Aussies fear for their sanity

This has to be one of the best, most light-hearted pieces I’ve read in a long time! I loved every sentence of it, and had to record it here. All rights etc blah blah blah with the original author at the SMH.

As obviously light-hearted the article is, there is more than a smidgen of truth. In fact, I reckon he’s bang on the money – brilliant stuff!

Watching Australia struggle against England in the Test series is painful enough, but it’s tougher for Michael Reid, who lives on their turf.

THIS is just not cricket. The Poms are in our face, at our throats and as Ricky admitted after he led the great escape at Old Trafford, they’re getting inside our heads.

The Ashes series is being hailed the best, most gripping in decades.

But as an Aussie living in the Old Dart I’m not enjoying it one bit.

I’m suffering through every bloody delivery, every excruciating session.

To bastardise that famous utterance from another epic Ashes series, there’s been only one team out there playing cricket, the Australian way at least, and it’s not been Australia.

Our bowlers are chucking pies, the batsmen are stuck in the headlights and they’ve been faffing about in the field like a teenage boy at his first bra-strap. As Roy and HJ said last week, we look old and stupid.

Like the late swing being deployed to great effect by Simon Jones and Freddie Flintoff, the teams’ roles are rapidly reversing. And like Henry Fonda in Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western, Once Upon a Time in the West, Michael Vaughan’s baddies are playing against type, to brutal effect.

No, this is not a good time to be an Australian in England. These quadrennial summer sporting festivals are meant to be a time of unbridled Pommy bashing, on and off the field.

An outpouring of jingoistic joy, a time to ridicule the Poms’ relentlessly mediocre journeymen from their impoverished county circuit as our lads bolster their averages before generously offering the poor buggers a consolation win at The Oval while casting one eye at the Heathrow departure board.

But this time England is not playing ball. Its cricketers are playing out of their skins and the Barmy Army’s swelling ranks have added a line in aggressive taunting to their signature chant as the packed stands at Lord’s, Edgbaston and Old Trafford have erupted in a blaze of St George crosses and patriotic sporting fervour.

That long-time favourite of Aussie crowds, Geoff Boycott, epitomised the evil glee of our English cousins when he greeted another Australian wicket in Manchester with, “Yee-sss, couldn’t happen to a nicer lot of people”. “Whoa, steady on Geoffrey,” his slightly taken-aback Channel Four co-commentator Michael Slater admonished.

It just won’t do. How dare their fans turn nasty on those well-behaved, polo-shirted Australian tour groups being ushered around the country by Merv and Funky and Fat Cat. Don’t they know such baiting of opposition players and fans is our preserve, our birthright, born of two centuries of colonial oppression and dominance?

We certainly don’t expect to have it thrown back in our face. The Poms are meant to cop it sweet, well, they always used to. Now they’re answering back in full voice. “Die Aussie, die” they chirped at the tram stop in Manchester and like Punter, tactically at least, we’re all at a bit of a loss how to respond. (Isn’t it funny how the carry-on by your lot is just a bit of good fun, the opposition’s that bit more moronic and unsporting.)

By comparison, the media coverage on both sides has been exemplary in its even-handedness.

Slater let the veil of neutrality slip when referring to “we” at Manchester before quickly correcting himself to the Australians, and was a little too forceful in his criticism of the Damien Martyn lbw dismissal, shocker that it was.

But generally the coverage has been awfully gracious. Never more so than when our own Jim Maxwell and Geoff Lawson were calling those electric last few overs at Edgbaston on BBC Radio Four. Their English colleagues would have been hard pressed to capture the drama with such enthusiastic excitement and good humour as they shared with listeners both the victor’s joy and the heroic surrender of the Australian tailenders.

The deeds of Lee, Warne and Ponting aside, the performance of the Australians has been painfully frustrating to watch, as arrogant, loose shot-making has given way to genuine befuddlement against the robust English pacemen. Like Ricky and the boys I’m really struggling with my new-found underdog status. All this needle and strident triumphalism is just not called for. Not when it’s coming from the other mob.

In ordinary times, being an Australian in Britain is still, by and large, likely to get you a friendly, positive reaction from the natives.

So it’s a bit of a shock to the system to be the target of abuse and ridicule, mostly playful and just part of the banter it must be said, but sometimes delivered a little too forcefully for my sensitive disposition.

Their zeal is understandable, I guess, after their own long-term sporting oppression by antipodean bully-boys. But I wish they’d just pull their heads in and watch the cricket. No, we’re not singing any more, because we don’t sing in the first place. Our repertoire consists of mocking and gloating and it’s served us very well until now.

These are worrying times. We haven’t heard the end of it after the rugby World Cup two years ago — what’s it going to be like if they get their grubby paws on the urn next month? And heaven help us if their well-regarded soccer team, the recent friendly flop to Denmark aside, manages to do the business in Germany next year. Let’s hope the boys from Brazil are at the top of their game. A new world sporting order with the Poms at the top of the tree doesn’t bear thinking about. It’s just not right.

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