Whites’ Mischief.

Our relationship with Australia and its inhabitants is extraordinary. Put simply, we can’t stand each other. We think they’re boorish and dumb (but noisy): they think we’re stuck-up and feeble. But who are these ‘we’s’ and ‘they’s?’
Hang on. I’m simply not the man for an epic deconstruction of this stuff. Partly because I suspect a three year research project into What Gives With Ashesness could only come up with with the same conclusions as my own hunches; partly because I get that it’s only Level 2 serious – where Level 7 is outright racism and Level 12 is war. So my general, sub-considered view would be let’s flick the vees at each other and crack on.
However, in passing, let’s also agree that the English (as seen by the Aussies – and please note this maybe really doesn’t include all The Brits) are Middle Class (or worse), pretentious, privileged, moneyed, ‘Imperial’. People you want to put in their place, rob, subvert, expose, humiliate, exact your own justice upon. (Note that historical issues unquestionably play a role here, in a frozen-in-chip-fat kindofaway).
I reckon there’s marginally less bile going in the other direction but maybe the sense that there’s something essentially superior about the dismissal of the Aussies by the English is telling. Like they’re the shepherd at the door, reporting a problem with the ewes but we don’t want to hear just now, thank you – dinner is served. In our heads they’re still rural underlings.
At the full, twisted and/or comedic extent of this we can pull out the criminal thing: The Banished. But is this really part of our framing now, or do we just revisit this for the larfs? As in Brian Moore and his SD’s wind-up? (Shackle Draggers, if you’ve missed that). Personally, now, I’m thinking the origins of (white) Australia barely register in the gathering of factors… but I may be wrong.
Incontrovertibly, though, there is feeling around this. The relationship is not so much loaded or complicated as part-sunk, with strangely, disturbingly animated baggage. England v Aus at anything has become charged but the cricket is something else.
There is proper history there. Facts and everything but mainly rivalry and dislike and increasingly, hype. A dash of romance, lorryloads of mischief, some outstanding sport and every now and then some real sportsmanship. But – and here’s my concern – the matrix in which the Ashes are enacted is (wouldn’t you say, currently?) more weighted with bitterness than any healthy game should be. Begging the questions, in 2017, post everything from Bodyline to Ball Of the Century to Buttgate, where do we go with this and how do we forensically isolate sociological import from banter, from That Which Transgresses?
I don’t think we can.
Jimmy Anderson has written in The Telegraph. He says (effectively) that the Aussies don’t say much when they’re scrambling but they like to bully folks when they get on top. They won’t like that but there may be some truth there.
Interestingly and probably controversially, Anderson says he asked the umpires in Brisbane about levels of intimidatory bowling against the England tailenders: something he knows will stoke the fires in more ways than one.
He also talks of how the current crop of Brits are quietish by nature and how they agreed, given that prospensity, to let their cricket do the talking. Clearly now, they have to turn that volume up.
Anderson is no angel. He’s clever and toughish and coolish and (I think) not that easy to like. The absurd thought strikes me that it will take bigger, better blokes than him (and David Warner, and Steve Smith, probably) to break the log-jam of spitefulness characterising much of what we see, hear, read.
If anything can sort this – and my expectation could only be that this might be temporary, until the next provocation, or ‘incident’ – it will be proper, unashamed, natural big-heartedness, a quality that may be lurking behind the bravado in certain cases but which has lately been reigned in (or ‘whipped’) for the appearance of team machismo.
Shame. Shame when Warner and Lyon talk utter, provocative horse-s**t and then *maybe* have reason to think that it’s worked. Shame when any professional in the media – on either side – toes that particularly grubby party line.
It feels impossible to appear unbiased in this so forgive me if I unleash one or two more contentious ‘views’; take them as seriously as you like. The central one being that the Australians, regrettably, are worse at this unravelling of the opposition. (Yes, more guilty than England are – guilty is the word I would use). They have made a kind of weirdly heightened machismo a badge of honour, a weapon, a pre-requisite almost, for Proper Aussieness. This idolises, breeds and infers violence. As a notion this is so plainly pitifully neanderthal, it’s a huge shame that it’s been notably successful.
Aus have made a virtue (hah!) of going beyond mischief – I, like most of us have no issue with mischief – to a place where they hope the opposition will break down under their assault. This is the plan.
The association they make between realness – real, successful Aussieness – and winning Big and Nasty is both juvenile and ugly. Mitchell Starc’s forced confrontationality, post-delivery. The endless chirp – wot Lyon and Warner sed. Smith’s ludicrous badge-kissing and slightly faux hysterics in the Buttgate interview. The Team Mentality. A psychologist really would have a field day – and surely words like ‘insecurities’ might crop up in their notes. Surely?
But I would say this cos I’m a Brit, right? Maybe.
I am a Brit and a cricket man – a sportsman. I don’t buy the argument that tolerances are different at the top level (which I never played). I don’t buy the idea that we’re simply not getting the (Aussie) joke, here, that we just need to chill on out and there will be handshakes at the end. Cobblers. There is too much that is unnecessary, too much that is anti-sport, that we can’t claim back or re-coup.
David Warner may not need to care how he is regarded over thissaway but many actively dislike him for his bullishness, his place at the forefront of Australian aggression. We view his claims to have ‘matured’ with some contempt. Really good player, total arse; still. That will always be part of his legacy.
Warner has role-played his way through a very successful career, opting to push his luck a bit in regard to his relations with the opposition. Almost certainly, he’s either been directly encouraged to be a pain-in-the-arse or the Team Mentality has supported that idea that maybe that would be good. I guess I’m saying that this is in no way good. It’s unnecessary and ugly and mean-spirited.
There are the laws and there are things undrawable, abstruse, beyond legislation. We all know, though, where the lines of fairness and decency are; know too, where understandably adrenalin-infused mischief veers off into distraction, anti-sport, intimidation. The game needs the players to manage some of this.

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