Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

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Monday, 10 August 2009

It's just not cricket

You know the world's turning on its head when at a time that football crowds are widely felt not to be as vocal as they used to be cricket fans are being slammed for being too boisterous. England supporters were recently rounded upon for booing Ricky Ponting to the crease; while the general boozy nature of cricket crowds these days also came under attack. The Australian captain is apparently too good a player to warrant such abuse. While the fans were seen to be letting themselves, the sport and England in general down by their overtly partisan, boorish and dare I say it.......working class attitude. “It simply wasn’t cricket, darling. The fans were behaving like football supporters!”..."Gasp!"..."There was swearing and everything!"

What most observers failed to pick up on, or opted to ignore, was the decidedly tongue-in-cheek nature of the abuse dished out. This wasn’t a returning Wayne Rooney to Goodison Park, nor a fat Frank appearing at Upton Park. Rather it was an English crowd giving stick to an opponent who hails from a country we can’t get enough of.

There wasn’t a hint of vitriol in affording Ricky Ponting this 'welcome' as the fans highlighted just what standing he has in the game. It’s not rocket science that any man who has scored over 11,000 Test runs and 8 centuries against England might just be the danger man, a man who could single-handed rest the Ashes away, a man to be targeted.

You can bet your last Aussie dollar that Michael Hussey would swap the lukewarm lethargy that surrounded his welcome with that of his captain. It says a lot about the man that Ponting is still regarded as a character worth bothering with. The crowd wouldn't know a Marcus North or Simon Katich if they were pulling pints at the bar. The lack of a Gilchrist, Warne or McGrath leaves just two comedy villains, and there’s no point telling the 12th man to keep his arm straight when all he’s doing is carrying the drinks.

But I'm not so naive to suggest that everyone in the crowd was gently jibing Ponting. Sure there would have been some whose vision was obscured by the descending red mist. For long memories aren’t needed to remember the claimed 'catches' against India, the apparent encouragement of his sides bullying manner and the perceived ungraciousness of his character. But they would hardly be the only ones who think like that. For let us not forget that Ricky Ponting has more than his fair share of critics back in the homeland.

And while we're focusing on that particular hemisphere let's look at the attitude of the Aussie fans, shall we? Glenn McGrath has been saying that Oz supporters would have never doled out such inhumane treatment to Andrew Strauss. Don't make me laugh. I can still hear the crowing that accompanied Steve Harmison every time he was thrown the ball during the last Ashes series overseas. I can still picture the Gabba crowd laughing at Simon Jones after he wrecked his career on the outfield. Hell, the Perth crowd once threw beer cans and a punch at John Snow while he patrolled the boundary. And any fan that has spent an afternoon at the cricket at the Adelaide Oval will know how it’s possible to keep one eye on the cricket and another on incoming missiles from the Aussie fans.

Nobody knows all this better than the Barmy Army. A group that have come in from a pummelling from all quarters and hit from pillar to post in the past week in a manner that the England bowling attack are becoming all too familiar with. Apart from the fact that their members apparently refused to get involved in the booing they were blamed with pretty much all that is wrong with the game in this country. All this despite the fact that even after travelling across Australia watching that 5-0 reverse in 06/07 they spent the final session in Sydney cheering on both sides. Hell, if they didn't boo then they're hardly going to start now.

And what's wrong with a bit of booing anyway? Racism, violent & homophobic chanting are understandably unacceptable in any walk of life. But booing? Really? What's next for the chop? Tutting? Booing would almost be seen as a term of affection on most inner city street corners.

All of which detracts from the recognition of the special place in our hearts that the Aussies are held in this country. The rivalry starts on the field and ends on it. We're not talking about the nastiness associated with our sporting rivalries with Germany, Argentina or Scotland. Australia is a country that we love to beat, love to poke fun at but also love to visit. The Aussies and English share a history, a sense of fair play and whenever possible a beer.

We also share a sense of humour. For if you had closed your eyes as Ricky Ponting stepped onto the Edgbaston stage you'd have almost be forgiven for thinking Captain Hook was going into bat. For the treatment dished out to him was nothing more than pantomime. On the field he was playing the part of the villain. Of it, one moron aside, he's immediately afforded the respect due to any human being.

At the end of next year it'll be an Englishman's time to don the black cape, cover one eye and put a parrot on the shoulder. You would have thought those moral custodians of the high ground would have realised and appreciated all this. For is their anything more upper or middle class than a visit to the pantomime?

1 comment:

dan said...

Well said! I was in the Eric Hollies stand that day and it was complete pantomine. The same crowd had given him a standing ovation when he got the 25 runs he needed to become the highest scoring australian of all time...