Two-nil down in the Ashes series and it’s fair to say the Aussies are getting pummelled. This is bad news for our cricket team, and even worse news for our country.
So how do we save the Ashes, and by extension, our country?
Various knee-jerk solutions have been offered, ranging from ‘drop Shane Watson’ to ‘bring back malcontent yet popular run-scorer Simon Katich’. Both of these miss the point.
To fix our current predicament we need to reverse a trend that started one fateful afternoon at Trent Bridge, approximately 8 years ago.
Let’s cast our minds back. It was a typically English summers day, with an steady, icy breeze requiring those outdoors to wear layers of woollen garments, while a thick blanket of stodgy grey clouds projected an ominous hue on events below.
In the middle of the pitch, the deciding match of an exciting Ashes series hangs in a precarious balance as Australian captain Ricky Ponting begins to mount a heroic run chase. With every one of his 48 runs, Punter claws his team back into contention. It’s an inning of grit and graft, something that’s been lacking in the Australian camp all series.
Then, just as the skipper begins to look settled, he is spectacularly dismissed with an unexpected, yet spectacular run-out. Ponting looks over to see which Englishman had performed this act of fielding wizardry, expecting to see one of the Pom’s superstars in the field, Kevin Pietersen or Ian Bell. Instead, he is surprised when he sees a relative stranger receiving high-fives and bum-pats from the English team.
To Ponting’s shock, his vanquisher is not one of the eleven men comprising the English side, but rather their substitute fielder Gary Pratt.
While cricket’s unspoken code would generally dictate a squad member to act as a substitute fielder, Pratt – a lowly County cricketer who had not played a first grade game in more than a year – had been specifically called into the team due to his impressive skills in the field.
Ponting is furious. England have used a specialist fielder to steal his wicket. He curses England Coach Duncan Ferguson. This wasn’t cheating, but it was close. It wasn’t in the ‘spirit of cricket’, he says.
As the afternoon rolls on, momentum turns towards England, and Australia go on to lose the match and eventually the series.
In cricketing terms we have never recovered.
In the moment of Ponting’s run-out, something changed. The mantle had been passed. We had turned from winners into to whingers. From champs into chumps. From the schoolyard bully into the tattle-tale.
A side known for pushing the boundaries of competitiveness and taking the spirit of the game to its limits had been beaten in the game it created and was now being forced to swallow the very pill it had jammed down the world’s through for the previous 20 years. Suffice to say, we didn’t like it.
Our slide was crystallised several years later when the late, great Peter Roebuck called for the head of the Australian captain on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald after his charges had ruthlessly destroyed a poncy Indian side in the fifth day of an SCG Test. It wasn’t the result of the game that had drawn Mr Roebuck’s ire, it was the manner in which it was done which irked him so.
The writing was on the wall. If Australia’s days of cutthroat, win-at-all costs competitiveness wasn’t already dead, the public outcry following the SCG Test killed it off for good.
We now have an Australian Test side that is more inclined to take the moral high ground than push the limits of sportsmanship. From atop our lofty, losers’ perch we are quick to moan, cry and complain at every perceived indiscretion that occurs during a match. Stuart Broad should have walked. Ian Bell should have walked. England shouldn’t be playing their fielding coach as twelfth man.
I shudder as I type this, but it’s now undeniable – we have become England.
Needless to say, this is a terribly dire situation in which we find ourselves.
The only way to get oursevles out of this jam? Resume our old ways. To beat dirty, we need to go dirtier.
Firstly, we need to adopt a zero tolerance to whinging. First sign of a moan and the player/coach/journalist in question shall be dropped/ deported/sent to Manus Island, depending on the severity of the moan. Much like Shane Watson, moaning is a cancer that must be stopped quickly in its tracks before spreads.
Secondly, we need dirty tricks. England has pushed the boundaries of sportsmanship. We need to push it further. We need to tamper with the ball. We need to play bruising cricket. We need bodyline 2.0. We to conspire to poison the English team’s hotel food ala the All Blacks on the eve on the 1991 World Cup Final. Anything goes.
From there, the rest will handle itself.
While this remedy may be unpopular, and it may not immediately produce results, we simply must do it.
There’s a saying that goes “it’s better to win ugly than lose pretty”, but when it comes to battle with the Mother Country, we need not concern ourselves with matters aesthetic. We need to win. Our nation’s future hangs in the balance.