IND vs AUS: Hey Justin Langer, enough of this rubbish!
Coach Langer should stop trying to find unique Australian values and recognise that some aspects like decency, loyalty and fierce competitiveness are global traits
Respect. The most over-used and misunderstood word in Australian cricket is being bandied about in press conferences with no respect for what respect really means. Justin Langer is possibly guilty of respecting respect too much. Tim Paine wants it to define his team. Michael Clarke thinks it is a lesser currency than winning. Simon Katich clearly has no respect for Clarke, so where will it all end - this pursuit of an elusive concept like respect, a ghostly presence in the form of Phil Hughes's memory that lasted only a few weeks four years ago when it was meant to have signalled a new era in Australian cricket?
Only time will tell if the, "elite honesty" that Langer was ridiculed for will actually be manifest in something tangible that young cricketers can aspire towards. I coach a team of elite 15-year-old boys, some of who may well ascend to lofty heights. I have yet to see any evidence of the sort of cultural change that Langer dreams of. Clarke is correct but not politically correct. Winning is all that matters. It is an uncomfortable, inconvenient truth that has no resonance with Langer's meaningless statements about "that Australian spirit." Pray do tell — what is so special about the way Australia play cricket that requires it to be eulogised in such sentimental waffle? It is this sort of false national pride that led us to this shameful point in history. Every team like to win. Every team like to play it "hard, but fair" — another Australianism that we like to think we own when in fact it belongs to everybody. And to nobody.
Sooner the better
The sooner Langer moves away from trying to find uniquely Australian values and recognises that some things like decency, loyalty and fierce competitiveness are global traits, the sooner we learn that true respect is much, much more than not abusing an opponent. In much the same way that true honesty is so much more than not being caught! "Right now, we need to stick together more than ever before" says Langer, eyes flashing with passion. Genius. Pure genius. Wasn't this the sort of thinking that led us to this place of shame?
Recent Australian teams stuck together so intensely that no one felt capable of telling their teammate to put a sock in it when they verbally abused opponents. They stuck together when a dastardly plot to cheat was hatched in Cape Town and no one spoke up until they were caught. And even then they denied it at first. This sticking together business led to them becoming seriously unstuck! The first thing Langer can do to change the culture of this team is to stop referring to grown men as boys and kids. In Langer's first media conference, he referred to the three convicted cheats as "great kids" not as 25-plus men. We tend to forgive boys and kids more readily.
And unlike the shortlived Phil Hughes-inspired promises of a new dawn, Langer's men will need to sustain their promises for long enough for the next generation to look back on catchphrases like, "hard, but fair" and call it out for the elite drivel that it is. Fair is fair. It doesn't need to be hard or soft. Honesty. Cheating. Respect. Fairness. Words are cheap. Play ball gentlemen.
Michael Jeh is a Brisbane-based former first-class cricketer
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