I think the best case against Australia starts with Brad Haddin’s extraordinary behavior during the World Cup. There are plenty of exhibits; the most damning one comes right after Glenn Maxwell bowls Guptill with the most innocuous of deliveries. The shame for Guptill, who has blown it in a World Cup final, is evident, but Haddin decides to add to the pathos with sarcastic clapping in his face.
And why? Here he is:
“You know what? They deserved it,” Haddin said of New Zealand’s batsmen being the subject of several send-offs. “They were that nice to us in New Zealand and we were that uncomfortable. I said in the team meeting: ‘I can’t stand for this anymore, we’re going at them as hard as we can.’
“It was that uncomfortable. All they were was that nice to us for seven days. I said, ‘I’m not playing cricket like this. If we get another crack at these guys in the final I’m letting everything [out].’ I’m not playing another one-day game, so they can suspend me for as long as they like.”
This makes absolutely no sense. I’d be willing to dismiss this behavior as yet another silly episode featuring Australian men and their petulant masculine insecurity–but this was a World Cup final! What kind of man–that too, one close to his 40th year on this planet–looks at the great spectacle and history of the World Cup, at the import and importance of this final, and thinks: Yeah, I’m going to help my team by being an asshole.
Is there a difference between what Haddin did and the Kiwis’ own performance against South Africa in 2011? I think it’s the difference between instrumental sledging–aggression aimed at unsettling the opposition–and gratuitous immaturity. The former is barely justifiable (I don’t like it, but I imagine most cricket fans don’t care and even like a “little spice”); the latter, especially among a team as capable and talented as Australia, is downright bizarre.
Haddin’s behavior, to use a popular phrase, is not a bug of Australia’s cricket, it is a feature. Rather than relying on actual aggression, this team insists on adding a veneer of rudeness that will not age with any grace; whatever affection we have for the West Indian greats of the 70s and 80s will not (and should not) be extended to this sorry lot. It’s a pity, because this team is so good and play cricket so well — but from here on out, I’ll greet their victory and success with a sarcastic clap.