The Death of English Cricket, Part 34
I've spoken to a few blokes recently about this test series. It's interesting, not only Australia's Xena-like dominance but the attitude of the general public towards it. In previous years and in lesser series (in my opinion, the Ashes is still the absolute pinnacle of sport in Australia), watching the aussies THUMP the opposition would be wearing pretty thin by the third test. We may be many stereotypical things, but something we aren't are mindless drones when it comes to sport. Watching our boys wipe the floor with the poms here aside, we generally like our sport to be an actual contest. A gripping, enthralling battle between two competitors who have both shown up for a fight and both willing to go down swinging as hard as they can.
So normally you'd expect murmurs of 'Bloody hell I wish England would put up more of a fight' or 'I'm getting bored of Australia relentlessly winning, a close series would be good'. The 2005 Ashes series was one of the all time greatest. The 1960-61 series with the West Indians coming here and giving us a good run was another. Both of those, and countless other contests from the entire gamut of sports (think Rafter vs Ivanisevic in the 2001 Wimbledon final or Norman vs Zoeller in that epic playoff in 1984), were a twisting, turning, curving, oscillating event that captured the imaginations of the masses. Not so here. We are baying for blood. Friends are taking days off work to watch the poms squirm. If you'd just walked by my front door you'd have heard 'YES HARRIS HIT HIM IN THE FUCKING THROAT!' as number 11 Anderson fended off a half tracker on his first delivery. We don't care about a contest. Brayshaw is laying it on so thick it's almost fattening, and how bloody good is it!
Why though? 2005 was so brilliant that the insanity of the whitewash that was 06/07 is almost forgotten and surely would be in future years if not for the star power of Hussey, Warne, McGrath, Hayden and Langer (and Martyn). The answer lies in attitude. I am not one to big note our humble nature, because we aren't. We sit safely in the knowledge that with a limited population we remain, pound for pound, one of the sporting super capitals of the world. But we don't mind losing if the opposition is deserving and we fought our guts out, which we always do. England, however, seem to have adopted a different psyche. Their brand of inoffensive, wait and see cricket has really sparked something in the Australian mindset. Not only that, their sheer arrogance over their most recent urn-holding period has cut deep.
Warne wrote in 2013: "The attitude among my English friends has a bit more sarcasm, more lip, more arrogance, but they should just calm down," "Not a ball's been bowled yet, but every (Englishman) seems to think the Ashes is theirs already". Botham claimed England would win 5-0 in this series, and that is a man who seems incapable of even acknowledging a sense of humour let alone owning one. Michael Vaughan, who is brutally honest but hops over the fence more times than the neighbours cat was trumpeting the strength of the English side and saying on paper it was hard to see how Australia could possibly win.
Australians respect strength, grace and humility. Our world beating cricketers of the blessed period were ruthless hard men who celebrated wins but were always quick to point the finger at their mates when the accolades came their way. This English cricket side appears to have fallen in to success on a number of occasions on the back of some stellar purple patches and some outstanding cricketers, namely Pietersen, Trott, Cook, Bell and Anderson. Every player and every side with potential goes through these glory times. It's what is upstairs that matters most in prolonging them. Australia has it. England don't. Simple as that. When the chips have been down they have folded quicker than my mums 40 year old vinyl chair that bruised my coccyx late last year. Pieterson saved them in India when they looked hopeless. Their 3-0 win over us 13 months ago was flattering at best. Over here they have been tormented by Australia; the players, the press, their own press, the public, and their inner demons. Cook looks a man on death's door. Australia have always believed they will win, they have always had strong leaders who have shone as bright as the sun in the darkest of hours. Clarke was almost delusional in India as we got pasted 4 zip, yet his unfaltering view that we would turn it around has steered us to our current plight. Cook is defeatist, his captaincy is negative and dull, and his side are following his example. They have been weak and fragile in defeat, and their own ex-players penchant for turning on them has endeared them even less as a side. Cook threw it away last night. Broad has the loudest of barks but the meekest of whimpers with the bat in hand. And Anderson doesn't seem to think at all before he opens his mouth.
To come back to my original point, why is it that rather than wanting a toughly fought contest we want to see a white-wash painted in English blood? Because we just don't get the English. They don't play the way we do. They don't think the same way. We are descended from them, yet somehow we carved a separate personality. They must be punished for playing cricket in a way we do not deem fit. Please god let it continue, because when I see KP playing like a park cricketer with a mind so frazzled he wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between Quinoa and carrot, it's honestly better than sex.