Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Taking The Mickey

Enough is enough.

Those as know me well know that I generally find sports laughable. I'm just not interested. The notable exception is cricket; most particularly, Test cricket.

I won't go into the why of it all. Either you understand Test cricket, in which case whether or not you love it, you will know why I do -- or you don't understand it, in which case I'm not talking to you anyhow. Go read something else. There are plenty of sites out there without cricket in them.

Folks, it's time. Time to revive the old larrikin spirit of Australian cricket. To put it bluntly, it's time to take the Mickey out of Australian cricket. Mickey bloody Arthur, that is.

Right now, four of our best players have been sent packing because they didn't respond to a grade-school homework assignment in the wake of a massive bollocking by the Indian cricket team. Well, fair enough. They've been naughty boys. Fine 'em, slap 'em on the wrist, whatever. But whose dimwit fucking idea was that homework assignment, anyhow? I see a lot of support for it from the pantywaist crowd of commentators, but tellingly, all the old-timers and all the players and coaches whose opinions earned my respect through years of really goddam hard-fought cricket -- all those people are either laughing uproariously at this piece of crap, or they are conspicuously silent. A few - a very few - are tugging at Arthur's coat-tails, sucking up to the teacher.

But the rest are right, for all of me.

Chennai, 1986. Australia have a few problems, and Dean Jones comes to the crease. It's hot. Fearsomely hot and humid. Captain Alan Border looks at Deano, and he says: "Deano. I want you to write me a dot-point presentation on why the conditions here are conducive to a big score."

Oh. No. Wait. No he fucking doesn't. Actually, Border sneers at Jones and tells him he looks too weak. Border says he needs a real fighting Queenslander at the crease, not a weak Victorian.

Two hundred Dean Jones runs later, the batsman in question is carried off to hospital with a drip, suffering dangerously from dehydration and from heat. After pissing himself onfield. To this day, he claims he can't remember a damned thing after about 140 runs.

Centenary Test. Melbourne, 1977. In his first innings of five runs, Rick McCosker gets a bastard of a bouncer. Nobody wears helmets yet. McCosker's jaw is badly broken.

In his second innings, McCosker comes out to face the bowling, his head swathed in bandages. He makes 25 runs, but importantly, he's part of a 54-run stand with Rod Marsh, who scores a century. The bowling is sharp and nasty. McCosker wears the baggy green on top of his bandages. There are still no helmets for him. And in the end? Australia won by 45 runs. And not a fucking dot-point presentation in sight.

Mickey Arthur. Mickey fucking Arthur.

Go back to South Africa, mate. And if Michael Clarke genuinely thought this was a good way to handle Australian cricketers, then let him go with you. Sure, he may be the only batsman we've got who's scoring -- but if this is his idea of building an Australian Test squad, then clearly the bleach-blonde stuff he uses has finally penetrated past the roots of his hair, and into his brain.

Real Test cricketers don't make dot-point presentations, like naughty schoolboys. Real Test cricketers drink fifty-odd beers on the plane over to England, and then beat the shit out of the English bowlers, hangover and all.

You may argue that with the recent performances, it's a bit of a stretch to call these men 'real test cricketers'. The answer to that is simple: even Bradman got dropped early in his career. All the talent in the world still needs hard work, and most importantly, it needs experience and seasoning.

You don't build a Test squad with a bullshit revolving-door rotation policy, and a roster of who's in and who's out. You build a Test squad by supporting a team, and getting them to trust and support each other. You make sure they understand that playing under a Baggy Green is a privilege shared by a very few, who have moved mountains to achieve it, and who will keep moving mountains to maintain it.

You don't make Test cricketers by assigning them dot-point homework assignments.

If they haven't got the grit to play like Jones, or McCosker, or Boon or Marsh on the field, fine. Let 'em try. Give 'em a fair shake. And if they really haven't got it -- soon enough, you'll know. Then you put them aside, and you find another player.

But don't fucking send them home because they didn't do their dot-point homework.

It's time to take the Mickey out of Australian cricket. Thanks mate - take your golden handshake and your dot-point bullshit and piss off back to South Africa. Put someone in charge who knows what a Baggy Green cap really means. And anybody who thinks that Test cricket is about doing your homework on time, and not about blood, and sweat, and broken bones -- they can bloody well go with you.

Even if they've got "captain" next to their name. Talent is great, but it's no substitute for the stuff that kept people like Border, Jones, McCosker and so many others going even when there wasn't a sniff of a win in the air.

The truth is, sometimes you lose at Test cricket. That's how the game works. Don't fucking write me a dot-point presentation. Train harder. Play harder. Get the team pissed together. Give them a chance to get used to being an actual team.

And send that bloke Arthur off to coach the English, will you? We've got a couple of Ashes series coming up. Surely they'll be wanting his obvious expertise to help them compose their dot-point plans...