This is a post by a young kiwi Andrew Fernando.
It’s no secret in the cricketing world that unless they are themselves Australian, cricket fans regard it their eternal, unyielding duty to despise the Australian cricket team for all they’re worth. At times, this loathing is deserved. New Zealand was so deeply traumatized by the Chappell brothers incident in 1981 for example that the word ‘underarm’ is considered the filthiest of expletives here. It makes me blush just to write it. But at other times, perhaps, just maybe, Australia don’t deserve the rap they get from overseas. They probably do though. Bastards.
Lately however, the Aussies have been a little harder to hate. No more McGrath, stomping down the pitch, viciously hurling red faced obscenities at hapless batsmen. No more Warne, smugly swindling the opposition out of valuable wickets. No more Matthew Hayden, catching ridiculous sized fish in between pummelling bowling attacks into the nether. Even post-Ashes 2009 Ricky Ponting seems an obliging marshmallow compared to the dastardly conniving figure everyone so passionately scorned following the Sydney test in 2008.
In the larger scheme of things, a more likeable Australia is far from ideal. International cricket deserves, nay, needs a villain. For who is Superman without Luthor, Batman without the Joker, or James Bond without cringe inducing dialogue? The bad guy’s been Australia for so long that it makes no sense for it to be anyone else. Can you imagine yourself being repulsed by the on-field actions of those rotten Bangladeshis? Most of the players in that team look like they are yet to go through puberty. Fans are more likely to want to adopt them than abhor them. Nope. It’s got to be Australia. This softening act they’ve put on over the last few months simply won’t do.
Enter Shane Watson.
I sit here, knowing that I am an imperfect human being because I yearn for him to fall over in some comical fashion each time I lay eyes on him. Don’t get me wrong. He is a wonderful player. But there is something so unlikable about him. Even a cursory search of cricket blogs around the interwebs shows that I am not the only one who feels this way. He gets out on ninety-something and twitter is alive with a thousand elated cricket fans, some from within Australia, all expressing their joy at his demise.
But lately I’ve begun to think that Watson is really an incredibly selfless guy, who’s actually attempting to do us all a favour. Noone can be that disagreeable unless they are actually trying to be so. He knows that the game needs someone we can all dislike, so he’s taken it upon himself to be that person. This whole distasteful public persona is just a clever ruse to give the cricketing world what it needs. He has a family and a partner who seemingly love him. Surely he can’t actually be as distasteful a person as he would have us believe. And the fact that his attempts to appear obnoxious have been way over the top recently is a dead giveaway.
Take his recent 98. The most striking thing about that innings is the manner in which he employed that most obnoxious of shots, the pull, to maddeningly good effect. Not only did he pull everything short of a length, but he did it in the most obnoxious manner possible. There is a sort of deft precision when Tendulkar plays the pull. Elegant finesse when Michael Vaughan does it. Watching Watson pull was like getting bullied in primary school. Noone can play the pull shot that obnoxiously unless they are purposely trying to be annoying. I mean, come on!
Not to mention the incident with the West Indian captain. Everyone knows Chris Gayle is one of the most universally liked characters in world cricket. He hammered the Windies to twenty million dollars while Stanford made merry with the opposition’s wives, reckons Test Cricket is not really his thing while maintaining an average of over forty and is the veritable walking definition of cool. Watson knows that making a childish fuss about getting Gayle’s wicket is likely to peeve a lot of people off. So that’s exactly what he does. Noone honestly thinks that jumping up and down screaming like a tween at a Twilight film is a good idea, when the guy you’ve just dismissed is Chris freaking Gayle! Nobody.
So I guess we should all thank you, Shane Watson for restoring the cricketing world to the way it should be. You picked a less than attractive role of being the scoundrel and made yourself very good at it. I was once again overjoyed to see you glove one to second slip just two runs short of a century, but only because you played the part of ‘arrogant prick’ so well. Well played sir. Well played.