JOHANNESBURG – Tim Paine, the Australian captain this week unveiled “The Players’ Pact”, a sort of guideline for how he wants the Australian team to play its cricket over the coming months.
It’s all of 38 words long and boy does it read like a bunch of marketing claptrap.
“We recognise how lucky we are to play this great game. We respect the game and its traditions. We want to make all Australians proud. Compete with us. Smile with us. Fight on with us. Dream with us.”
This “Players’ Pact” stems from a review done of the Australian team culture in the wake of that sandpaper affair at Newlands.
Reviews have been all the rage in Australian cricket this week, and caused quite a lot of rage as well.
The Australians want to be nice guys on the field. They will if this “pact” is to be followed, not sledge, but still chat because Paine said that there will always be talking on the field.
“This is a line in the sand for us as players and we’re very much looking forward to focussing on the future of the game, playing with pride and making Australians proud.”
Oh no, not “a line” again - we saw where all that talk about “a line,” “the line” when to cross it, who gets to cross it , how they cross it, ended up when Australia toured South Africa in March. It’s what led to the reviews.
This “Players’ Pact” has not proved to be universally popular. Former Australian captain and well-known commentator Ian Chappell called it a load of “bollocks,” former England captain Michael Vaughan also used a curse word that started with the letter “B” while Andrew Symonds said Paine was panicking.
“The boys have said ‘you’ve got to come up with something, you’ve got to be seen to be making an effort,’” Symonds told FoxSports in Australia. “And it’s a bit corny, isn’t it? That’s not the Australian cricket way in my opinion. They could have come up with something a lot better than that, or as I said, they need to sit down and nut some of these things out.”
Poor Paine and his team are on a hiding to nothing over the coming weeks initially as they roll through the short ODI series with South Africa (of all teams) and then onto what is sure to be a feisty series with India.
What will matter in the eyes of the public, both in the stadium and those watching on TV, will be Paine and his players’ actions.
“The moral of the story is you have to get back on the field and perform. That’s what Australia needs to try and focus on,” Shaun Pollock said this week, citing his own experience with the South African team in the immediate aftermath of Hansie Cronje being found out for attempting to fix matches.
“Their reputation, and getting the fans behind them, goes down to what the public see on the field,” Pollock added.
It may not come down to a question of “if” Australia can be all meek and mild, while still winning, but “how” they go about doing so.
Paine may want a line in the sand, but opponents won’t be paying that much heed.
The South Africans may not test out this “nice guy Australian” routine in their series, but you can be sure Virat Kohli will over the course of four Tests later this summer. And that is when we’ll see if this “Players’ Pact” is all talk and no action.