The problem with Australian cricket ...

The Australians know how to win but not how to attract attention. Rohit Brijnath takes a tongue-in-cheek look at why the best team in the world needs to learn from India.

Australian cricketers do not make news. They merely win. Which gets them a few ho-hum paragraphs and the odd appreciation of their skills. Their cricket is cold and brutal, like getting mugged in daylight by a gang of toughs. Their skills are polished and they always look irritated. What sort of team is this? Evidently they require tutoring from us. Indian cricket is a majestic failure yet looks well fed, content and is constantly headline news. Perhaps an Indian official or two needs to be sent to prop up Cricket Australia.

The Australians know how to win but not how to attract attention. Especially since Warnie disappeared and opened his pizza shop. In India, television, with its unending gossip and anonymous hit-men posing as "sources" would not know what to do with Ponting's men. Where is the story, anchors will ask, in all this winning?

The Australians, locked in training like automatons, have denied themselves the joy of losing. Few pleasures for instance can match effigy burning. Rarely, too, do they enjoy the delightful chest-beating and hair-pulling that occurs when a coach is to be replaced. Indeed, a team is no fun if its coach, like John Buchanan has been, is secure. It goes against every tenant of sport.

Other coaches must hate Buchanan and his blood pressure-medication-free breakfasts. You can hear them saying: "What does he know of pressure. Try getting Inzi to touch his toes, or Lara to forget the mirror and listen, or an Indian to field in front of a hoarding which is advertising something he doesn't endorse." Buchanan is clearly not a good coach as much as he is a spoilt one. If he tells Matty Hayden to run two rounds, the opener does 10, the show-off. Coaching Australia, say his rivals, is a bit like playing the cymbals in the New York philharmonic.

Australian newspapers are duller than a Cheney speech, with less tittle-tattle than a Vatican weekly. There's no Indo-Pak style "senior player accuses captain" and "spinner cries favouritism" headlines. Instead McGrath puts his hand around Watson's shoulder when the youngster gets injured, and Watson thanks McGrath for his support. And they say cricket is a manly game. Anyway the Australians are simply rude: they will sledge anyone. Not like us: we prefer to sledge each other.

For all their trips to the continent in search of spirituality and a way to pay off their mortgage, Australians still don't get it. Cricket is about personality, not runs. Dhoni probably earns more than Ponting, which confirms that excellence simply doesn't pay. Anyway, for all his centuries does anyone want to cut his hair like Ponting?

Australian cricketers lack ambition. Rarely is there talk of players wanting to be captain. Perhaps they are scared of responsibility. Every sub-continental cricketer worth his Oakley sunglasses wants the captaincy. We are born to lead, and will undermine anyone to get there.

Favouritism is embedded in the official Australian psyche and it is disturbing that the same fellow has been manager of the Australian team for nearly a decade. What excitement does he bring to the party? In India, democracy trumps professionalism, and in every tour there's a different manager, and it is a minor inconvenience that by the time he knows half his job, he's out. Furthermore, it lends colour to the team. One fellow borrowed India shirts from the players and wore them with his pyjamas every night. Australians are absent of such imagination.

There is no respect for age on the island either. James Sutherland became chief executive of Australian cricket when he was in his 30s, a mere stripling of a fellow who had just got his first Gillette. In Indian cricket, we prefer senior men in charge, both consistent and unyielding while running the game into the ground. It takes character not to change course even when a billion people keep insisting you're wrong.

Former cricketers are treated poorly in Australia. Most of them are more famous in India than at home. Richie Benaud hardly even speaks through the year. Occasionally they are called on television shows, asked desultory questions, and provide timid replies. Many of India's former players are a braver bunch, ordered, sorry prepared, to speak out at a moment's notice. As players they asked for constructive criticism, and now as commentators they have mastered it. Like "hang the fast bowlers".

In short, the Australians play brilliant cricket but do not enjoy the game. Not like us. Which is why, one can now reveal, they sent Greg Chappell to India. But apparently en route he forgot his orders. He thought he was here to teach. But it was to learn.