I just read the latest Inside Sport magazine and came across an article by Will Swanton about the level of hatred displayed towards the Australian cricket team last summer.
Now I know he’s a News Ltd “journalist” so expectations are pretty low, but the story was the biggest bunch of arse-hatted dribble I had read in a long time.
The primary thesis of his story was that the team was being unfairly abused by the public for their perceived personal foibles as opposed to their on-field performances, and even though their performances were not great we should still barrack for them because they’re our team. I don’t think I have ever read a bigger collection of cluelessness in one place.
One thing that seems to escape Will’s attention is that the vast majority of the dislike generated for the team is based purely on their ability…not on how good a bloke they are, especially in the case of Michael Clarke.
He does a great job of attempting to cover for Ponting, but the fact is that he is a very ordinary captain. At the start of his career he had a kick-arse team that helped cover for his deficiencies, but as the stars retired he has been repeatedly found out. Who can forget the incident when instead of pressing for a win with a wicket or two to go, he decides to switch out his successful bowlers for spinners in an effort to increase the over rate and avoid a fine. Or perhaps the time when he wins the toss on a seaming pitch in humid conditions and elects to BAT FIRST…seriously, a lower grade club captain wouldn’t make a mistake as fundamental as that.
The biggest problem I (and probably a lot of other people) have with the Australian team is that the majority of them shouldn’t even be in the team based on their form or ability. Ponting and Clarke as batsmen haven’t performed well enough to keep their positions, but because they are in leadership positions they are a protected species. Another in this situation is Mike Hussey…apparently a century every 3 seasons is good enough to keep your spot these days. I know the current argument is that there is no-one performing well enough in Shield cricket to warrant promotion, but if they never get the chance to prove themselves we’ll once again end up with a team full of 30+ year old debutants.
We all know the Cricket Australia hierarchy have their favourites, usually based on their marketability. How else do you explain the constant talk of Philip Hughes being the next big thing when he can barely make the NSW state team? Or Steve Smith as the next big all-rounder?
So despite Will’s mournful plaint that the cricket loving public just doesn’t understand these blokes and should cut them some slack, the reality is that the public understand a hell of a lot more than Cricket Australia and are not happy with the way they are the sport, all in the name of money. We understand that’s why long-in-the-tooth players are kept in the team despite poor form, why talented Shield players are kept out of the squad in preference to flashy no-hopers with a hint of marketability *cough* David Warner *cough*, and also why the breeding ground for our future Test players is being diluted for some cheap-arse knock-off of the IPL in a n attempt to rake in some dough from the Twenty20 gravy train.
For these reasons I’m proud to proclaim my membership of the Hate Club.