In & Out: No country for nice guys

2015-04-05 15:00

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When Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was asked about his team’s constant sledging and the “untoward” send-offs they gave to New Zealand’s Martin Guptill and Grant Elliott during the 2015 cricket World Cup final, he was quoted as saying: “You know what, they deserved it. They were that nice to us in New Zealand [during their match in the group stages] and we were that uncomfortable. I said in the team meeting: ‘I can’t stand for this any more. We’re going at them as hard as we can.’ I said: ‘I’m not playing cricket like this.’”

In spite of Haddin’s fast-and-loose cockiness, the tournament came and went at the glacial pace we could only expect from one of the world’s “slowest” sports. It was not quite the razzle-dazzle we usually witness during soccer world cups or even Olympic games. Rather, it involved a lengthy group stage, a drawn-out knockout phase and, of course, a predictable final – six weeks later.

As a consolation, it seems fitting that Australia – the only cricket team with any sass – ended up winning the tournament. But to my surprise, and perhaps disappointment, it was that very cockiness that earned them no gold stars in the oh-so-politically-correct press at home, as well as no fans beyond The Tasman.

The chief sports columnist and associate editor of Melbourne daily The Age, Greg Baum, lamented the Aussies’ ungraciousness in victory. He sat on his high horse and asked: “Do they think they patented the will to win? Do they think they have cornered the market in competitiveness?” He also commented on Haddin’s attitude: “Just possibly, Haddin was speaking with thick tongue in ruddy cheek. But the mind-set was unmistakable: niceness is a failing. It is un-Australian.”

Has the cricketing and sporting public gone so soft through years of exposure to perennial nice guys like AB de Villiers, Ryan Giggs and Roger Federer, that it can’t appreciate good, old-fashioned competitiveness?

It’s precisely Australia’s mind games, and indeed mind-set, that have made them consistently the best cricket team over the years. Why is it implied that the “nice guy” image ought to be the only one to adopt?

In team sports, especially – whose profitability, sustainability and entertainment value are based on machismo and cut-throat competitiveness – that image reeks of loss and desperation. The kind of desperation displayed by New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum after the final, when he said the sledging was a “micro” issue and that he didn’t want to detract from Australia’s achievement. What a good loser.

I suspect that, had the final yielded a different result, a dejected Michael Clarke would not have been quite so forgiving, being the hardened outback swashbuckler he is.

Aussie legend and anti-nice guy Shane Warne once said: “With Australians, we’re saying we’re going to win before we start playing, and pretty much keep on saying that.” Perhaps being so cocksure comes with knowing the result before the coin is even tossed.

And as we all know, being nice certainly didn’t earn Warne 293 wickets in 194 ODIs, the previous affections of Liz Hurley and the satisfaction of having put Daryll Cullinan into therapy.

@Longbottom_69 is an armchair cricket critic. 

He thinks AB would be the ultimate cricketer if only he were Australian.

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