Australians play sport as though their lives depended on it
The constitution of the United States of America protects the right of its citizens to pursue “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. I tried to find something similar in the Australian Constitution to the tune of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Sporting Excellence”. I was unsuccessful and extremely disappointed. I had to make do with the assumption that the quest for sporting excellence must be an innate quality, ingrained in the deepest folds of the Aussie national psyche.
England gave us cricket, warm beer, cricketing whites and the relaxing (read boring) Sunday afternoon village game. The subcontinent gave us the teeming cricketing masses (not true for Pakistani test audiences), raw talent, gali cricket, unpredictability and a previously unseen commercialization of the game. The West Indies gave us reggae style flamboyant cricket - lazy elegance and sheer pace in an unprecedented package. And the Australians – they gave us Bradman, pajama cricket and invincibility as an art form. You can also add sledging on the field and heckling opposing fans. But that’s not all; they also gave us sporting excellence. I’d like to make the case that these are mere symptoms of something larger, something more glorious and not the disease itself.
As a Pakistani, I have been brought up to believe that there is no rivalry greater than India vs Pakistan. There is no form of cricket truer that gali cricket. The gali (when not jammed with traffic) is the breeding ground of world beaters because we all possess natural talent like no other nation or race. An egotistical part of me still believes that all of this is true (!) but another more rational part of me wonders whether the water is special Down Under. What is it about Australians that makes them so passionate about excelling in sport?
So what is it about Australians that makes them so good? If they cant be good then they still want to be the best. I am not just talking about cricket alone. Look at Hewitt or Rafter in tennis – they also do not want to settle for anything less than the best. Like them, Im sure the Australian cricket fan probably feels like he/she whitewashed the English fans in the department of jibes, limericks etc. I have never been to Australia but all the Australians I have encountered exude this calm and quiet confidence that they are the best (in the context of cricket). This is in direct contrast to the in-your-face style brash confidence exhibited by the subcontinental cricketing supporter. The latter knows deep inside that their side is prone to bouts of unpredictability and mediocrity. The confidence is falsely placed and masks the uneasy feeling of impending implosion. The same can not be said for the Aussie – his or her confidence is well placed. It is not arrogance; simply a calm belief that their sporting heroes will play the game as if “their lives depended on it”. But the important thing is that when the Aussie sporting hero falters, his life is not put in danger – instead he is given the space to plot his revenge. And when the Australian team is outplayed the opposing team is respected for being better on the day. This is the way the game should be played.
Finally, the Aussie is the most sporting fan I have known. While a few fans may have spoilt the image by “no-balling” Murali, the Australian fan is one of the most educated in the world. I remember the commentators in Australia openly expressing respect and admiration for Saqlain’s wizardry, Waqar’s pace and Wasim’s talent. The fans too turn out in their thousands to watch the best in the world in action. In the subcontinent, moments of brilliance from the opposing side are often met with pin drop silence. In Australia, such moments never go un-appreciated.
… that is the Sporting Aussie.
If you are a sporting Aussie or have come across some, please share your experiences in the comments section