Ashes to Dust: or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Hate the Australian Cricket Team

Written by  //  January 8, 2011  //  Sport  //  Comments Off

England just stamped Australia into the orange desert soil and wiped off sticky Australian from their boot on a rock.

That is perhaps the only appropriate way to describe the recent Ashes series in Australia where England won 3-1 inflicting a record-breaking 3 “innings defeats” on Australia. Used to bossing world cricket, this is causing much pain among Australian fans and supporters, and calls for the sackcloth to weep and tear their hair in frustration at their fallen zeroes.

Personally, I am enjoying every moment of Australia’s misery. To have the Australians turn up at your doorstep, beat the living daylights out of you, kill your cat and trash your house is a feeling many international cricket teams have unfortunately been familiar with for many decades, and to see the English do the same to the Australians… well, let’s say we’ve been there.

Nothing, however, illustrates how far Australia has fallen than the simple fact that the English haven’t gone completely bonkers and celebrated their victory by pissing in the Prime Minister’s garden. (There’s still time for that I guess, but I doubt if any one of the present well drilled and efficiently skill-executing members of the team possess Andrew Flintoff’s testicular fortitude for the same.) No, they’ve sort of been dismissive of the fact that they just beat Australia in Australia and are in fact, looking forward to really test their mettle by beating India when the latter tour England in June.

Let’s allow that fact to sink in for a moment. Facing India in England a Bigger Challenge than Australia in Australia.

This is the appropriate time for all of us to get out our old Warne jokes, failed McGrath sledges [NSFW] and make a trip to Australia to dance on Don Bradman’s grave and generally point and laugh.

Except of course, I can’t bring myself to do the last because of my dear departed granddad’s disapproving glare.

“You never even saw him play!” I shout at the apparition. He glares back at me, probably because he’s still an apparition or just a figment of my imagination, but proceeds to say only one thing “99.94”.

“Oh right” and I step back from the gravesite.

How did this come to be? How did we go from enjoying every one of Australia’s merciless beatings of England in the Ashes to now pouring scorn and contempt on the rag tag bunch of semi-club cricketers posing as Australians?

It is somewhat strange, but I do distinctly remember sitting with my cricket-mad grandfather and enjoying every one of England’s Ashes humiliations. This, during 14 years of indoctrination in the greatness of Bradman and a visual description of every one of the Great One’s innings by someone who did not see a single ball of it live.

Granddad wasn’t even the exception. The mere prospect of seeing Bradman in the flesh and blood, not even in his cricket whites, saw a multitude turning up at the Bombay docks to hope to catch a glimpse of him in transit only to be denied by a claimed sickness on the part of Bradman. So much so that when India toured Australia for the first, they did so to see Bradman bat. He naturally obliged scoring 715 runs off them in five matches in 1947-48.

The England team, apart from being the old colonial enemy, was also an object of hate cricket-wise. For a start, tours to India were seen as a winter-holiday, a minor indulgence for second string players against a country not to be taken seriously at the international level. Only in the 70s did England start sending their first team to tour India. Even then, the cricket they played was turgid at best, and outright boring of the paint drying variety. Draw after bore draw with England is still remembered with a shudder by Indian fans as the nadir of Test Cricket, not even comparable with the (usually) drawn India-Pakistan series, where a draw, for very explicable and obvious reasons, was considered a win for both sides.

Australia, on the other hand, always sent their first teams on India tours (rare as they were) and played hard, competitive cricket. Even the weakest Australian teams to tour India played to win every Test Match, and when all else was lost, fought to keep a draw, or in the one memorable case, a tie. Australians never complained about the conditions either. Compare Graham Gooch blaming “dodgy prawns” for a 3-0 whitewash to Dean Jones battling 40 degree heat, exhaustion, an open sewer near the stadium, and dehydration to get a double hundred in Chennai. Australians always held the respect of Indian fans, if not their open admiration and affection.

How did this change?

Those with short memories and no sense of perspective would point to Sydney 2008. They would be wrong.

The truth is no one likes a winner who doesn’t stop winning. As much fun as it was to watch the great Australian teams of the nineties and noughties ritually humiliate England in the Ashes, it got a little less bearable when this sort of behaviour was carried over to other cricketing contests. Those with cricketing memories of the 70s and 80s would no doubt nod and agree with me regarding the great West Indian teams. 5-0 blackwashes of England were fun only the first three times or so, especially when the washers carried on the form to the other teams. When you’re so awesomely brilliant at what you do, after a while, everyone hates you, and you want to retreat into a Randian fantasy and convince yourself of your inherent superiority in all walks of life.

My reaction to Australia’s recent humiliation reminds, though, of another infamous humiliation.

The 1996 World Cup featured, among many such hilarious mismatches, West Indies v Kenya. Realize, this was the Ambrose-Bishop-Lara-Richardson-Walsh West Indies and not the rabble presently turning out in maroon, and it was against a team few in India could genuinely place on a cricketing map. A slaughter was expected.

I came back from school awaiting granddad’s report of records broken and hopefully, noses smashed. He greeted me with what can only be called barely concealed glee, and what, in retrospect, I should have known was schadenfreude.

“Kenya”, he began slowly, “166 all out in 50 overs.”

“Oh…” Nothing record breaking then.

“West Indies”, and here his shoulders began to quake with barely held back laughter, “93 all out. Hahahahahaha”.

We shared a good long laugh that was probably a lot more cathartic to him than I could imagine.

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A Supreme Court/Delhi High Court lawyer who writes a bit with a potentially fatal weakness for hyperlinks, tags, and the reader's approval. Follow @alokpi

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