The Australian Cricket Team’s Behaviour
Disrespectful behaviour towards others is a big issue with me. It is the one thing that tarnishes my attitude to the Australian cricket team. I suspect many among the cricket loving fraternity feel the same. I admire, am even in awe of, the skill of many of the cricketers this country has produced, but I cannot abide the bad behaviour of some of them. I detest bad mouthing of an opponent who has just been vanquished. After all, this is sport, and in all sport respect of one’s opponents is paramount. Through such respect we demonstrate our mettle as human beings, we convey our recognition that our human qualities are far more important than our sporting abilities. Why does this not get through the skulls and into the brains of many of our cricketers? I am sure there are some, maybe a significant minority, or, hope above hopes, even a majority of Australian representative cricketers who abhor the contemptible on-field behaviour of their team mates. I was appalled to hear Shane Warne suggest that Mitchell Starc get some “animal” into him to improve his performance. I was even more appalled to learn that Starc heeded Warne, and commenced to abuse batsmen. Some would say his performance improved from that moment on, and newly developed on-field aggression was responsible. This astounds me. I would have thought that success comes with improved concentration and focus on the job at hand, the ability to control emotion and nerves, the ability to be analytical and objective when executing your skills. I don’t see where verbal abuse fits into all of this in a constructive way. I suspect if Starc’s improvement is real and the reasons are properly analysed, it would become apparent that starting to verbally abuse batsmen had nothing to do with it. Something else occurs to me about on-field abuse of one’s opponents. It is always selective, rarely if at all spontaneous. It is therefore a form of bullying. Maybe this is at the core of my distaste for it. I cannot imagine a bowler verbally abusing Viv Richards. Maybe it was tried, and Viv’s responses reduced the antagonist to holding his peace forever thereafter, or at least when he was bowling to the great man. If verbal abuse is used as a tactic to unsettle a batsman, it is a form of cheating. Cricket, like most other sports, is a contest of skill. Tactics are employed to exploit opponents’ weaknesses in the skill set that applies to the sport. This usually has a resulting psychological effect on the opponent that may be capitulation or a steely resolve to prevail. In cricket this has the potential to become a gripping gladiatorial contest between a batsman and a bowler, being played out in parallel with the ebb and flow of game itself. Surely, there is no place here for foul verbal abuse. The Australian cricketers hated Arjuna Ranatunga mainly, in my opinion, because he was able to respond to their vile behaviour with skin penetrating, audacious retaliatory action. Australian cricketers’ skin that is. They called him an arch antagonist. So, Aussie cricketers reserved the right to sledge and abuse on their own terms, and also determine the limits of their opponents’ retaliation? That takes arrogance to a new level.
As I suspected the Aussie cricketers appear to need to behave badly towards their opponents in order to improve their own performance. How bizarre for human beings to have that attitude! In the last Word Cup competition Haddin was so nonplussed and shaken by the Kiwis’ politeness that he went out of his way to treat them in the absolute opposite manner. What does this say about Haddin? I am struggling to find words to describe this phenomenon. It appears to be base and primitive. I would have thought that the human race had attained a degree of enlightenment over the ages, to realise that nothing excuses poor behaviour. The very fact that hunger to win apparently causes people to deliberately supplant decent human qualities with ugly, abusive behaviour is a shocking trait. I think it is actively encouraged and promoted within certain circles of Australian sport. Likewise I am sure there are Australian cricketers who are appalled at the behaviour of their team mates. I don’t think Stephen Smith would spontaneously combust on a cricket field. I cannot see him bad mouthing an opponent. Hopefully the team’s on-field behaviour will improve while he is at the helm. I will then have no problem supporting them.