Culturally, Australian cricket has long been outwardly aggressive. And that worked, because we could always back it up.
Under Steve Waugh, Australia was rightfully feared. With a batting line-up that included, at various stages, Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Mark Waugh, Martyn, Steve Waugh, Gilchrist, and a bowling line up boasting the likes of Warne, McGrath, Gillespie and Lee/Bichel, Australia was pretty scary.
Today, the only players that might get a run in that side would be Clarke and Johnson. And even that is subject to much conjecture.
We must know our place now. We are no longer a powerhouse, and perhaps we must take a more humble approach when it comes to our discourse, both on and off the field.
Michael Clarke gave Steve Smith a stern reprimand during the Abu Dhabi test, instructing him to stop chatting with Azhar Ali. When asked about this by journalists, Clarke explained that “there is a time and a place” for pleasantries – and that the focus should be on taking wickets to win the game.
Clarke’s aggression whiffs of desperation. Publicly chastising teammates for being polite and friendly will not do any good for team harmony – and I can’t see the benefits in terms of winning games, either.
One gets the sense Clarke knows his tenure is coming to an end, and like a desperate military leader engulfed by his enemy, he will deploy one-off shock tactics ahead of coherent stratagem. As mentioned in this previous article, Clarke’s tactics in Abu Dhabi bordered on the insane; indicative of a man without a plan, notwithstanding throwing the ball to Mitchell Johnson and hoping for the best.
Faced by the simple fact that Australia isn’t as good as it was in the 90s/2000s/early 2010s, we have resorted to simple, stereotypically masculine aggression tactics, like a beleaguered, cuckolded husband who suspects his wife of cheating on him. He’s getting into loud slanging matches at Woolworths, and it’s just not pretty.
Right now, Australian cricket is like the alpha male who was once a stud, but now can’t get any ‘pussy’ – a sad truth that eats away at him more than anything else. A few fruitless hours on the circuit and, lo and behold, he’ll turn to his smartphone in search of the nearest brothel, drunk and desperate to connect.*
I’m obviously not talking about the need to lose all sense of aggression. We remain a serious contender. We’re not New Zealand, yet: a team confined to the periphery of the test cricket world given their systemic shitness. There’s nothing intimidating about New Zealand cricket, and there never will be.
We are still in the top 4 test playing nations, and I see us as more than likely to beat India this summer on hard, conducive pitches.
Aggression looks and sounds plausible when coming from moustachioed men with impeccable win-loss records. It doesn’t look good coming from an embattled team who just suffered a dispiriting loss to Pakistan in the Middle East, of all places.
Clarke’s tough talk feels staged; it’s a front. Even when threatening to knock James Anderson’s “fucking head off,” the threat sounded lame, insipid, like he didn’t really believe in what he was saying. It’s like Tony Abbott threatening to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin. Get real, mate.
Mitchell Johnson aside, Australia circa-2014/15 is not to be feared. We must earn the right to be overly aggressive in our talk. Performances speak louder than words.
Until then, Australia is essentially the grade cricket team that everyone hates playing. The team full of shit blokes who will sledge you all day, even though you rolled them for 57 in a two-dayer and you’re cruising at 2/300 at tea on Day One.
At the moment, we are all talk, zero action. All wrists, no arms.
By Dave Edwards
* I’ll admit this analogy is a stretch, but this is a satirical sports blog for fuck’s sake. Lighten up