There’s always one. Just about every touring Australian side since readmission has one – a pantomime villain who gets the crowd going whenever he’s in the action.
Allan Border’s 1994 mob had the magnificently moustachioed Merv Hughes, a beast of a bloke with an even bigger sense of occasion. Whether he was delivering sharp wit at the crease, or attempting to squeeze a bat through a security barrier to get at a fan, Merv did it his way.
It needed an AK-47 to put him in his place, and even then, it had to be carried by the biggest man in the South African team, Brian McMillan.
But, despite the drama, Hughes was a real character of the game. He now runs travel tours when Australia play abroad, and they must be an absolute hoot.
Steve Waugh’s “Incredibles” had Shane Warne in his prime, before the Botox, the hair transplants and the world records. Even before Twitter, SK Warne was already delivering 140-character expletives to opposition batsmen.
Ricky Ponting’s vintage were the peculiar ones. Far from giving South Africans someone to harass, they gave us the first Australian who could have the freedom of every pub he ever went into upon his return.
Mick Lewis, the gift that kept on giving. Lewis provided this country 113 very good reasons to love him. He and Herschelle Gibbs jostled it out for Man of the Match in that epic ‘438’ game, but Mick just lost out – only because Gibbs was nursing a hangover for most of that day.
More recently, Mitchell Johnson put the fear of Zeus into our batsmen, breaking fingers, bats and hearts in equal doses. When he gets into that elevated space where fast bowlers become liquid machines capable of killing, he is a sight to behold.
And though he may have Merv Hughes-like facial fluff, and provide commentary to rival Warne’s best (or worst), even Johnson has been overtaken as a villain in Michael Clarke’s current squad.
David Warner, despite the excellent hospitality that the South African fielders have afforded him during his stay so far, has proceeded to display all the characteristics of what Capetonians lump on at the end of ‘Jou Ma se…’
Considering that the Proteas have already done their best to give him nine lives in just two Test matches, he has still managed to have all the gratitude of a spoilt brat at Christmas. When he burst onto the scene against the Proteas five years ago, with a sensational T20 knock, it looked like Australia had stumbled upon their next Matthew Hayden, albeit in midget form.
But Warner has built up quite the colourful CV over the past few years. If he’s not jostling with journalists on Twitter, he is swinging wild blows in bars – and missing – or firing low blows at a broken man, as he did to Jonathan Trott. It’s just not cricket.
Now he’s proved that he is also a connoisseur of sour grapes, after his bizarre attempt to deflect attention away from the fact that the Proteas helped themselves to nine Aussie wickets in a session, all while Warner was probably in the midst of a rain-dance in the opposition change-room.
The great Aussie sides of the past won universal respect because they were the first to say, ‘Well played, mate,’ when they received that ever so rare beating.
One wonders what true Aussie greats, such as Messrs Waugh, Border and Taylor, think of Warner, whose destructive abilities at the crease are second only to his ability to self-destruct as a human being. When the ICC stepped up and fined him 15% of his match fee this week, for his ‘cheating’ rant, there was not a whiff of sympathy.
The world of cricket knows that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. - Sunday Independent