Jimmy Anderson has publicly called on both England and Australia to ditch the sledging for the upcoming Ashes series. Clearly, the drawn New Zealand series had a tremendous impact on the once-surly Anderson.
Here, against a cricketing minnow, on their home turf, in an essentially meaningless two test series, England shook off their troubles and played with a newly discovered joie de vivre, safe in the knowledge that this was nothing more than a glorified exhibition series.
Unfortunately, Anderson’s sledging détente demonstrates a wilful ignorance to the fact that nation-states are inherently rational actors. It also fails to comprehend the zero-sum gain nature of international relations. In the dog-eat-dog world of international cricket, Australia is the clear superpower – and we act unilaterally.
The Ashes is not the time nor the place to enact a moratorium on sledging. This is a classic case of a weak nation pledging a peace offering to a stronger, historically aggressive opponent with a long history of rational decision making.
Australia will not sign up to the terms of Anderson’s armistice. Their military operation is to conquer and crush England in the form of a cohesive, relentless insurgency. Then, they will force England to sign a modern day Versailles Treaty, rendering them impotent.
This is a major strategic mis-step from England. Australia are the schoolyard bullies and always have been. The way you beat a bully – be they a nation-state or a sports team – is by confronting them directly, not appealing to their sense of decency and morality.
Essentially, this is like The Simpsons’ Martin Prince attempting to fend off Nelson Muntz’s bullying by performing an impromptu flute recital. The best Martin can hope for is that Nelson will walk away confused, handing him a pyrrhic victory at best, a tremendous loss of face. In reality, the bully will see right through this whimpering tactic and deliver an even more profound, merciless beat-down.
Given his own history, Anderson has no right to come out and make such a hollow statement ahead of a major international congress (The Ashes). This is like China lecturing us on human rights, or Abbott tut-tutting other nations about the perils of climate change prior to a G20 Summit.
Anderson’s diplomatic olive-branch is nothing but crude populism; an opportunistic attempt to seize upon the goodwill generated by another nation’s hard work (New Zealand).
By taking the moral high-ground, Anderson is attempting to shame Australia into following suit. But he fails to realise that Australia has reaped the rich rewards of sledging for so long – it’s a proven asset; part of our national psyche.
Much like how our economy depends heavily on the export of coal and iron ore, we depend on sledging. You cannot simply expect Australia to stop the drilling and embrace renewable energy without a fight.
Put simply, Australia has the bomb. To think we would give it up without a multilateral disarmament is naive – or just plain idiotic.
By Dave Edwards