit in this lack of sporting play.

During the period when Australian cricket was at its most successful, I had jumped off the bandwagon.

I suspect I wasn’t alone.

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I twisted and turned as I watched the team – wanting to support my national side, but put off by the way the Australian team – on occasions – showed little grace or sportsmanship in securing victory.

While I can’t precisely identify when my support turned to ambivalence, it is easy to recall when my ambivalence turned into something more significant.

The Sydney Test match to start 2008 against India was one of the most spiteful matches I’ve ever watched. While the Indian side were far from blameless, I was very disappointed with the way the Australians acted during the game and in its immediate aftermath.

I no longer identified with the team as demonstrating the Australian values I considered important.

Bullying, bravado and bullshit were too often mistaken for being resolute, bold and determined.

From the Sydney Test of 2008 onwards, I not only failed to support the Australian side, but I began supporting whoever the Australians were playing against.

I had crossed over to the dark side.

I watched transfixed as South Africa beat Australia in Australia in the 2008-09 Test series, inwardly willing on Graeme Smith and his men.

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I took some strange, conflicted enjoyment from the Australian side’s 3-1 Ashes defeat at home last summer, and hoped that the now middling Australian team might tweak its approach to the game after being served its share of humble pie.

And change its approach I believe it has.

Under Michael Clarke’s captaincy this past year, the team appears to have mellowed a little. Clarke seems more attuned to the sensitivities of the sport.

While his predecessor Ricky Ponting wore a permanent scowl on the field, Clarke is quick to smile and more importantly quick to smooth over the rough edges of a potentially combustible situation.

I liked what I saw.

The Australians won and lost with grace and sportsmanship, and the team’s desire to win was not compromised by a “win at all costs” attitude. The ends no longer justified the means.

This changed approach is typified by a moment in the most recent Boxing Day Test which I feel was the tipping point in the match.

Australian quick Peter Siddle bowled batsman Rahul Dravid in India’s first innings late on day two. A gate had been installed in “The Wall,” and Siddle had managed to spear a ball through it, knocking over Dravid’s stumps and securing his wicket.

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Only he hadn’t.

Umpire Erasmus called for a review of the decision, sensing Siddle might have overstepped in his delivery stride, and so it was shown to be.

Dravid remained at the crease, and Siddle was not credited with his wicket.

I watched Siddle closely, expecting him to kick the pitch, howl at the sky or offer a few choice words to the opposition batsman about how lucky he was to still be out there.

None came.

Instead, Siddle used the setback to motivate him to greater glory.

Siddle continued to steam in at great pace and bowl with venom, unperturbed by his setback and unwilling to let his poor luck get the better of him. This was more in keeping with the Australian values I hold dear.

I was proud.

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In the last over of the day, Siddle’s hard work paid off. As Sachin Tendulkar’s hundredth international ton beckoned, Siddle clean bowled him.

A lesser bowler would have dropped his head after the Dravid setback, but Siddle refocused his efforts and energies and came out on top.

Siddle had shown the values of grit and determination without resorting to unsportsmanlike behaviour or petulant outbursts, and I was impressed and inspired by his efforts.

Is there still room for this lapsed supporter on the Australian cricket bandwagon?

You can follow Michael on Twitter @Michael Filosi