Mark Baker says: Australian cricketers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t: criticised if they fail to win and criticised if they do not win in the “correct” manner.LAST Sunday, the Australian cricket team produced a stunning sporting performance to raise the World Cup.
It was the fifth time Australia had won the tournament and the boys did it easily in the end, winning by seven wickets against New Zealand at the MCG.
They were lauded in many circles for their skill but they were also lambasted for being poor winners.
The Black Caps, on the other hand, were championed for their good sportsmanship and for how honourable they were in defeat.
Australian cricketers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t: criticised if they fail to win and criticised if they do not win in the “correct” manner.
Former Australian captain Steve Waugh popularised the idea of “mental disintegration” of opponents on the field.
Cricket is a game of such intense concentration that getting under their opponents’ skin or in their head creates extra pressure, causing mistakes.
Perhaps the greatest exponent of that theory was heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
His verbal ripostes were as legendary as his dancing feet and lighting fast hands.
Ali had a wit and charm that no sportsman has had since.
“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark,” he famously told an enraptured press conference.
Some credit him with inventing the idea of rap music with his rhyming boasts.
“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick; I’m so mean I make medicine sick,” he said of his newest training regime.
But Ali’s taunt could be cruel. He ridiculed George Forman for being “too ugly to be world champ” and repeatedly called Joe Frazier an “Uncle Tom” and a “gorilla” who was “so ugly his face should be donated to the bureau of wildlife”.
Frazier never forgave Ali and never really got over the public ridicule.
Sport has thankfully moved on from such deliberate offence.
But in an increasingly politically correct world that permeates the sports field as much as a section of society, an exuberant send-off after a wicket becomes a capital offence.
That is not to say it’s acceptable or to be encouraged, but in the crucible of such intense pressure, it is understandable.
There were, however, times when the behaviour of certain players in the Australian cricket side crossed the line and became boorish.
David Warner seems to be chief antagonist of most of the skirmishes, and his “Speak English” run-in with Rohit Sharma, however he tried to spin it, was simply ugly and unnecessary.
Yet for all the words typed disapprovingly into the comment sections of websites around the nation about how it set a terrible example for children, the simple fact of the matter is the Australian cricket team was relentless in pursuit of its goals.
That, in itself, is not a terrible lesson.
We should always encourage fair play and sportsmanship but that does not have to come at the expense of trying to be the best.
If one was looking for an example of good sportsmanship, one could probably not go past Launceston lad George Bailey.
Dropped from the side on the return of captain Michael Clarke despite captaining the team to its first win and scoring a half-century, Bailey sat on the sideline for all but one game.
When interviewed moments after the match, he spoke about just how proud he was to be part of the squad.
That, and he wore his substitute singlet to the fans session the next day.
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