Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Sporting Aussie

Australians play sport as though their lives depended on it
-DH Lawrence

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

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10 Pitched:

  1. Anonymous said...

    bubban jee....very nicely written...as a very passionate and consistent aussie cricket supporter, i believe that the confidence the aussies have in their sporting heroes and teams comes from the fact that they really do appreciate the hard work, dedication, never quit and methodical approach to how their sportsmen play the game...u mentioned rafter and hewitt as examples from tennis..their rugby and hockey teams have also been successful on the world stage as well...they truly do play the game with a never say die attitude...but the aussie cricket team is now an institution..everyone says that with the likes of warne, mcgrath etc. gone, they wont be that much of a force to be reckoned with...but i think their youngsters have the desire and ability to keep up the standard for a long time to come...and the fans shall always stand by them...because they are confident that no matter what, the team shall always play to win..and play positive attacking cricket...which is the only way to excite, produce successful results and maintain that supreme standard that we are all accustomed to appreciate!!!

  2. Unknown said...

    which makes india's 100 per cent record agaisnt australia in 2020 cricket all the more sweet!

  3. Q said...

    Anonymous mentioned rugby and hockey, and i would squash to that list as well. The Aussies have dominated in more sports than any other country and that is probably because they don't have much of anything else to boast about or something that could get them recognition on the world stage.

    Some smart man some day probably came up with the vision of making Australia the centre of sporting excellence and that vision has been realised over the years through their cricket, hockey, rugby teams and squash and tennis players.

    However, I do think that the Aussies are sore losers. The most recent example of this was the 20-20 world cup, where their players came out saying they were not enjoying the form of the game, it wasnt cricket, lesser teams could win, and so on.

    The same happened when they lost the Ashes, there were excuses left right and centre.

    No doubt the loss makes them more determined and they plot for revenge, but they also don't shy away from making excuses when the opposition springs a surprise or two.

    I'll close with a comment I read on a t-shirt once..it said:

    "The world thinks we are arrogant. I think we are Australian and we have a right to be"

    What an apt statement.

  4. Jrod said...

    I find it funny that people often say things like Australia is good at sport, because they have nothing else to do.

    Sport isn't the only thing Australia excel at, no country dominates hollywood and cinema more than Australia. Music and inventing are other areas that Australia excel at.

    I have no idea why the Australians are so good at sport. But i think Dh came as close as anyone when he said, we play sport like our life depends on it.

    We don't like to lose, we will do anything to win.

    And i totally agree with you about the sub continent fans compared to the aussie fans.

    Before the 2003 world cup final, me and another blogger were on our way to the game, and every Indian supporter we ran into told us they were going to kill us, yelling and screaming and hopping around.

    I never heard a peep from the Australian fans.

  5. Q said...

    Uncle Rod, I think the Australian fans were quietly confident before the 2003 WC final so didn't feel the need to say anything. They let Ponting's bat do the talking.

    The difference in the fans is what comes from the difference in culture. In the subcontinent people tend to talk big without necessrily backing it up with actions. Whereas in Australia and other parts of the world people tend to DO big and then support that with big talk.

    Example Glen McGrath. He always named the batsmen he would tagert during a series. But he started doing that during the 2nd half of his career. Prior to the verbal talk McGrath was this silent man who would get the best batsmen of each team out anyway and once he made a habit out of it he started talking abt it.

    On the other hand we have Shoaib Akhtar who till date has not been able to back up much of his talk.

    The same attitude spills on to the fans.

    As for Australia's excellence in other areas - excuse my ignorance Uncle Rod. Im not too aware of Australia's excellence in Hollywood and music. But I do know that they are a brilliant sporting country and sport is their biggest claim to fame.

  6. Obaid said...

    Yes Q, the Australian contributions in Hollywood are well known. Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Naomi Watts are the ones I know off from the top of my head. Even though Americans think Russell Crowe is Australian - he was actually born in New Zealand but has lived in Australia from a young age. He is also Martin Crowe's cousin

    W.r.t music I know of INXS and Silverchair, as the two Australian bands I listen to. There are mamny more good ones Im sure.

  7. Mani said...

    I agree with everything that obaid said but the point mentioned by Q is also a valid one. I remember the Ashes loss as well as the 20-20 fall and there were excuses but Id still give them benefit of the doubt that it was for protecting them from the criticism from home. Like everyone has repeatedly mentioned they DEMAND results.

    What I feel is more relevant is the issue of "no ball" Murali, a tag given by the Aussies to date. Obaid mentioned a few fans shouting chants but the truth is far from it. Repeatedly Australian media has brought up the question particlarly when they are playing against him. Even Warne just recently said they should test him under 'match conditions' implying he was faking his fixed deformity? I think its been proven biomedically through repeated tests on his action and medical evidence of his innocence is documented.

    I personally think its a common belief in the Australian dressing room that he is a 'chucker'. But maybe im wrong and they are using Warne to distract him just before the Test on Friday. The Aussies love mind games and we all know it. Whatever it is I do believe that when the Australians lose they dont take it too well. They just dont like the idea of second best and thats just being a spoilt sport.

  8. NAzhar said...

    Good article, Obaid. The Aussies will do anything to win the game - be it batting, bowling, mind games, etc....they are a professional outfit!

  9. obaid said...

    Great comments folks. I think the Aussie's behave the way they do after losing because they play the game so hard. I thought that their comments after losing in twenty20 were a case of sour grapes. But I can see where they were coming from when Indian's went all out celebrating the world cup win.

    I guess the Aussies play and celebrate without fuss and couldnt relate to all the over celebrations by a country that was due for a big win on the international stage for a while.

  10. Q said...

    I completely agree with Mani's views abt the Aussies thinking of Murali as a chucker. But then there are many people in the subcontinent as well who think the same. I am one of them.

    I can't stand the fact that Murali is going to end up as the leading wicket taker in test cricket and take the record away from one of the best spinners / bowlers the world has seen in Shane Warne.

    I've seen Murali bowl leg spinners with a straight arm when he was repeatedly no balled by Darrel Hair. If he can do that, then where does the deformity come in. The fact is that the way Murali delivers the ball, he manages prodigious spin, which an off spinner from a "normal" action cannot.

    Anyhow, the point here was not to discuss Murali but the Aussie Sporting Excellence. The only thing I hold against the Aussies is the fact that they are sore losers. Other than that, if sporting excellence can be given as an award to any country, it will have to be Australia.

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