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Australia is the underdog. And we’re better people for it

13th December, 2018
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13th December, 2018
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And so to the second Test match on the WACA’s sexy new ground named after the phone mob who couldn’t work the Internet to telecast the FIFA World Cup, and it should be really good.

And not just because India is really good, indeed excellent.

And not just because it will be very cool seeing our giant pacemen bowling length balls past Virat Kohli’s chest guard, and all that good sport.

No. Not just those things, though those things are, admittedly, very sexy ingredients of this sporting life.

No – rather I’m looking forward to this Test match and this greater Test series because we, Australia, are the underdogs.

And I reckon it suits us.

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Because being the schoolyard bully for so long, I dunno… I’m done with it. I’m liking the Tim Paine Good Blokes XI.

I’m liking the “hard” cricket without the send-offs and snarling.

Did we ever need to be such wankers? Maybe we thought we did. Maybe we thought it was “tough”. Thought it was “hard” cricket, how Aussies played, “hard but fair”, all that.

And all that, as long as you don’t step over some ephemeral line, well, she’ll be apples mate. Go hard, Digger.

Except we headbutted that line time and again, and begat a reputation as graceless boors, and wankers.

And all because that’s how we thought Australians played.

That’s how we thought we had to play to win.

Well, stuff it. Done with it. Because here’s a thing: winning is not everything. Sometimes – if not all the time – it’s more important to respect the game, the kids watching the game, the future of the game … and just not be such a wanker.

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Can’t be that hard.

It’s only a bloody game. Can’t we “play”? Must it be some sort of faux “fight”?

Cameron Bancroft

(AP Photo/Halden Krog)

Keith Miller was in a fight, with Messerschmitts in the Second World War. He came back to play against England, Bradman told him to bounce the English. Miller wouldn’t do it, he’d fought in the same war as those blokes.

He was now playing cricket. He wasn’t there to fight the bloody game.

Yes, we want Australia to win. But it’s more important that cricket win. And the nation’s reputation wins. And we don’t carry on like Americans in the Ryder Cup that time all the wives leapt about on the green before Jose Maria Olazabal had putted.

And what have you.

Anyway, the Australian cricket team, following a cataclysm in Africa, is not as good as we were.
And that’s not so bad a thing.

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Because we haven’t been great winners. Not in cricket, anyway.

And we’re due a shot of humility.

We have copped a bit too much grief, on occasion, for celebrating the same way everyone else does.

There was a Test against India in Sydney that Michael Clarke won with his spinners, and all our guys leapt about, and scribes opined that it was distasteful and worse.

Michael Clarke

(Photo by Nicky Sims/Getty Images)

But it wasn’t that bad. It was just guys celebrating a Herculean Test match win, just as Pakistan celebrated the ’92 World Cup and Sri Lanka celebrated in ’96, and all bar Andy Flintoff celebrated Michael Kasprowicz’s wicket in Edgbaston in ‘2005.

It was very exciting.

But because it was these Australians with their form… they copped a dig that probably wasn’t justified.

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But there’s been other times when it was, when big tough Matt Hayden or big tough Shane Warne or the latest big tough hairy-chested Rod Marsh-wannabe would yell at and belittle our opponents.

And this while on the way to 16 straight Test match wins.

What was that about?

That Steve Waugh side was one of the greatest Test teams of all time, up there with the ’84 Windies and the ’48 Invincibles and South Africa of 1970. But watching Glenn McGrath scream in the face of Ramnaresh Sarwan because he’d copped some of his own medicine back… hard to like the bloke.

Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne leave the MCG

(Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

I dunno. I loved watching those people play cricket. But I didn’t really like them. And those that did love them without apology, your Fanatics and these people, the Captain Australia types with the flags as capes yelling Oi Oi Oi, and flat out abusing the India fans… well, they can bugger off.

Ha.

I dunno. I started watching cricket in 1978-79 and Australia was hopeless. All the best players were in Kerry Packer’s pyjama party, and Graham Yallop captained a bunch of pups against England who could afford to have Mike Brearley as captain and fielder and man who flat out could not bat.

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Because those Poms were great. Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Derek Randall. Even Geoffrey Boycott whose batting could slaughter entire herds of wildebeest as they slowly made their way across the African savannah, even that guy you had grudging respect for given if he made runs then England didn’t lose.

But our guys… you loved them for having a go. Allan Border turned up, Rod Hogg took 41 wickets at 12, and Kim Hughes showed flashes of his flashy feet and flashing blade. Yallop was funny.

After England won the first three Tests of the six Test series, Australia snuck off with the fourth Test, and Yallop, bless him, declared “We will win”.

We lost 5-1.

But they had a crack and you liked them for it.

Middle 80s was another downtime for Australia. The big three retired while a bunch of Test-quality blokes went to Africa, including Terry Alderman. And so Australia went to England with old Jeff Thomson and Fat Cat Greg Ritchie and Dirk Wellham, and lost, big.

And England came here and we lost. And then the ferret Mike Whitney celebrated seeing out Richard Hadlee and Ewen Chatfield to draw a series against New Zealand. That’s how low things got.

But we still liked the blokes.

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And when Border and Bob Simpson started to recruit blokes on character and work ethic as much as skill, and Ian Healy and Steve Waugh and David Boon and Geoff Marsh and Mark Taylor and Dean Jones and Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes turned up, Australia won the ’87 World Cup and the ’89 Ashes.

And we were back in black.

And we’ve barely been down since.

But we’re down now.

And it’s no bad thing.

And if we beat India in Perth as we nearly beat ‘em in Adelaide, we’ll like this Good Blokes XI more again. We’ll be proud of ‘em. They’ll be ours. Go the Aussies.