It was the 9th of June this year. The day after Sri Lanka kicked Aussies out of the ICC T20 World Cup, in grand fashion. I wake up, and log in to FB. Lo' behold, my homepage is showered with status messages, link and comments about the match from Well done Sri Lanka to Get lost Aussie fags, and there was even one saying Well done SL for winning the greatest cricket match!. Really? A T20 match? Why? The funny thing was half the people who had put 'em up don't usually watch a match if their life depends on it, and knows shit about cricket. Alright, still let's say it's OK to put a message. But the thing is, on those days - before and after - we played a shitload of matches and nobody bothered to put up a message. We won better, harder matches in more grand style, but nobody gave a shit. But here, all hell breaks loose. Why?
It's because Aussies lost - not because we won.
It always amuses me the fact that how much people love to hate them. Seriously, if Aussies lose a game somewhere, even if it's not against Sri Lanka, people still take notice. Of course it is a common thing in all sports that people love to see underdogs win, but here it's not just that. Why, I wondered many a time.
For one, and perhaps more than anything else it is because they are true champions, me thinks. Everyone envied them, and even might have admired, but mostly secretly. I remember back then in Sri Lanka it was almost seen as a crime to support Aussies or say something good about Warne. But hell, I LOVED their cricket, the way they played and the fact that they'd play so fucken hard to win. Steve Waugh was, and is, my favorite. He was a real gentleman off the field, but a goddamn bastard on it. He'd play as hard as he could and a bit more, would sledge, let his bowlers bowl bouncers after bouncer at batsmen, and take many on his body just to save a game. What would he have not done to win one. They played aggressive, good cricket and took cricket to a new level where every one's still catching up - or rather trying to catch up. Now they have fallen to the 4th place in ICC rankings, but that's just because they've failed to maintain the standards they themselves set. Not because others went past them - they'd have a hard time doing that I'm sure.
I'm sure all the other teams wished they could play the way Aussies did, and since they couldn't, they and their fans hated 'em. I've talked with many Sri Lankans who hated them asking why and nobody has given me a satisfactory answer thus far. Some would say they brought spirit of the game into disrepute. Hell, I still am having hard time understanding so as to why cricket is considered the gentleman's game. Gimme a break. This is a game where English - so called gentlemen - bowled at Bradman and Co's heads to win the Ashes. At a time protective helmets are yet to be invented. Some bowled under-arm to prevent opposition winning. A certain Charlie Grippith of West Indies injured more people with his hostile bowling than the number of matches he played. A long history of drug cheats. Ball tampering. The list goes on. Or others would say they sledged. Really? Tell me a team who doesn't? It was just the fact that they were too good at it. Sledging was always a big part of cricket - it's just it wasn't made to look such a big deal back then. Hell I think cricket would be poorer without sledging. It certainly makes a cricketer tough bastard, which is essential in particular to be a good Test player. Test cricket is not for the faint hearted. If they sledge, get back at them instead of crying about it. Arjuna did it so well that they completely stopped sledging him. Sachin hit Warne and Co all over the park mercilessly, they never sledged him again. That's the way to respond to it - not whining about it. Or sledge them back, like Sanga does. It's no big deal, do whatever you want on the field and sort them out before you come off it.
Back in the 70's and even 80's, Windies had a similar team to that of the Aussies during the last decade. They too dominated the world cricket back then, like the Aussies did lately but they were never really hated the way Aussies were. Why? Were they particularly nice and all compared to the Aussies? Perhaps a bit, but not much. They too were arrogant and aggressive. They too played hard and took it to the opposition. They too were bastards, to put it simply. But why weren't they hated so much? I think it has something to do with the era they played in. Aussies were actually unfortunate to have their best team in an era of information, where cricket is seen live, there are millions of new sources and people saw things as they happened. Back in the day, only the people who went to the ground saw what happened, and still they couldn't really hear what players talked. No microphones, no close up videos. Disputes were there, but you had to wait till the next morning, until it was published on paper to know what happened, and usually things are died down by then. Not anymore. Now people know things as they happen, and one wrong word you say and you're doomed. Media and journalists played a big part in this making cricket a bit too professional game these days. And what with being the best team on earth and all, Aussies were at the centre of attention, and one word out of line and they were practically crucified. That was the difference, and boy it is a huge difference.
Today, Aussies don't get the credit they deserve for taking cricket to a new level, because of the way they did it. Or rather, because the others couldn't do it the way they did it.