The Australians need to play cricket aggressively……
It all went downhill for Australia when every single channel, TV show and discussion revolved around Cameron Bancroft tucking a yellow colour substance down his pants during a Test match. A confession from Steven Smith followed which slumped the Aussies into shame, a rude reality-check to their tough demeanour on the field.
Then Tim Paine, not even a certainty in the side until that tour in South Africa, was captaining the side and looking to earn the support of his own fans. The ‘handshake gesture’ brought Paine many fans, including those from Australia who all believed they had crossed the line with their actions and this would go a long way in helping fans view them in a different light.
It’s nearly seven months since the incident and as the first home Test series, after the ball-tampering saga looms, opinions are divided on the kind of cricket Australia should play.
The arrogant, bullish, intimidating image that the Aussies have at home seems to be a thing of the past with them remaining surprisingly calm and composed under Tim Paine. The win-at-all-costs culture seems to have taken a back seat under Langer- Paine and it was called out by Michael Clarke, claiming they wouldn’t “win s**t” with this kind of approach.
“If you try and walk away from it, we might be the most liked team in the world, we’re not going to win s**t. We won’t win a game,” opined the former Aussie captain. Clarke, who infamously threatened James Anderson if a “broken f*cking arm” in an Ashes series was ridiculed by several experts, critics, journalists and fans with Simon Katich strongly opposing Clarke’s views.
“What’s been forgotten in all of this is we blatantly cheated and the reason we’re at this point now, and what led us to this point, and we talk about the line that was talked about for so long,” Katich said. “We’ve been a disliked team for a number of years through that on-field behaviour and it obviously came to a head in Cape Town. They can still play the Australian way in terms of playing competitive and playing fairly, but not going over the top and going across the rules as they did in Cape Town.”
Katich has a point but would they be able to garner respect from their own fans by playing in a un-Australian fashion? Of course, they do not have to cheat and it wasn’t the basis of their aggressive approach until it all came dwindling down at Cape Town. You do not have to cheat to show aggression. And when Michael Clarke urges the Paine-led unit to play the Australian way, he isn’t promoting them to cheat, he is pushing them to play the Australian way, which is being in-the-face of the opposition.
That the home series is against an Indian side led by the uber-aggressive skipper Virat Kohli is furthermore reason for Australia ti stray away from being meek. Aaron Finch, currently in the Test side, seems to be all for this approach. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to come out and express ourselves, play some aggressive, attacking cricket and take the game on and really try and take it to India,” he said.
“Australian cricket, I think, needs to stop worry about being liked and start worrying about being respected. Play tough Australian cricket. Whether we like it or not, that’s in our blood,” Clarke was quoted as speaking by Macquarie Sports Radio.
What the Aussies probably don’t realise among Clarke’s brash, no-holds-barred words is that he has a point. If they play meekly, smiling at the opposition and trying to spread goodwill, they could come second best against an Indian Test side that is rapidly becoming a force away from home. The Australians aren’t going to get the respect that way either. It is very un-Australian and it’s unlikely that the players could do as well when out of their comfort zone.
They need not cheat, but the recent ethos has pushed a belief that they need to worry about being liked by the public. This is unfathomable for cricket needs Australia as Australia. Their five World Cup titles and interminable Test domination did not come while they tried to be amicable to the fans or crowd. They are Australia and like it or not, the cricketing fraternity have come to accept them as the bullish side that ruled cricket once.
To be where they were once, brilliant, top cricketing nations with a rich heritage, Australia need to stop masking their real self. This is in no way asking them to cheat again. That was unacceptable and immediately ridiculed. But the backlash is over and they should probably revert back to the kind of cricket that works for them. If they don’t we might well see a reversal of roles in the Tests series and it could even lead the visitors to their first series win in the soil.