Their culture of winning

The Australians, even in the manner in which they play, get on with it. So must the cricketing world now. This team can be beaten. But not by England, writes Rohit Brijnath.

Come now, let's sing a hymn to these bloody brilliant cricketing Australians, seemingly eight-foot tall as Pinter once described them, propelled by a grudge, old men on a final fling, wearing halos of concertina wire, and stretching again, further, the notion of sporting incredulity.

So let's say it then, vomit it out of even reluctant bodies which turn up powdered noses at their behaviour, and admit: in the past 10 years, for all its changes of personnel, has sport seen a better team. Maybe not even Brazil in football.

You'd say Brazil is subtler, but what is three-chinned Warnie except a pizza-eating, fag-inhaling, beer-burping artist. And Ponting, so towering that Shakespeare if alive would be moved to scribble a sonnet on the day's programme for a man averaging over a 100 this year.

Is this too much? No, this team is too much. Eight Tests played this year, eight won. But it's not just the consistency, the ability to not get bored, to not get distracted, but the cussedness, it's the pride, shining out of them like a searchlight. You cannot not watch Australia as they want this Ashes back.

The day after the miracle's done in Adelaide, a leading Australian cricket writer, in a quiet fury, echoing a sentiment not restricted to any nationality, says what have the English, already two Tests down, done to the Ashes. A summer yearned for, for over a year, had been burnt to the ground not even halfway through. Now, only recriminations await.

But wait, first a retraction. In the sentence "the day after the miracle", let's remove the miracle. Miracle suggests an act of the supernatural, a divine intervention, and this is untrue even though Warne for some fans is God and for batsmen the Devil.

To call it a miracle is unfair to the Australians, for by ascribing their victory to some otherworldly force in effect denies their own substantial powers. If anything, they have proved all decade that to construct the improbable no help is required from anyone.

This was a grand advertisement for Test cricket and it wasn't. Over five days the pitch was booed, the curator condemned to death row, batsmen padded on, Warne embraced a negative line, careers were considered done, an England fight back was announced, and then like a Ludlum thriller everything before was revealed as false and a ending prophesised by no one followed.

But this was also a sad advertisement for Test cricket. If you turn down the euphoria the fact remains that Australia's openers are less sharp, Glenn McGrath bowls more deliveries at the incorrect bandwidth, Shane Warne has spells where he is playable, the middle-order needs Ponting to stop its shakes, Lee turns from pumpkin to prince every odd Test, Adam Gilchrist has a hesitance to him that is foreign.

They are beatable on paper, not in rival minds. The rest of the world is letting cricket down.

What Australia has always had is nerve, a belief that the world can be won. Few teams have their measure for long. First the West Indies were conquered. In 2001, India defeated them at home, but was overwhelmed three years later. So, too, England now. Moreover, an older team has taken exception to suggestions they are using hair dye.

Nerve allowed Australia to come to Adelaide on the fifth morning searching for a win as England searched not to lose. In just this, the cultures of nations are revealed. As the always mentally agile Peter Roebuck mentioned to this writer in conversation one recent morning, in so many sports now Australia wins, victory is familiar, they understand it, crave it, wear it easily, know what it takes.

But in England, and India, and Pakistan, and South Africa, and New Zealand, and West Indies, and Sri Lanka, cricket's other nations, this is not so, they do not inhale sporting success every week, the culture of achievement does not comparably spread across their playing fields, they are not surrounded with evidence of global victory. It makes for a different mindset.

In Britain, a MP from Norwich North, said during the Prime Minister's questions, and no doubt in jest, after the second Test: "I'm tempted to ask if he would bring the boys back home by Christmas." The MP's words were amusingly English, but also a concession of sorts, that at 2-0 the series was done, packed, only a ribbon left to be tied on. But at 2-0 down, Australia would not consider victory out of reach and it is this madness that makes for champions. And in that one hour-and-a-half on the fifth day when Australia surged and England crumbled, these cultures were revealed.

This was not always the case, Australians do not exit the womb sweaty and confident and crying for a beer. Their cricket teams have limped and lurched, as they have in other sports. But a natural hardiness coupled with an impatience with mediocrity has assisted them.

To take an example from the Olympics, at Montreal 1976, Australia won not a single gold, one silver, four bronze and was 32nd on the medals table. Embarrassed, it led to the emergence of the Australian institutes of sport, whose effectiveness is evident in the Athens medals table where Australia was fourth with 17 gold, 16 silver, 16 bronze.

What is agreeable about the Australians is also an absence of whining within the team. Winning breeds mateship of course, still it is not as if everyone holds hands in the dressing room. Likes and dislikes abound, but little is heard of. The Australian public is not inclined to listen to moaning. Players are dropped, offer the odd comment, but mostly bite their lip and go off into the lower leagues to score runs. No one holds protests outside grounds when Victoria's Brad Hodge was dropped from the national team. No one runs to friends in the board for favours.

The Australians, even in the manner in which they play, get on with it. So must the cricketing world now. This team can be beaten. But not by England, it won't.