New Zealand are a graceful team full of innocent, softly spoken men of praise, whereas Australia are arrogant, silver spooners who are both rude and unnecessarily aggressive.
If you’ve only been around the game of cricket for about five minutes or you are susceptible to sensationalised misrepresentations, then you probably hold this view.
Sections of New Zealand’s media have suggested that Australia “bullied” New Zealand in the World Cup final.
The idea is outright nonsense. The aggressive Brad Haddin, in particular, has come under fire for his banter with Grant Eliot and his ‘sending off’ of Martin Guptill. From these initial sensationalist print media grabs, the usual suspects have suggested that everybody hates Australia because they play the game with no ‘grace or humility’.
New Zealand’s players do not share this view. Neither do the ICC. Brendan McCullum says the final was played in great spirit and the ICC has not issued any fines or warnings for on-field conduct.
Australia has admitted an aggressive approach. They believe New Zealand got the better of them mentally and verbally in the group stage thriller in Auckland.
Australia target certain players believed to be susceptible to a loss of concentration at the behest of verbal banter. But they are not the only team who do this. When the situation demands most teams dish it out.
When Wahab Riaz unleashed one of the most aggressive spells of fast bowling ever seen in ODI cricket at Shane Watson, complemented by some excellent verbal barrage and body language from Riaz and the Pakistani team, the Australian response was nothing but praise and embrace for Riaz and Pakistan.
It was a spectacular quarter final contest. Watson got roughed up and Riaz was dead unlucky not to get him out (his team mate dropped a sitter). Almost everybody supported Riaz and thoroughly admired his desire to lift Pakistan. Many Australian commentators and punters expressed outrage when Riaz was charged by the ICC for his actions and they were right. The ICC made a colossal mistake.
That is cricket. It is a deeply psychological game. After training all week in the nets, batting out in the middle is up to 75% mental warfare with yourself, your technique and your own flaws and insecurities, all of which can be cracked open and exposed by good bowling, a glare or a smile from the bowler or a few comments from the slips.
Some are good at banter, most are not. Some take it too far and they are reprimanded by match officials, who also occasionally get it wrong. The day that verbal banter and aggressive bowling are removed from cricket is the day the game dies. The day when it is only Australia who attempts these tactics is the day when everybody else has stopped playing the game.
Your true character is revealed by your ability to compete hard, without degenerating to immature or offensive behaviour, and then share a beer and mutual respect after the game.