Steve Smith the man to win back Australia’s cricketing respect

Date: April 3, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Smith 3Australia is the World Cup champion, for the fifth time no less.

We are the greatest one-day country in the history of the game.

We are a damn fine Test nation as well, especially over the last 25 years having twice accumulated record 16-match winning streaks, been consistently ranked world number one and the produced names like Warne, Glichrist, McGrath, Waugh, Ponting, Hayden et al.

Throughout that period the Australian Test and one-day teams have rightfully garnered immense respect from the cricketing world.

However, in myriad eyes, that respect has been purely centred on the physical and sporting prowess of the team and many of the individuals lying within.

In many quarters, both at home and abroad, cricket fans have failed to be enamoured with the way the Australian team has gone about its quest for victory.

In fact, many have prescribed to the theory that the team – although not specifically each of the individuals – is a boorish, arrogant and belittling entity.

Those very labels were again assigned to the side, and more directly its wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, following Australia’s landslide victory over New Zealand in Sunday’s World Cup decider.

Criticism was levelled on social media both during and immediately following the match by fans of the sport who derided Haddin’s send-offs to Black Cap players Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott and Daniel Vettori.

Haddin again failed to endear himself the next day when he said in a radio interview that he had determined in a pre-match meeting that the team needed to have a go at the Kiwis “as hard as we can” and further, said the opponents “deserved it”.

Allied to those comments and actions Haddin was also shown to a worldwide audience pouring a bottle of beer over the World Cup Trophy and looking like he intended to massage it in to the silver orb atop it.

That, of course, came in the wake of Shane Warne’s ‘insightful’ on-field interviews with numerous members of the triumphant team which centred on what would be consumed post-match and how long said imbibing would go on for.

Again, the blogosphere lit up with accusations as to the appropriateness of such a line of questioning in the 21st-century – or perhaps in any century for that matter.

Whether we, as Australians, like it nor not our male national cricket team has some work to do.

Many have contrasted the outward attitudes of the two combatants in Sunday’s final.

New Zealand came out of the tournament with a dramatically enhanced reputation having reached a maiden final and done so throughout with exemplary behaviour.

Australia, it must be said, only once drew the ire of the match referees during the tournament when Shane Watson was docked 15 per cent of his match fee for his part in an explosive stanza of play in the quarter-final against Pakistan in Adelaide where he was put under the pump by paceman Wahab Riaz, who found himself 50 per cent lighter in the pocket at match end for his part.

Steve Waugh dubbed what most of us call sledging to be mental disintegration’ – a practice where verbal barbs and associated body language are used to breakdown an opponent’s concentration.

Australia has made it a concerted part of their armoury.

And, in doing so, have earned the wrath and ire of many a cricket fan.

Australians play their sport hard.

We pride ourselves on it but so to do a lot of other sporting nations.

Unfortunately too often our cricket team, in particular, pushes the envelope too far.

Many times I have heard Kim Hughes speak of the fact that while the West Indies were terrorizing Australian sides through the late-1970s and ‘80s, hardly a word was ever directed at the batsman.

A glare yes, but outright verbal sledging was not part of those team’s make-up.

Perhaps much of that was borne out of the fact that Clive Lloyd was the skipper.

Aside from the late Sir Frank Worrell no West Indian captain has commanded such internal deference and worldwide respect.

West Indian on-field behaviour came from the top with the captain setting the example.

Post Mark Taylor, Australia has had three men who have liked nothing more than a good scrap – Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

All three were cut from similar cloth with respect to their upbringing and all three were never going to take a backward step.

If it was not themselves doing the verbalising it was their subordinates who seemingly acted without sanction from their skipper.

It is time that Australia moved to a different place on the cricket field.

It is time to abandon the clapping send-off in the batsman’s face and the nose-to-nose confrontations that require an umpire to intervene.

Steve Smith will likely ascend to the role of permanent skipper of the ODI team following Clarke’s retirement.

He is the heir apparent in the Test side as well.

He has shown outstanding leadership qualities in his limited exposure to international captaincy to date.

Perhaps in the future he can be the one to rein things in and get the team playing winning cricket that is still ruthless in execution but done so without the verbals and histrionics that have characterized much of Australia’s recent performances.

After all, winners are grinners.

They do not need to be more than that especially if they desire universal respect.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 2 April 2015