by Bob Lethaby
When I was watching the cricket on Sunday morning, I had to have a serious word with myself about my attitude towards the Australian cricket team.
This is because as Shane Watson left the field looking bemused and beaten, I didn’t feel my normal sense pleasure at an Aussie in turmoil, I felt real pangs of pity at him and his team’s plight. Australia, a decade or so ago, were the ultimate cricket team, bludgeoning the like of England into oblivion as we watched on, humiliated once again.
Beating them in 2005 was one of the great sporting occasions because England eventually went toe to toe in aggressive combat with hard-nosed bastards who would bully any side into submission. We peppered them and they peppered us back as they did everything in their power to retain the Ashes they had held for so long. It was a thrilling contest where the outright winners were not victorious until the last day of the final Test.
Now we are reduced to this. Where are the Aussies we used to love to hate? Where are the Glen McGraths, Shane Warnes and Ricky Pontings of the modern era? All I have seen, except the odd glimpse of heroics, is a team as soft as a fairy cake who just turn up to get hammered by a team that is so superior, it is almost embarrassing to watch. Is the modern Aussie male a big wet drip with no stomach for a fight? Steve Smith, their batsman and attempted spinner, always looks on the verge of crying like a bullied school kid.
I have come to the conclusion that to make an Ashes series an exciting one, you need two fine teams. In the battle of 2005, you had the number one and two teams in the world battling it out in every Test, believing anything was possible until the last ball was bowled. On Sunday, I periodically had a sneak look in the afternoon as Australia went through the process of meekly getting skittled out chasing well over 500; it wasn’t even a contest.
With three Tests to go, the longer form of the game desperately needs an Aussie response to generate excitement rather than the apathetic and subdued glory that comes from a non-contest. Back in the 90′s the Aussies bemoaned the lack of a decent England team to compete against and though at the time I thought it was unsporting gloating, I now get their point, to make sport exciting, it has to be competitive.
I have always begrudgingly liked the Aussies; they were always fiercely competitive, brave and tough cricketers who fought tooth and nail for victory. Of course their gloating was painful, I am English after all, but their wit, sense of fun and love of sport is admirable and unlike some of the other great cricket sides I have disliked (notably South Africa) they are always ready to join in on a party and enjoy the Ashes for the great sporting occasion it should be.
So as much as I enjoy our cricketers beating you and retaining the urn, come on Australia, let’s be having you, man up and make it a summer and an Ashes battle to remember.
Otherwise Ashes 2013 will be forgotten by October.
Check out more of Bob’s writing here – http://www.boblethaby.co.uk/