by PAUL COLLITS – IT ISN’T often that I refuse to put on the Boxing Day Test.
Not even the decades-long jingoistic commentary of the Channel Nine commentators which the Packer revolution spawned could keep me away, let alone the increasingly progressivist ABC radio commentary with its regular acknowledgements of (my) country.
Until now, I have kept the faith. This year, however, has exhausted my patience, even my interest.
For the un-cricketed, this season has brought us a fresh wave of woke political stands, even more than usual, and the tedious, seemingly never-ending adulation of a retiring batsman.
One of the Beach Boys’ many iconic albums was titled Endless Summer. Well, the “Davey” Warner farewell summer feels endless.
With apologies to Brian Wilson, the Warners are, indeed going “all summer long”. And they might be having “fun, fun, fun”, but I’m not. Very few “good vibrations”, in fact. (And yes, I know that Good Vibrations is not on Endless Summer).
We have had the Warner build up, the selection speculation, the Warner sound effects mic, the glorification (coronation?) in Perth, the look-at-me century celebration histrionics, the Mitchell Johnson affair, and, now the Warner-as-selector affair.
On the last, all that former selector Jamie Cox could say following Warner’s helpful pontifications about who should replace him as an opening batsman after he (mercifully) goes in a week or two was, “bugger me”.
The full quote: “Well bugger me – another modern first! I have never heard of a current player anointing their successor. What’s wrong with ‘that’s a question for [chief selector] George Bailey, not me?’ I need a lie down…!
On the former player and now commentator, Johnson, the West Australian newspaper had a good editorial (paywalled, alas) titled “In a World of Sycophants, Thank God for Mitchell Johnson”.
Indeed. Johnson’s actual crime? He had the temerity to actually criticise the anointed demi-god-Warner for his 2018 cheating in South Africa. Warner was the ringleader of the so-called “sandpaper-gate” affair.
Mitchell Johnson was subsequently deplatformed by … Cricket Australia! (He was uninvited to two previously arranged speaking engagements).
During his own career, Johnson was an Australian hero. And yet … thou shalt not ever push back against anything to do with the corporate narrative.
With conversations shortly to turn towards the forthcoming Australian of the Year pageant, let’s all put in a plug for MJ. He has got to be a contender.
Warner isn’t the only Australian cricketer causing long-time Test cricket fans to have second thoughts about flicking on the television or the Kayo streaming device.
No doubt, they are all still recovering from the massive Indigenous Voice defeat at the referendum. Did any of them access the readily proffered, post-referendum counselling service, one wonders? And there is always the endless stressing over the so-called climate emergency, articulated a year or so back by the captain.
But wait, there’s more.
Warner’s opening batting partner, Usman Khawaja, has decided that the front pages of the newspapers are more fun than the back pages. Talk about endless summer tedium.
Usman has decided to take one for the Muslim team, in these Gaza days. He is joining all the terrorist-adjacent types who are calling for Hamas-friendly, indeed, Hamas-purposed cease fires in a war zone that is only a war zone because Hamas terrorists made it so.
The Australian newspaper’s irrepressible cartoonist, Johannes Leak (sacrilege alert), these days occasionally equals, perhaps even betters, his legendary father. Johannes has depicted
Airbus Albo sitting in his armchair sipping a red and watching the cricket. He is shown wearing an “I stand with Usman” tee.
A newspaper by his side is headlined – “Israeli Ambassador: Albo’s contradictory position”. Albo says, “Can’t we all just put politics aside for a few days and enjoy the sport instead?”.
Another of Leak’s recent cartoons has our peripatetic leader depicted as a puppet perched on Xi Jinping’s leg and also on the leg of a Hamas leader, as the two evil empire leaders chat. The cartoon is titled “the gift that keeps on giving” and has the Hamas guy saying, “I might not be a Christian but I know when all my Christmases have come at once”.
The backstory was Albo doing his bit for the Palestinian (“militant”) resistance by not providing a warship from Australia for the Coalition of the Barely Willing.
I think Usman Khwaja is now on about his third International Cricket Council warning for political statements on the cricket field, but he somehow keeps turning up, wearing his protest gear and getting paid.
The ever-woke Channel Nine makes its own position clear: “Usman Khawaja banned from supporting peace.”
It is only The Guardian, Channel Nine, the committed Islamists and Blind Freddie that think that is what Khawaja is supporting. As always, there isn’t a woke cause that a modern Australian cricketer doesn’t embrace with relish.
At this stage, you might well be thinking, “thank God for the other Mitchell (aka Starc)”.
Why? Well, the highly regarded fast bowler recently scored over $4m for signing up for the hit-and-giggle, betting-fuelled Indian Premier league (IPL) in 2024.
The bigger story was the more than $10m he has forgone, by not playing in the coloured clothes on the sub-continent since 2015. He did this so as to concentrate on real (red ball) cricket and to spend more cricket down-time with his family.
You can take this story two ways. One, Starc is a good guy. Or two, Starc is the only non-mercenary in the team. The exception that proves the rule.
All the others, including Warner – they might be thought of as the Wagners of cricket, with apologies to Vladimir Putin – have opted to take the cash, year after year.
I guess when you are selling and buying Sydney coastal properties worth in the tens of millions, you need to have several reliable revenue streams.
So, what to do? Kayo has the India versus South Africa Test on offer. With a black South African captain (Temba Bavuma), no less. And inevitably sponsored by Betway. Hence “the First Betway Test”.
Gambling and corporate dollars are now thoroughly and seamlessly embedded in the operations of world cricket. Why, Lachlan Murdoch part-owns one of the IPL franchises, the Rajasthan Royals (don’t ever call them “teams”).
The gambling company is front and centre, very appropriately for contemporary corporate cricket.
The post-colonial era is so damned full of ironies. Indian corporates and, so some say, bookmakers, controlling world cricket, for example by dictating global cricket scheduling, for one. (How do you think the franchises can afford all the cricketer auctions, like that delivering the Starc bank account over four million bucks?)
I only hope that their endless betting adverts end with a message to “gamble responsibly”, like ours do.
They used to say that Australians would bet on two flies crawling up a wall. Well, it seems to have spread all the way across the Commonwealth. The gambling bug is especially virulent on the sub-continent, it seems. Who said the ruthlessly colonised never got anything from the Brits’ imperialism?
Meanwhile, all the woke Aussies currently performing brief home (cricket and political) duties in their whites in Melbourne are laughing, all the way to the bank.
The once noble, though never totally pure, game is now thoroughly corrupted, financialised, corporatised, politicised, (still) jingoistic and tethered to international gambling companies.
Cheats rewarded with fairytale endings. Journalists banned for criticising players. Players selecting future team members. Other players using the cricket grounds to provide rolling advertorials for political messaging. Messaging that provides comfort to international terrorism, no less.
As Jamie Cox might say, “bugger me”.PC