Circa 1998. Mark Anthony Taylor leads his merry men on a tour of Pakistan, one of the Kangaroos' few unconquered terrains. Ending the day with 334, and a very realistic chance of achieving the greatest individual record in cricket - Taylor throws it away to give his team a chance of winning.
Circa 2008. The image of the Australian cricketer is at an all-time ebb. People don't care that Ricky Thomas Ponting scored one of one-day cricket's greatest centuries to help win the 2003 World Cup. Or the fact that Andrew Symonds played a scintillating 141 to beat a daunting Pakistan in the same event. What they know now is that Australia are a bunch of sissies, a bunch of schoolkids who can't take what they give, and a team - if they don't do something about it quick - which is on the decline.
Before I run the risk of sounding biased, let me say that I am as much a fan of Australian cricket as anyone. I think their strategy of going at atleast 4 an over and giving themselves enough time to bowl out the opposition twice was the best thing to happen to Test match cricket.
It is also to Australia' tribute that many of the greatest matches in the 21st century feature against Australia... I mean, sample these:
- India beats Australia, after following on, VVS Laxman playing India's greatest ever innings of 281.
- South Africa chasing down 434 in what was quite simply, the greatest ODI of all time.
- New Zealand chasing down 340+ scores twice in 2007.
- Mark Butcher's innings of 173 against them in the 2001 Ashes.
- The entire Ashes 2005 series!
- Mohammad Ashraful's heroics against Australia in the ODI series in Holland.
- And many more. Infact, I can only think of Nathan Astle's blitzkrieg against England (222) as the non-Australia really-great-innings in the 21st century.
So he goes to a charity in Kolkata? Big deal, everyone, Ozzy Osbourne included, does charity.
He's got a red towel which apparently is part of legend. Oh, please.
He scored his second, yes, second, ODI century in the 1999 World Cup. Yes, that was a good innings, but statements on the line of 'history does not recall a captain in a tougher situation' are unwarranted. The fact that he scored over 10000 runs is a partial function of the fact that he played well over 150 matches. Mate, if you're playing 150 matches as a captain and don't have over 10000 runs, what are you doing in International cricket when people like Mike Hussey and Stuart MacGill are knocking on the doors?
Okay, so Stephen induced a win-at-all costs sort of mentality into the Australian team. Sledging became more personal, using the media to intimidate teams became a tactic. Excuse me, where is the 'fair' in 'play tough, play fair'? All the hoopla over his retirement... Bollocks! Adam Gilchrist did more than Steve ever did for Australian cricket and was not accredited half as much hype. But hell, we all love Steve don't we?
Let me not bitch about him, and let's get right to the real culprit. A person who has been more abused by Indians on Orkut communities than anyone else in the world. Sample this: "changing from yellow to green and gold might've just changed the appearance but still they're the old yellow s**t"
Then Ricky took over. Things got worse, and came to a head in Sydney 2008. For all the rest of the world's whining about their hard tactics, Australia would shrug and say, this is a hard game, you've got to take it. Fair enough, that. Then why, mates, can't you take it back?
Why, oh why, can you abuse someone's parentage, and then squeal when someone calls you a 'monkey'? You score one run in the finals, and have the effing audacity to blame your teammates and proclaim the fact that the dew did you in? Hell, just accept you were second best on that day! My dear fellow, remember that stump you received as a 'Thank you, try again' prize in the finals? I'm sure thousands of your countrymen might want to literally translate a rather popular Hindi song whose initials are GMD, and stuff the thing right up your posterior... For bringing Australian cricket to shame and disrepute.
In my mind, there is no doubt that Australia have been protected by white-skinned mofos of match referees who still live in Apartheidian eras, who think that anyone with melanin in their bodies are not allowed to appeal over 20 decibels. Sure, Glenn McGrath can ask everyone else how their wives are, but the moment a mention is made about his own, he turns violent, as he did against Brian Lara. And yes, Mr. Symonds - at a point of time, one of my favourite cricketers - provokes Ishant, and then Punter comes in when Ishant retaliates, and gets the pacer docked 15%of his match fee. I guess they've practiced doing that, now.
There needs to be some major attitude re-jig here. The world has finally woken up to the fact that Australia may be a great cricket team, and there is no doubting pure talent like Michael Clarke here, but finally, the image of a team moves beyond performances.
The icing on the cake was when Ricky Ponting said that the third final of the CB series would not be required. What he did was, hand the final nail and a hammer to the selectors, jump inside his coffin and say, "Go on."
It's been nice knowing you, Ricky. Maybe now, we can get back to some more of that Borderian, Taylorian cricket that took Australian cricket to where it was before you attempted to ruin it. I cannot wait to see what the IPL crowds have in store for you. Like a brilliant post on that Orkut community said, "ab to mazza tab aayega jab ipl mein ganguly usse 12th man banayega paani laane ke liye"
One last footnote, which I read from somewhere on the net:
Andrew Symonds 2005
Symonds may have dominated headlines in the last couple of months for his mouth, but early in Australia's 2005 Ashes tour he was dropped after going out on an all-night drinking binge on the eve of an ODI in Cardiff and returning to the hotel as his team-mates were coming down to breakfast. Symonds passed out in his room and room-mate Michael Clarke had to stand him under the shower to wake him. Although he made it to the ground, Symonds raised the suspicions of Ricky Ponting and John Buchanan when he slipped off a wheelie bin while doing his stretches. He was banished to the dressing room and dropped. He later admitted he had thought: "Ah, it's only Bangladesh, a little bit of fizz won't be a worry." Later that day, as the hangover kicked in, Bangladesh recorded their first one-day win over Australia. Symonds was suspended for two matches.
Ricky Ponting 1999
Aged 24, Ponting was struggling to hold down a place in the Australian side and had already been in more than his fair share of trouble when, after a failure in an ODI against England, he went to a nightclub in Sydney's Kings Cross district. Many drinks later there was a scuffle which ended with Ponting being thumped by a bouncer. Unfortunately for Ponting, his ignominious exit from the club was snapped by a photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald. Although the story didn't break, the Australian board took the initiative and made Ponting face the media, where he admitted he had little recollection of events. "I have to admit to myself that I have a problem with alcohol at times and I intend to overcome this problem," he said. That he did, seeking counselling and turning his life around, even though many said he was too far gone.