Monday, 27 December 2010

Whingeing Aussies

It's been noticeable that few have expressed any sympathy for the Australian cricket team during their various trials and tribulations during the 2010 Ashes series.

So abject have they appeared, and so quick the fall in Ricky Ponting's star as a captain and as one of the best batsmen of his generation, that it would seem only human to express a modicum of pity for the Aussie team and its struggling skipper.

But several reasons have prevented me from feeling this way. Firstly, as was shown at Perth, it only takes a different track, a couple of England off days and the rub of the green for the Aussies to get right back into the series.

Secondly, Australia became so feared throughout the nineties and noughties because they were so ruthless. Leading into my third reason, another key trait, at least until 2005, was how unpleasant a team they were reputed to be.

The Aussies like to believe they're a little bit tougher, a little more stoic and generally more manly than their opponents – especially the Poms. The idea of English cricketers as perpetually whingey, self-indulgent and flaky has been a popular one for a couple of decades.

I think a number of myths sprung up in the 15 years or so when England were handed out repeated whuppings in Ashes series. That they were naturally more querulous, lacking in spirit and prone to complaining rather than getting on with the game were popular theories among the Aussie players (see Justin Langer's secret dossier) and press. No-one paused to wonder whether it was simply a case of having an inferior team.

Now the boot is on the other foot. The behaviour of some in the Australian team during this series, particularly from the skipper, has been pretty disgraceful. It paid off in Perth, where the Aussies probably preferred to think of it as 'mental disintegration', but it's looked curiously like the whingeing that is apparently so despised down under in most of the other Tests.

To see Ponting continually complaining about bad decisions, good decisions, bad batting or good batting – continually whining at umpires and England players; the former for doing their job; the latter for doing their jobs well – has been appalling, amusing and vaguely pitiful by turn.

And while some of the England players are hardly the most likeable of sportspeople – Jimmy Anderson's perpetual sledging similarly ridiculous - Punter's behaviour has been among some of the worst on the international cricket stage for some time.

Understandable, perhaps, for a man probably facing the twilight of his career as an Aussie skipper to lose three Ashes series and possibly as a declining force with the bat – but there will be plenty of English cricket fans who will enjoy seeing Ponting, so long their tormentor, whingeing like the biggest bitch in cricket as England edge towards an Ashes win on Aussie soil.

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