Thursday, March 4, 2010


On Straight Points, I read about how Australians seem to react in an unruly manner when they are under pressure. After reading the article, I went into my pensieve, recalling all the incidents I remembered of Australia's behavioural troubles.

The most recent one, obviously, is the one involving Mitchell Johnson and Scott Styris. As rightly pointed out by Straight Points, Australia was the team under pressure as Styris was looking to pull of the chase comfortably, which he eventually did.

In the third Test at Perth on the West Indies' tour, Shane Watson was fined for his send-off celebrations after Chris Gayle's wicket. And Mitchell Johnson featured again, alongwith Brad Haddin this time, in an altercation with Sulieman Benn. This came at a time when the team from Caribbean had shown the Aussies in the previous Test that they are not going to be pushovers.

The next one I recalled was the 'elbow' incident between Shane Watson and Gautam Gambhir. This happenned at a time when the Australian bowling attack was being clobbered to all parts of the Ferozeshah Kotla at New Delhi after being 1-0 down in the series.

Then there is the very infamous 'Monkeygate' scandal between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh. This again came at a time when a partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh was flourishing, and had put the Australian bowling under pressure.

In May 2003, in the match where West Indies created the world record of successfully chasing the highest 4th innings target against Australia at Antigua, there were a couple of incidents I recall. For these two incidents, I searched the Wisden Almanack's report on this match and here are a couple of quotes:

"On the second morning, Lara walked out to bat in a bellicose frame of mind, had exchanges with three Australians before he faced his first ball, from Lee, and duly hammered it over point for six. Lara spent the first half-hour of his innings arguing furiously with his tormentors, and at one stage stood toe to toe with Waugh, who had moved to short cover to pepper him with more chat, causing umpire Shepherd to intervene briefly. It was an unedifying spectacle, though no further action was taken by umpires or referee."

"As Sarwan approached a mature hundred, there were signs that Australia were losing the plot. McGrath, who started the verbal war, became utterly incensed at Sarwan's riposte - he apparently referred to McGrath's wife. After a set-to with the batsman, he wagged his finger at umpire Shepherd, demanding he get involved. Despite this, no official action was taken, though once pictures were beamed round the world both the ACB and ICC castigated the Australians and called on them immediately to mend their ways."

James Sutherland, the then Chief Executive of Cricket Australia (then Australian Cricket Board), told the media: "It's all very well to be playing the game in the right spirit when things are going your way, but if things are not going your way, that's when the real test is on. If you can't carry yourself in the true spirit of the game at those times, perhaps you need to have a good look at yourself."

And the last incident that I recalled, perhaps the most infamous of them all, one that occured long before I was even born, was the Chappell brothers' underarm incident. New Zealand needed six to tie the match. Even if Greg had not instructed his brother Trevor to go for the underarm approach, its doubtful that Brian McKechnie, the Kiwi on strike, would have hit the ball in the stands. It was the first ball he was facing in the innings and he was not renowned for any pyrotechnics with the bat (his career strike rate in ODIs: 37.24 without a single 6 and just four 4s in his till then 13 ODIs). Yet, Australia slumped to a new low in gamesmanship with that one act.

In this article, I have just pointed out the occasions when Australian behaviour on the cricket field created controversies off it. I have restrained myself from being extremely judgmental. However, I must state that I cannot think of any other team that has so many cases of apparent unruliness when the tide is not in their favour. When I think of the Indian team (there are certain controversial characters in there too), such cases come out only when they are on top. I guess it would make a good case study, if you are interested in psychology.

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