Howls of discontent over on-field behaviour


Congratulations to the Australian cricket team. After a tumultuous period in which they were beaten in India and England, they responded with wins against the old enemy and, now, the world's No.1 ranked team, South Africa. The results will be long remembered. So too the way in which they were achieved.

Australians love to feel pride in their national cricket team. But not everyone is looking for a South African workmate to roast on Thursday. Certainly there are those who feel immense thrill and admiration after the team's win in Cape Town on Wednesday, which sealed a gripping 2-1 series win. Captain Michael Clarke's heroic century in the face of Morne Morkel's pace and bounce was perhaps the best of his career, David Warner's explosive tons in each innings confirm him as the world's form batsman and Mitchell Johnson's seven-wicket match haul was the cherry on top of an extraordinary summer.

But – and this happens far too often - judging by commentary on websites and blogs across the country, a chunk of people too large to ignore feels disappointed by the team's behaviour. Many feel unrepresented by Clarke's men, just as they did at times when Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh led the side. And, they're sad about it because, if there is one sporting team above others that Australians want to have speaking on their behalf - representing their better qualities - it's the national cricket team.

So, were Australians being spoken for when Warner accused South Africa of ball tampering, questioned the work ethic of opponent, Vernon Philander, the world's No.2 ranked bowler, and said the Proteas looked lazy in the field?

Was recalled bowler James Pattinson acting on behalf of Australia when he incessantly sledged the world's top-ranked batsman, AB de Villiers, among others?

What about the several close-in fielders abusing first-innings top-scorer and South Africa Twenty20 captain, Faf du Plessis, for picking up the ball and tossing it back to the bowler? Were they acting on behalf of Australia or acting, as du Plessis later said, like "a pack of dogs"? And, when the Australians woofed at du Plessis after his second-innings dismissal, were they displaying the nation's best traits?

Throw in an umpire's warning to the Australians about scuffing the ball, a confrontation between the players and an umpire after a controversial decision went against them and a post-match apology from Clarke after his run-in with Dale Steyn and you have yet another polarising Australian Test team performance.

No one suggests love-ins with opponents. We all know to some extent – some by having played the game, others by long following it – that Test cricket is an extremely competitive environment. Matches stretch on for days in the heat and dust. Small decisions can change contests and careers. In this high-pressure game of ultra-endurance, things inevitably go wrong and fuses get blown. Certainly, the behaviour of many of Australia's opponents, particularly in recent years, has been no better.

But that's no excuse. The Australian psyche is characterised by uncompromising toughness, determination and dignity. Those traits must no longer be confused with boorish and bullying behaviour. After another significant win by our national cricket team, too many people are only half-celebrating. Too many people feel the team has not spoken for them.

Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson remonstrate with umpire Aleem Dar after a review decision. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson remonstrate with umpire Aleem Dar after a review decision. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


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