In India’s long-distance view, there are two or three Australias. There’s MasterChef Australia seen more regularly these days on Indian TV screens than cricket. Diverse participants, warm judges, mouth-watering feasts. Then up pops live cricket, MasterChef Australia’s alter-ego: eye-grabbing, throat-constricting, high skill action, trite mouthing off between players and, in unsavoury leftovers from SCG 2021, half a dozen yahoos ejected for racist abuse.
A third confusing track runs alongside this: of Australian and English captains deciding not to take a knee last September followed by Cricket Australia introducing the Barefoot Circle and instituting the Mullagh Medal, in honour of Indigenous Australian cricketer Johnny Mullagh. Many times for Indians, Australia doesn’t add up.
For decades, Australia was viewed from afar as the “tough guy” of the cricket tour. Hyper-masculine. Spectators with beer cans, banners and flags. What did players experience around Australian crowds? Cricketers say they get abused all over the world but Australia is ground zero, its crowds around the boundary the most hostile and abusive. Not perpetually racist but constantly hostile. Like nowhere else. From among many accounts from the SCG this week came a somewhat bizarre story of kids aged about 10, shouting at the touring cricketers as they walked through the crowds to the middle, giving childish imitations of adult sledges. (That story chilled the bone because it reminded me of the Adam Goodes incident, the horrific culmination of adult thought expressed through a young voice.)
At Australian grounds, the touring team’s boundary riders are usually targetted by a small, vociferous group egged on by the supportive laughter of others around them. Unsurprisingly, post-lunch beers play a key role. Visitors ignore the hecklers as best they can.