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Aussie sledging - laughable?
Since as long as I can remember, Australia have always been the team perceived to be the best in the world. Yes, in recent years, they have fallen off the radar and other teams such as India, South Africa and even England have handled the mantle intermittently. Despite what the rankings suggest, the boys from Down Under still have a formidable aura when looked at by other teams. Part of that bravado has been down to the psychological battles they have won over the years against their opponents, and painfully more so for the English in Ashes contests over the years. From Shane Warne calling Ian Bell the “sherminator” to Michael Clarke threatening James Anderson to “get ready for a broken f*****g arm” at the Gabba in 2013, the destabilisation of England has often been done masterfully. With that history in mind, all the talk from the Aussie camp this time seems a bit farcical doesn’t it?
In previous battles, while it could be said that Australia instigated the sledging but English players always seemed to give as good as they got. Classic stories of Ian Healy accusing Mike Atherton of cheating and Atherton replying with “when in Rome, dear boy” stick in the memory. But this time, only the Aussies are trying to get under the skin of Joe Root’s team. The English are not getting involved with the verbals given by Nathan Lyon, David Warner and co. Before the historic series of 2005, Glenn McGrath said something else along with his usual 5-0 prediction. “There’s just three things wrong with the England team, that’s batting, bowling and fielding.” What transpired in the series was nothing short of extraordinary and despite the best efforts of McGrath and Warne, they had to rest their grip on the urn at least for 18 months. While they lost in England, that Australian team in 2005 was full of champions and you could almost go as far as to say they were justified in the build up. What Lyon and others in the current Australian team have said simply does not have the gravitas of their predecessors. Being ranked fifth in the world, losing four of the previous five Ashes series and being a team still looking to stamp its identity on the game does not warrant you the right to show that behaviour. Show some consistent performances and spellbinding victories then you can be afforded that privilege.
A lot has been made of the last Ashes series Down Under, where Clarke’s outstanding team were in the form of their lives to obliterate the Pommes five to nothing. Mitchell Johnson ripped the heart out of the English batting lineup and laid it bare for everyone, most of all himself, to feast on. However, those were extraordinary circumstances. While almost all of the Australian players had a career defining series, only Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad could put their hand up to say they had a decent series for England. While that series has relevance in terms of the last contest between these two sides on Australian soil, the Aussies seem to have forgotten that Johnson has retired and a number of the players have left the game too. To counter the lack of Johnson’s presence, there is an expectation on the pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins to “open up scars”. Firstly, there are only four survivors from that disastrous tour this time so how significant those scars can be left to interpretation. Furthermore, the records of Starc and Hazlewood in the 2015 series may be impressive, but they did not have an impact when needed most. Of course, they have improved and are arguably the two best bowlers on the planet but can they deliver when the pressure is on? The full story will be told in time, starting tomorrow.
The time for talking is almost over and the two teams will be eager to let their cricket do the talking. While the Australian swagger is still present, their comments may only provide motivation to Root’s boys to create history. Instead of being ridiculed, they could do something very special all courtesy of supposed “mind games” from their opposition.