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Oh Those Aussie Boys, Such A Tease!

by achettup

Peter Roebuck teases everyone with a classic article on cricket's spirit:

Sledging is another contentious subject. Somewhat to their chagrin, Australians are constantly cross-examined about it. Partly it is the insight it offers to secrets of the field. Supporters want to know what it is really like out there. Accordingly they relish the remarks. Australians point out that their words are mere banter and that much worse is said in the backyards and gardens and beach matches of their boyhood. Aussies like to tease each other. It's their way of showing affection. Did genial Bill Woodfull once enquire of his men, "Which of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?"
But sledging does not travel well. Other nations are not raised in the knockabout way. Teases can be taken as taunts, can provoke a fiery response, whereupon trouble begins.
Ah those wascally larrikin Aussies, such teases. Yes, you're quite right Peter. Sledging doesn't travel well, especially to Australia. You see, it also makes a big difference who is sledging, sorry teasing. McGrath didn't take too kindly to Sarwan's little tease, nor did Brad Haddin or Mitchell Johnson appreciate Suleiman Benn's teases. In fact Shane Watson seems to have been the only Aussie who relished a West Indian tease and retorted with one of his own, but that dastardly ICC punished him with a massive... well, a fine for that. Its funny though, "supporters want to know what it is really like out there" only when it suits their narrow definition of whats acceptable, or more precisely, whats acceptable when said by one party to another and not the other way around. Speaking of which, here are the next pearls of analysis from Roebuck:
Other cultures instill respect for elders and politeness. Others still, and sometimes the same ones, do not put racism as high, nor regard match-fixing or ball-tampering as rotten. Everyone knows all these things are wrong but opinions vary about their relative importance.
Others we must presume, as a logical continuation to Roebuck's previous assertions, doesn't include the venerable Aussies. Who could put the importance of racism any lower though than Darren Lehman calling the Sri Lankan's "black cunts" and a certain fast bowler who threatened to sue the Sri Lankans for claiming he too had referred to one of their batsmen as a "black monkey"? And these are just two incidents of the many that have been laughed away by several of the ex-cricketers when "monkey-gate" came up. And we could of course ask none other than Shane Warne and Mark Waugh about the variance in opinions about passing harmless information in exchange for money to bookies.
Arjuna Ranatunga can hardly have realised how much refusing to shake hands after the match offended Australians.
My, my, how stupid Ranatunga must be not to have realized this. No, he certainly wasn't capable of understanding what a calculated insult is, he's too fat, right? Certainly the Australians must have understood this though since they obviously took such umbrage at it, and repaid the compliment to another fat subcontinental, Sharad Pawar, by pushing him off the stage because their victory celebrations were so important!
His opponents can hardly have imagined the demons that had been raised by their confrontational approach.
Yes, all that talk about mental disintegration, people are supposed to take that in their stride. It must be shocking to encounter people who take offence to uncalled for personal insults being hurled at them in the name of, whats that word again, ah yes, "banter" and "teasing." Please note Aussies, wink wink, your "confrontational approach" isn't taken too kindly by your opponents. Because they're not "mentally tough" enough. wink-wink.

You see, what you don't get Peter is that the spirit of the game simply perpetuates the self-righteous holier-than-though stand taken by one side over another to justify their behavior or condemn the lack of it in their opponents when they feel hard done by, and when there is nothing in the law that makes getting over it easy. All parties are equally guilty of this, it has nothing to do with overcoming the "cultural differences" of nations in creating a uniform code of respectful conduct, but rather the usage of those differences to say that some of those aspects of the spirit simply aren't as important. Case in point, sledging... or teasing, if you prefer that term. Another example, well lets take it right out of your own article:
Numerous Indians worked themselves into a lather when Andrew Symonds did not depart voluntarily in the infamous SCG Test a few years ago. It was a foolish response. He was under no obligation. When their own batsmen stood their ground, the same observers held their tongues.
Stupid hypocritical Indian batsmen. Of course when an Australian batsmen refuses to walk it is ok! Don't work yourself into a lather over that pack of wild dogs you stupid same observers! You have no right to demand they should have walked after their captain made a request for both sides to agree to a pact on promoting the "spirit." And of course, when an Australian claims he's taken a catch cleanly, thats it, its not negotiable anymore, even if he has grounded it - lets tweak the subjective definition for the completion of catch and "having control over the ball" to suit when a catch is grounded - YOU MUST ACCEPT IT. Otherwise its perfectly fine for the likes of Slater to call your mother all manner of insults since in any case you don't believe his word counts for much! Foolish of you to think otherwise even if you were under no obligation to walk.

So spare us the sanctimony, the eloquently scripted history lesson of how the predominantly black nations' natives embraced Western presumptions, noble empire building as they were, even if they were propagated by pedophile vicars and their ilk. It isn't about respect, if it were there would be genuine efforts to appreciate other's so-called cultural differences and how not to talk or act in a manner that deliberately provokes your opponent. Invoking the spirit is nothing more than claiming that the way one party has acted appeals to the sensibilities of a groups understanding of what is fair play and acceptable and wins them a few gold stars for behavior. And it is more abused, universally so, than any of the sledges - sorry teases - that the Australians have become so famous for.


straight point said...

did by any chance you hear laawaris song ach...?

gaali huzoor ki toh lagti duoaaon jaisee hum duaa bhi dein toh lagey hai gaali...


Ankit Poddar said...

The article by peter is so demeaning, i am amazed how cricinfo even published it.. oh may be for the hits...

he actually goes on to say that spirit of cricket is being abused because the nations are getting more free... so should nations still have been a part of the British empire to uphold something so lofty as spirit in a sport?

thanks ach, for bringing up this article, I had missed it completely...

and SP,

yeah, the song is really apt here..

Jonathan said...

I'm not sure what you think Roebuck is actually trying to say here. Should he not point out the inherent nonsense of the idea, just because it is regularly taken in bad faith?

Anonymous said...

Dont forget this was the guy who pushed out Viv Richards from his county outfit because he was supposedly not good enough to play for it!! Do look up Wikipedia for Roebuck s entertaining case involving some young men he invited to his home ostenibly to teach them to play cricket.

st1ng said...

superbly written! great blog mate. stumbled upon it by chance. gonna be here more often.

Jonathan said...

To be a bit straighter, parts of the article are well off the mark, but Ankit, if you think he says freedom has leads to abuse of the spirit of cricket, then you've missed the point.

Ankit Poddar said...


The following are the lines that I am specifically pointing at

"As long-suppressed nations supped with increasing confidence from the cup of freedom, so the spirit became ever harder to define."

The above line portrays a direct and strong correlation between increasing freedom and degrading spirit of cricket. Tell me Jonathan, which point did I miss out here?

And again throughout the article, the common wealth countries (except Australia) have been termed as subjects or locals.

I understand words like people from countries which are today known as India, West Indies, may be Sri Lanka (think they Portugals had occupied them) would be better suited, and not insulting.

Ankit Poddar said...


Don't get me wrong here. I am not trying to take sides with the subcontinent countries (the only reason I mentioned them in the above comment, was because I know a little more about their freedom struggles then the rest of the cricketing world.) All I am trying to say is that at least with Peter, he has got his causality wrong.

Anil Singh said...

Achettup, you have chosen to raise those points which no writer from Indian subcontinent (barring Gavaskar)has guts to raise.

Actually, as you have said, when it comes to sledging there are clear double standards. These same Australians have send players like Trescothick to rehab by their very deliberate and pointed sledges.

But no one should dare say anything to them, as they are masters in making country or region specific expletives into global issues like racism.

It's also true that many Aussies outside the field,take part in noble activities like charities in third world nations; but if that emanates from some superiority complex; then they should contemplate on that; as that complex is the root cause for all double standards.

If they can't contemplate, then they either have two choices -- either to shut up and play the game; or to keep sledging and stop giving global or moral character to the opponents behavior and utterances.

Jonathan said...

Ankit, he says the "spirit became harder to define", not it was abused or degraded. Maybe I'm missing a negative connotation of "locals", but surely "subjects" simply tells it as it was. This could be insulting depending on your conclusions, but here, the history is the point. If the "spirit of cricket" ideas began mostly through imperialist imposition of values from British schools and pulpits applied to cricket in a partly arbitrary way, is it really a bad thing that it other views (or or without such a notion) have greater prominence? Why shouldn't freedom lead to acceptance of cultural differences?

Of course, Achettup is spot on that cultural differences don't explain, let alone exucse, everything that's gone on. The controversies are often more about responding to and manipulatively using the amorphous local idea of what's fair and what's not. Roebuck, rightly or wrongly, doesn't deal with that. Whatever he's saying, I'll settle for ditching "spirit" and thinking about respect, without pretending that it's already there.