The Australians are a friendly and a sporting lot and have a reputation of facing up to challenges in a highly charged and competitive manner. It is seldom they are found wanting or lacking in skills or in the spirit of the game be it cricket, tennis, hockey or swimming or any other competitive field.
On the other hand, however, they also have certain characteristics which do not really endear them to other nations. Talk to an Englishman or a New Zealander and you will get a different viewpoint of their overall makeup.
For their frivolous drinking habits they are tagged as ‘Lager louts’, rude people who often resort to sledging.
In my experience with them, in Australia or other countries, I always have had a good impression of them. In sports they are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, passionate and rational on any discussion related to sports, the reason why I respect them.
The recent outburst of one of their cricket greats Ian Chappell against Pakistan and its captain Misbah-ul-Haq, therefore, has put me in a spot of bother. I agree to a point of what he thinks of the way Pakistan performed against Australia which was indeed disappointing all round and sloppy too which was not totally unexpected of them in the Australian conditions. They lost because they were not up to the task but so was Australia when facing South Africa prior to the Pakistan series.
Teams do have their good and bad days but to be consistently on the bad side of the fence is what makes you worry whether you are good enough to compete at the highest level. That, I think, irked Chappell to come out with such harsh comments which I feel were still quite unfair.
I suppose it was going a bit too far to recommend to Cricket Australia not to invite Pakistan unless they improve their performance and provide some sort of challenge.
As a highly respected commentator and expert, this certainly was not in his ambit to go that far and talk silly. In their own backyard when England, their arch-rivals, whitewashed them in The Ashes 5-0 in 2013-14 and then beat them again in England in 2015 by a margin of 3-2, I can tell you that the Aussies looked so pathetic that many would not have like to watch them.
However, neither England captain Alistair Cook nor any commentator or media person turned around and said to the ECB that ‘you don’t invite Australia because they are so unattractive a side.’
In 1982-83 when Imran Khan-led Pakistan made a clean sweep of the three match series of Kim Hughes’s Australians in Pakistan, Imran or anyone for that matter did not ask their cricket authorities not to invite Australia because they looked so atrocious.
Or only recently in the UAE this same Australian team lost the three match series well before it was over but no one turned around to discard them. No expert or commentator or former player urged the PCB to ignore Australia because they are so poorly equipped to face Pakistan and its spinners.
Chappell, perhaps, forgot that Pakistan is one country which puts up a brave face against the Australians or any other team almost every time. Ask Clive Lloyd or Sir Viv Richards or any English, Soiuth African or Indian captain and they will tell you tell you how competitive Pakistan can be to pose problems for their opponents.
Chappell also conveniently forgot that since 1982, when Sri Lanka started playing at Test level, they have not won a single Test match in Australia. He also forgot to mention that since 1945 New Zealand have won only eight Tests against Australia whereas Pakistan has won a lot more in Australia, in Pakistan, in UAE, and even in England when they beat Ricky Ponting’s men at Leeds on the 2010 tour. But did Chappell ever ask Cricket Australia not to invite Sri Lanka or New Zealand?
His criticism of Misbah and his captaincy is also uncalled for and Chappell should have seen the situation in a fair perspective before launching an assault on Pakistan skipper. He should know that since Misbah took over as a captain he faced three huge tasks - to bring Pakistan out of the mire of the 2010 spot fixing scandal, to rid the team of infighting, and to rebuild it. And Misbah accomplished those tasks admirably to bring Pakistan cricket at par with the world’s leading cricketing nations, in fact on top of the ICC rankings late last year.
Yes we know that Pakistan have been inconsistent, unpredictable and patchy at times but they have also had some absolutely great moments under Misbah such as beating all the leading cricketing nations. If not for the consistency of his batting and that of Younis Khan, Pakistan would have been poorly served all these years. That Misbah experienced a rare failure in the recent series is another matter and it could happen to anyone.
We know a bit about the Chappells as well. Wasn’t it Greg Chappell who asked his younger brother Trevor to bowl underarm in an ODI at the MCG in 1984 to Brian McKechnie of New Zealand when six runs were required by New Zealand to win on the last ball of the match.
That was an act which was universally loathed and condemned.
Quite frankly, I am shocked at what Ian Chappell said on Monday, and so would be all those who follow Pakistan cricket, for his grossly misjudged outburst was so unlike him and totally misplaced.
I am sure he may not have remembered that only last year, the Ashes winning captain Michael Vaughan was so impressed with Pakistan in England that he requested the ECB to invite Pakistan every two years instead of four.
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2017
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