Couldn’t you just vomit anytime someone who has ever played cricket tosses up the term ‘the Australian way’?
Naturally, in the lead-up to the first Test on home soil since the incident in Cape Town, gag reflexes around the country have been working overtime as a bunch of retirees preach from on high to 25 million people about this mythical ‘way’ that we can’t possibly fathom, because we never wore the baggy green.
Fine, whatever, we don’t get it – I mean, how could we understand what it is to stand under the Southern Cross if we’ve never sung ‘Under The Southern Cross I Stand’? Clearly, being good at cricket is the only way to get to the beating heart of a country that is home to the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet.
But the idea that mateship and brotherhood are in any way related to ‘the Australian way’ as espoused by some nuffies who wore white PJs to work for a few years is somewhat undermined when they all seem to say the same thing, but hate each other for phrasing it slightly differently.
“I say Australian cricket should be hard but fair,” former captain Michael Clarke said this week.
In response, Clarke’s former teammate, Simon Katich – that bastion of throat-grabbing calmness – squealed, “You fool, our players were caught cheating. It’s not enough to play hard but fair anymore.
“We need to play fair but hard!”
It was like watching a political debate between Jack Johnson and his bitter rival, John Jackson.
Naturally, the old(er) guard joined in, led by a man who’s such an expert on the Australian way, he has set up a subsect of it, called ‘the Hayden way’ (seriously, bloke has the audacity to criticise “a whole bunch of suits” for talking about the Test team’s brand, yet writes on his own website “I endeavour to inspire people to live a more self-sufficient, sustainable and enriched lifestyle through The Hayden Way”).
“Basically, I stand with Clarkey, except I’d take it a step further – hard and fair,” Matthew Hayden opined.
“That’s the real Australian way – best complemented by camping, fishing, wearing Akubras and making sure people with cameras are around to document you doing those things. Y’know, so they can show the public that I – sorry, we – stand for the things that matter in this country.”
Justin Langer did his best not to immediately agree with everything Hayden had just said – “Haydos jumped off a cliff? I’m there!” – but he got in on the act yesterday, in a feature published by Fairfax.
The piece’s title? Wait for it… ‘Winning with dignity the Langer way’:
“The Langer way is about respect and developing not just great cricketers but great young Australians through values of honesty, humility, professionalism, mateship and learning.”
*Runs to bathroom, retching ensues*
To be fair, all that toss-on about honesty, humility, professionalism… Look, I’m going to vomit again – what I’m driving at is that, in Langer’s defence, that particular bit of prose was penned by author Andrew Wu, rather than being a direct quote from the coach himself.
Still, in the same story, Langer shared how a piece of wisdom from A Star is Born – spoken by an alcoholic, drug-addicted character, who was manipulating his wife at the time – was a great example of how to “play with that Australian spirit”.
He also went on to defend his role in the ‘elite honesty’ slogan, which he said at the time was “the Australian way as I know it”.
As a further insight into what the current national coach thinks the Aussie way is, his only hesitation with the whole EH fiasco was whether or not the team slogan should instead have been ‘elite mateship’.
Ugh. If only what follows was another made-up quote. But no, this is what Langer had to say when he was announced as Darren Lehmann’s successor:
“… It was so competitive getting into the team but when you walk through the doors with the baggy green, it was like a brotherhood…
“It can’t be about the individuals, it has to be about the team and if we promote that elite mateship then we’ll be okay.”
Brotherhood? Elite mateship? Like Katich and Clarke showed during their dressing-room dust-up over whether to sing a song or go for beers elsewhere?
Or like Shane Warne showed vice-captain Adam Gilchrist when – with all the subtlety of, well, Shane Warne – he wrote in his 2001 autobiography, “We do not want a Richie Cunningham figure in charge unless he is the best person. He was the character in Happy Days, who was always polite and well-mannered, who said the right thing at the right time, but relied on the Fonz, a more confident, streetwise figure, to overcome his problems in the real world.”
Perhaps it’s the mateship that was so evident when Kim Hughes tearfully resigned as Test captain – “dragged down like a dingo in the pack and devoured by your own” as Bill Lawry put it – just nine months after Rodney Hogg took a swing at him on the field of play.
Maybe it all stems from the fountain of good blokeness that was Sir Donald Bradman, who has an entire page of controversies dedicated to him on Wikipedia, and who had a reported exchange with former teammate Vic Richardson in which the latter called him… Um, a very naughty word.
Now, having yielded a batting average of one-sixth of a run during my time in the fourths at high school, I am obviously unfit to comment on what it is that defines the Australian way. All I have to prove my nationality is my birth certificate, passport, current residence, annoyingly nasal way of speaking, and the fact I spent four years in England being called ‘Aussie Joe’.
Weak. As. Piss.
But if you’ll allow it, I’ll proffer this.
You want to know what the Australian way is when it comes to the battle between willow and leather? It’s being bitchy to your teammates. Seems to me it always has been.
But I couldn’t care less about any of the incidents raised above.
Clarke vs Kato? Their stoush came after a face-saving Test win against South Africa.
Gilly and Warney (AKA Richie and the Fonz)? The pair were central to Australia’s dominance of cricket for the better part of a decade.
Bradman? Bloke could do what he wanted, he was The Don!
Hughes’ treatment is the only real outlier, but he’s still remembered by greats of the game – such as Ricky Ponting – for his skill with the blade over his captaincy woes.
So I honestly don’t give a crap if the 11 blokes who take the field for Australia this week are mates – let alone elite mates (it’s not just me, ‘Elite Mates’ sounds like a local chapter of ‘Proud Boys’, right?).
Their honesty levels don’t bother me either.
It’d just be nice to see them actually take it to India in the upcoming Test series. Maybe a bit of banter in the field and an absence of collapses when we’re batting.
That’ll do me. The rest of it is just so much wank.
Justin Langer, given you were a batsman, maybe your focus should be on your team’s batting woes, rather than how elite their mateship or honesty is?
The rest of you retired types, tossing up such wisdom as ‘fair and hard’, ‘hard and fair’, ‘playing with respect’, ‘playing for respect’? Just shut up – it’s not your team anymore.
But if you’re worried about the Australian way, I’d say your constant cattiness, arrogance and general unlikeability are keeping your perception of our national identity alive and well.