Australia is a nation that appears to be suffering concussion, which is ironic when you consider that it is normally on the other side of dishing out a good beating. But how else to explain the confused state of the country’s affairs?
We all know Australia: brash, bold, butch and bloody good at everything. With an Ashes summer upon us, the English should be quaking in their boots, awaiting terror by spin, seam, willow and lagered-up Aussie fans.
And yet something’s up. On the cricket field, the boys from Down Under have lost the plot. Dismissed for just 65 in a one-day warm-up against India, they then lost their one world-class player and captain, Michael Clarke, to injury before the current Champions Trophy even began. After defeat to England on Saturday, batsman David Warner, in Birmingham’s Walkabout bar – presumably to celebrate Australia’s Aboriginal heritage – apparently ended up hitting Yorkshire’s finest man-child, Joe Root, an emerging star for England. Warner seemingly took umbrage at a wig the Englishman was wearing. As a result, he was dropped from the Aussies’ make-or-break clash with New Zealand.
Naturally, Warner has apologised and the Australian Cricket Board are looking into the matter. But even the reaction isn’t the Australia we have come to know and, er, love. In the old days no umbrage would have been taken at a youthful man in a silly wig. Or, had it been, any subsequent blow would not have been ‘glancing’; and in the event of a punch, you can bet your bottom Australian dollar there would have been no apology. Meanwhile, Australia’s parliament – not known for its lax attitude towards foreigners – is rushing through legislation to grant citizenship to a Pakistani asylum seeker who happens to be a fine spin-bowler. Coming from the people who, for years, sent over Shane Warne to traumatise English batsmen, this smacks of desperation. But the current mess in Australian cricket may be a symptom of something more serious awry in the nation’s fabric.
After all, Australia has seen 20 years of solid economic growth and escaped relatively unscathed from the global financial meltdown of 2007/08. The years of cool and tanned men and women making their way to the ‘old country’ came to an end as the UK plunged into recession. Instead, young Australians stayed home, soaking up the sun and the riches on offer from growing export and housing markets – not caring a jot if limes cost over $2 a pop. Riesling and the grill have replaced tinnies and the barbie.
But comfort doesn’t breed toughness. And Aussies ought to be tough: otherwise we might as well all pack up and go home. Heavens, they are becoming so soft they might as well be British. Then again, with a Welsh-born Prime Minister, the Queen as Head of State, and so few top-notch cricketers that they’re having to fall-back on players born overseas, perhaps that’s exactly what they’ve become.