Sunday 9 August 2009

My secret leaked dossier on the Australian squad

Reading Justin Langer's secret dossier on the England team, I'm struck by a few things. Firstly is that Langer – certainly one of the 'decent' Aussies – is spot on about a few England players, and some of the supposed aura around the team. Secondly is that it's equally as revealing about the Australian psyche as England's.

I think the current England team is one of the least likeable in recent years. The problematic Pietersen and Flintoff are very much their own men in that team; Broad is a mouthy git for a guy with a test bowling average of 40; and there's still a powerful lingering impression that there's something of a clique surrounding the team and management.

I don't believe in the impression that Team England is supposedly a solid unit – I think it's riven with factions and people intent on furthering their own interests.

Having said that I believe England, with Flintoff and Pietersen, is a superior team to Australia at the moment. And this is where Langer is wrong.

Langer lets his personal pride and hubris get in the way of his analysis so instead of being a sober, objective analysis, his dossier veers into the personal and biased. Many of his judgements on certain players amount to attempts to psychoanalyse the players, to what end I'm uncertain.

Among the pearls of wisdom are the observations that Anderson can be 'bit of a pussy if he is worn down'; Swann and Prior have 'massive' egos (and?); and Bopara is a 'strutter'.

It smacks of the mental disintegration Australia are so fond of, and is reminiscent of Warne's commentary, where the former leggie is unable to hide his personal feelings about certain England players.

Langer's folly is revealed in the phrase about the supposed psyche of England players, suggesting that they're psychologically fragile because they're built that way.

“English players rarely believe in themselves. Many of them stare a lot and chat a lot but this is very shallow. They will retreat very quickly.

"Aggressive batting, running and body language will soon have them staring at their bootlaces rather (than) in the eyes of their opponent - it is just how they are built.

"They [English cricketers] like being friendly and 'matey’ because it makes them feel comfortable.”

“In essence this is maybe the key to the whole English psyche — they love being comfortable. Take them out of their comfort zone and they don’t like it for one second.”

This is all about the Aussie fantasy that they're inherently more manly, resolute and tough than any other team – a kind of smug cultural superiority complex of the kind that Aussies like to level at the English.

Michael Vaughan has suggested that Langer's dossier should come as something of a wake-up call – and it should. To ignore England's obvious problems and not learn from the valuable information would be a mistake.

But I'd suggest that it should also come as a it of a lesson to Australia – their belief in a form of natural superiority in attitude and resolve has been exposed as a nonsense in this series, when Punter and his men have seemed as clueless and bereft of ideas and guts as England often have in the past.

To this end I've compiled my own dossier on the Australian Ashes team, in the same skewed and rather far-fetched manner as Langer.

My secret leaked dossier on the Australian squad:

Ricky Ponting - Stripped of the best team for a generation, his captaincy is exposed as flat and unimaginative. Proves unable to rouse his team when under pressure, and prone to hypocritical outbursts about playing in the spirit of the game. Recent hair transplant operation indicates deep lack of self-confidence.

Michael Clarke - Nickname is 'Pup'. Therefore a pussy.

Peter Siddle - An ugly cricketer in more ways than one. Head goes when put under pressure.

Simon Katich - An able batsman with no guts for a scrap.

Michael Hussey - Deeply lacking in confidence for a man named Mr Cricket

Shane Watson - A decent one-day slogger one tour away from being a forgotten man.

Ben Hilfenhaus - Tim Munton in a baggy green

Mitchell Johnson - A fast erratic bowler who has been afforded far too much respect with bat and ball. Get after him and he falls apart.

Nathan Hauritz - Simply not a test bowler. Probably a nice guy.

Brad Haddin - Chip away at him for his poor keeping.

Michael Hughes - Doesn't like the short stuff, and no guts for a scrap.

Marcus North - Probably a decent grade cricket player one tour away from being an Australian Mark Lathwell.

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