Ashes 2015: The Aussies are not used to losing, so when they do, they do it very badly

'We will simply never develop the capacity for what Australia and the rest like to refer to as ruthlessness'

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The Independent Online

Who really believed, with the Ashes already regained, England might come out at The Oval and do to Australia what Australia in the same circumstances would undoubtedly have done to us?

It was never going to happen. It’s just not in our nature, and that makes perfect sense. That fair play, decency and good sportsmanship run so thick through our sporting psyche cannot be separated from the fact that, especially when it comes to cricket, giving the colonies a sporting chance at the popping crease was compensation for brutally and relentlessly exploiting them in every other aspect of their lives.

That sportsmanship, to an Australian, means pulverising the English whatever the cost is only to be expected.

We will simply never develop the capacity for what Australia and the rest like to refer to as ruthlessness, but which essentially means the willingness to behave like a bad loser even when you’re winning.

One story that does the rounds, which may or may not be true, is that at one of the many points during the 1980s and ’90s when Australia were hundreds upon hundreds of runs in the lead, the uncertainty over whether they might enforce the follow-on was brought to end when Steve Waugh poked his head around the England dressing room door, shouted, “You cunts can bat again,” and slammed it shut behind him.

Still, the days of empire are behind us now, so we at this column at least are not going to let Australia’s sad sporting decline force us to shy away from pointing out that this has been another summer of sport characterised, yet again, by an orgiastic display of witlessness from our favourite enemy.

“Pomicide” sums it up best. The Sydney Morning Herald’s response to that magnificent, 60 all out, Ashes-recapturing morning at Trent Bridge has become such an instant classic that it feels almost painful to have to point out that, as with suicide, genocide, patricide, infanticide and everything else, it only works when it’s the Poms being killed, not doing the killing. That they had a gaping, near 30-year-long window in which to deploy it but instead saved it up for almost the only moment in Ashes history in which it was completely and utterly incorrect is almost to be applauded.

Still, they have always preferred to keep things simple. The British got round to naming four of Australia’s seven states, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, before deciding it was time to head home. What are the other three? Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Want to play cricket in Melbourne? Simple, head to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. What about Sydney? See previous.

When the Aussies are winning, which historically they usually are, be it at Wimbledon, Lord’s, Twickenham or wherever, their fanatical support is to be envied. Remove the veneer of victory and it is, at least for a Brit, an upliftingly limp spectacle.

When you’ve a Cash, a Rafter or a Hewitt to get behind, it doesn’t matter so much that the boys and girls in the crowd have all paid a huge sum to a glorified Club 18-30s travel agents called The Fanatics for their matching T-shirts, flags, face paint and printouts of what songs to sing and what order to sing them. When it’s just you and Nick Kyrgios, who’s the joke on then?

It is at least in keeping with the unique spirit of a nation that seems to want to travel to every corner of the earth in order to narrow its horizons. “Once you’ve done Paddy’s Day in Temple Bar, the Running of the Bulls at ‘Pamps’ and the Oktoberfest, that’s Europe done,” a backpacking Australian once told me, before responding to the closure of the Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout Bar by declaring: “Time to come home, people. There’s nothing left for you here.”

That, we are allowed to hope, is what the men beneath the Baggy Green and those who follow them are feeling right now, even if there is the one-day series to come. And then, in a few weeks the small matter of what will almost certainly be a crucial Rugby World Cup clash at Twickenham. We’ve got them beat, though, haven’t we? We can’t possibly lose that one. That would be unthinkable. We can’t, can we?