There is a big lesson to be learnt from the way the Australians have come back from the outpost they put themselves in a year ago. Coming back from the brink has always been an Aussie speciality and Tim Paine’s lads have lived up to the country’s reputation for making comebacks in style.
For a team that was bogged down thanks to the ‘sandpaper’ scandal in March 2018, against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town, their performances against England during the last Ashes and in the first ‘pinky’ Test against New Zealand at Perth show the spine they have inherited. Coming back after being down and out is in their DNA as cricket history has shown.
There have been many instances of the ramrod Australian spine standing strong even as their backs were against the wall. The Kerry Packer story, when the media tycoon shook the world of cricket by convincing the best Australian players to join his private enterprise in 1977-78, is a prime example. So was the sad saga of the talented Kim Hughes who relinquished the captaincy when his side was beaten by the West Indians at home in the 1984-85 series.
With almost all Aussie stars out, barring a few, playing what was then called pyjama cricket for Packer, the management went back and got retired former captain Robert ‘Bob’ Simpson out of his pyjamas to lead the team against a strong Indian challenge in 1977-78. The series which eventually went the Aussie way with a 3-2 victory is one of the best examples of the Australians taking on a challenge considered an impossibility when it comes to battles.
Simpson’s team of Australian first class players were taking on a rejuvenated Indian team led by the mercurial Bishen Bedi which boasted of players of the caliber of Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Mohinder Amarnath, Erapalli Prasanna and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar. Aussie cricket lovers were treated to classic Test match cricket during the day and entertaining night cricket that featured Clive Lloyd’s West Indians jousting with Greg Chappell’s warriors and a team of brilliant cricketers led by England’s Tony Grieg.
For the Australian board it was all about survival, a fight against dollars to keep the flag flying. It is believed that at some venues the Australia/India Test matches coincided with Packer’s World Series of cricket on the same dates. The scenario was akin to an art film being released at the same time along with a Bollywood potboiler featuring superstars. The Australian cricket board managed to stay afloat thanks to a superlative exhibition by the Simpson-led team and the multi talented Indians.
Even after four decades, the memory of the die hard Madan Lal running backwards to catch a mistimed hook by Peter Toohey at square leg remains well etched in the memory of many cricket fans. The series saw names like Sam Gannon, Tony Mann and Toohey take on giants like Dennis Lillee, Vivian Richards among others in a battle for staying alive. For the Australian Cricket Board it was a matter of prestige while Packer was fully focused on spending big money to gather eyeballs. And survive they did.
Kim Hughes saga was similar to that of an emotional child who was berated for failing grades in class. After a dismal show against Lloyd’s West Indians in the second Test match at Brisbane where the Aussies lost badly, Hughes gave up the captaincy in tears during a post match press conference. After losing three Test matches in a five Test series, Aussies under the new stewardship of Allan Border won the last Test match by an innings at Sydney.
Under Border, the Aussies grew stronger as time passed by with the pugnacious southpaw laying the foundation of a cricketing revolution. The one that taken to a much higher level by his successors from MarkTaylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting to Micheal Clarke.
The current scenario where Tim Paine got to lead Australia by default, thanks to the shenanigans of Smith, David Warner and company, and is taking the once world champions slowly up the ladder is a reflection of the Aussie way of fighting back. Retaining the Ashes and quelling the Pakistan challenge after losing (for the first time) a home series against India is a big achievement for a stop-gap captain.
They have been called ugly and cheats ever since the outspoken Ian Chappell took over the reins from Bill Lawry. History has seen many Aussie skippers break rules and live on the edge of the spirit of cricket to keep winning under any circumstance. Whatever the label maybe, the one thing that stands out for this nation of sports persons is the admirable ‘never give up’ attitude....