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On the nose: Are Australia’s male cricketers the nation’s most unappealing national team?

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Expert
24th February, 2023
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5883 Reads

Like most Australians, I grew up idolising Australian cricketers. For some old enough to remember, it was the fiery nostrils, sleazy chain and open-buttoned shirt of Dennis Lillee that did it for us.

Others were captivated by the sheer artistry of Greg Chappell and Rick Ponting or the bludgeoning power of Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist. Many still hold the late and great Rod Marsh dear in their hearts, others the ‘Cowboy’ Dean Jones or David Boon, potentially the toughest cricketer to represent the nation.

For those of a little more advanced in years, flashes of the careers of Neil Harvey, Alan Davidson and Richie Benaud might still come to mind in sentimental cricketing moments.

Of course, there were scores of men before and after. Yet if the court of public opinion holds any weight at all, it seems that the Australian sporting public has well and truly fallen out of love with the men charged to represent us in what many still consider to be the national game.

Rather than dance on the rather sad situation that perhaps began over five years ago in South Africa, has been parlayed a few times since and now returned to focus after the most appalling of starts to the team’s tour of India for the Border-Gavaskar trophy, it might be time to simply reflect and wonder why.

With Australian teams representing across the globe with dignity, pride and success, the men’s cricket team is something of a contrast, with a foul stench emanating as soon as the win-loss column turns a little sour.

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Sure, when teams like South Africa and West Indies are beaten to a pulp on home soil, the cracks are well and truly masked by the silicone of success, yet once the fight becomes real, the problematic sub-structure of team unity, curious selection and what often appears to be an ad-hoc plan, all come to the fore.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 08: Nathan Lyon of Australia reacts during day five of the Third Test match in the series between Australia and South Africa at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 08, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Our cricketing women have no such image problem, frankly, winning on almost every occasion makes it near impossible to find fault and the common goal appears to unite a talented and dominant group of Australian players.

However, not all Australian teams are winning at the same rate, yet many remain much loved and respected for facing constant challenges with a spirit that satisfies everyday Australians and makes them proud, win, lose or draw.

While the Wallabies look unlikely winners of the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France, their effort and application throughout 2022 under the weight of sometimes bizarre and consistent injuries was difficult to question.

There were heart breaking losses and some wonderful comeback wins, yet the team played bravely under duress and lost little respect.

As did the Wallaroos, a group of amateur and developing women who brought many to tears with both their play and the stories that articulated their journey’s so well.

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The Kangaroos won their twelfth Rugby League World Cup in England during 2022, despite the increasing threat of emerging nations, and lost no fans in doing so. The nay-sayers were to be proven wrong again.

The Jillaroos marched to their third title against New Zealand in the women’s event, as dominant and entertaining as ever, the team continues to grow as a powerful and popular brand.

Despite plenty of people taking pot shots at the Socceroos along the qualification road, coach Graham Arnold moulded a World Cup team in Qatar that inspired a nation and made people dream of something very special, just before heart-break struck.

The Matildas, often cited as the most popular national team, will lift a nation to its feet in July when they play at home in the biggest sporting event on foreign shores since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Sam Kerr of Australia celebrates

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Both teams are enjoying massive and unconditional support from Aussie fans, thanks to excellent branding and competent performances.

Australia’s male and female tennis players have played with determination and pride in various team events during the post-pandemic period, as have the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras, two teams that due to their semi-professional nature, always remind us of the true beauty of competition and the integrity of sport.

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Yet sadly, our male cricketers are on the nose and increasingly so. I pity the person overseeing brand management at Cricket Australia in regards to the men’s team, in full knowledge that a disconnect clearly exists behind the decisions made behind closed doors and the perceptions and conclusions being constructed in the minds of fans.

How the situation is repaired is well be beyond my pay grade, but the suits at Cricket Australia had best be on the case and identifying the problem, before taking the urgent steps required to rebuild the team’s reputation.

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