“Australia are ‘not going to win s**t” by playing nice, according to former captain Michael Clarke. But an old adversary of Clarke has said that he is “missing the point”. Simon Katich, whose relationship with Clarke fell apart after an argument over singing the team song in 2009, said that Australia’s problems stemmed from more than just their aggression, but rather that they premeditatedly cheated.
Clarke endorsed the aggressive style in which David Warner played his cricket even though he was seen as a central figure in some of the most controversial episodes, including the ball-tampering scandal at Newlands, which tipped Australian cricket into the abyss.
In the wake of the South Africa tour and cultural reviews, new coach Justin Langer and captains Tim Paine and Aaron Finch have made a conscious effort to rein back the team’s approach on and off the field, including pre-match handshakes, the introduction of a Players’ Pact, and the emergence of the term “elite honesty”.
None of this has gone down well with Clarke while the team continues to struggle on the field ahead of the Test series against India, which begins next week.
”Australian cricket, I think, needs to stop worrying about being liked and start worrying about being respected,” Clarke told Macquarie Sports Radio. ”Play tough Australian cricket. Whether we like it or not, that’s in our blood.
”If you try and walk away from it, we might be the most liked team in the world, we’re not going to win s**t. We won’t win a game. Boys and girls want to win.”
Katich, however, differed and felt that Australian cricket needed to rectify the reputation garnered from the Newlands incident and years of bad on-field behavior.
“Once again we find someone missing the point,” he told SEN radio. “What’s been forgotten in all of this is we blatantly cheated. The point is, we were caught for blatantly cheating and we have to rectify that as soon as possible to earn back the respect of the cricketing public in Australia and worldwide.
“We’ve been a disliked team for a number of years through that on-field behaviour and it obviously came to a head in Cape Town.”
Speaking specifically of Warner, who had confrontations with England and South Africa players during the two series before his year-long ban, Clarke said the aggression Warner showed on the field was an attempt to have it fired back at him when he batted, and described it as a “turn on”.
“He brings that positive approach to the Australian cricket team. You can’t ask him to bring that and then, on the other hand, blame him or ask him to be a pussy cat when it comes to giving it,” Clarke said. “David Warner gives it to certain blokes on the field because he wants them to give it to him when he’s batting. It’s like a turn on, it makes him play better.
”It’s his style; he’s very upfront, in your face. What you see with David Warner is what you get. Your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness. To me, I always loved having him in the team I was captaining because he brought that aggression that I wanted. In saying that, there was always a line, he knew that. We had a number of conversations one-on-one about that line he couldn’t overstep.”
Oppositions have noted Australia’s attempts to change their ways, with South Africa captain Faf du Plessis saying they felt “tame” as compared to in the past, something Langer took him to task on.
“I’m not sure what people want from us,” Langer said. “We can’t confuse the messages. On the one hand, we’re too aggressive and probably stepped over the line. Now we’re getting called tame.
“We’re going to play good, hard cricket. It’s what the fans want to see. It’s what Australia wants to see. When you lose a series, it’s easy for someone to come out and say we’ve been a bit tame. You can’t have it both ways.”