Incumbent Test opener Marcus Harris is intent on keeping his spot for the coming Ashes tour but Victoria’s Sheffield Shield final against NSW is his sole focus for now.
Australia has been ground to a halt for months, completely paralysed by widespread panic as it grapples with the unknown of what we can or can’t say on a cricket field.
This has seen debate rage over deep philosophical questions: should we be playing ‘hard’ cricket – i.e. showing energy, fight and positive body language? Or playing ‘hard’ cricket – i.e. foaming at the mouth while abusing anything that moves, and that’s just the umpires?
More importantly, we’ve lost sleep seeking The Line. Does The Line exist, and why must The Line be head-butted and not stroked?
In basic terms, how can we make the opposition feel shit about themselves without swearing?
Thankfully, after Perth, the nation’s anxiety has been soothed. Winning for the first time in nine months helped, I suppose, but it was mostly for ribbing Virat Kohli without being slugged a match fee.
Basically, Australia is back because it has finally rediscovered The Line, and it is Tim Paine.
The new skipper’s controlled chat – a grand total of 130 seconds of discourse in among his five other days of gritty batting and shrewd captaincy, while keeping wicket on an up-and-down pitch – was match-defining and nation-inspiring.
It has finally proven we as a country of potty-mouthed sportspeople can make an impact without resorting to mindless abuse, and anyone who disagrees is just a useless dope.
Paine’s quip of “I know he’s your captain, but you can’t seriously like him as a bloke” is a trivial statement uttered daily across workplaces and by Tony Abbott, but it still sent us into a euphoric meltdown.
It was delivered as part of a box-set banter battle with Kohli, who allegedly had cruelly compared Paine to Shane Watson and Scott Morrison by labelling him “just a stand-in captain”.
While the BCCI has since denied the utterance – rumours are he called him “just a Tasmanian” – it has lit the fuse for more explosive cageyness on Boxing Day.
Will Kohli reply by punishing Australia with a barnstorming 750? Or return home to India to flee the overbearing hype of Australia’s obsession with him?
Either way, whatever happens in the cricket, we’ll probably make it about our new, awesome sledging. And I’m all for it until the losing recommences, at which point we can just turn on Peter Handscomb or the Marsh family.
Sure, Paine undermining an opponent behind his back into a stump mic isn’t a flawless example to set for children in the digital age, but it’s way better than “get ready for a broken f*cken arm” or other erudite offerings like “crap shot, ya dog”.
Trust me, Australia’s classy return to chiding opposition – a slight tweak on India’s approach of chiding each other – will evidently be good for cricket. Not only is it chipper and within classification standards, it punctures Kohli’s superhuman BDE-laden chutzpah.
Far be it from me to forecast Australia’s future on a handful of vignettes trimmed for social media consumption, but I reckon the captain and his carbon-neutral team have turned the corner forever, or at least until it lifts the ban on David Warner and neck tatts.
So is sledging back? And could Paine plausibly run for government right now and win in a landslide? I’m slightly biased towards the tone of my own article, but of course the answer is yes.
But despite our return as the Masters of Artisanal Lip, we must remain cautious. To keep the renaissance on track, we must continue:
1. Keeping our cool
2. Keeping it classy
3. Chipping opponents with “big head” and have it successfully misconstrued as “big head”
4. Nonchalantly insulting opposition to world audience and doing so funnily
5. Our obscure concentration on actually scoring runs and taking wickets