We can’t agree about anything these days. Every debate on pretty much every aspect of Australian life is hopelessly polarised.


Remember the old Holden ad with its famous lyric about football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars? In the 1970s it was almost impossible to take issue with this assortment of dinky di Australiana. Today, their mere mention invites argument.

Football is any of about four different sports, meat pies cause obesity, kangaroos should either be eaten or not eaten, culled or not culled. And as for Holdens, well, you’re either a protectionist or a person who believes a dying industry should no longer be propped up at taxpayer expense.

Australians have always had our differences, as you’d expect in our robust democracy, but it seems these days we argue about all kinds of stuff that once united us.

You run a great Australian event like the Melbourne Cup and everyone wants to harness the day to push their barrow on animal cruelty or the evils of gambling. Even Australia Day itself is now a day of confrontation on several fronts.

Ah, but there’s always the cricket.

Have you seen the latest Cricket Australia ad? The goose-bump inducing 30 second production is amazingly prescient. It features Michael Clarke handing Peter Siddle the ball for the crucial last over, which is exactly what panned out in the Adelaide Test. Well played, Cricket Australia’s ad agency.

The ad isn’t perfect, not least because it lacks women. But it’s spot on in its theme that in summertime, cricket becomes our national conversation. At work or at play, it is the one topic that unites us.

Granted, not everyone joins the conversation. But huge numbers do. Most years, cricket claims the title of the sport watched by the most Australians on TV, with AFL second.

Cricket has a huge and often understated advantage over AFL and all the other winter codes. Loyalty in winter sports is divided between 16 or 18 teams whereas in cricket, fans have eyes for just one team.

That means our conversation focuses on the same 11 or 12 blokes playing the same match. Watching the cricket, we share the same triumphs, the same moments of despair. We share a mutual desire to see the national team prosper. It is a national dialogue without compare.

Interestingly, both during and after matches, that big national conversation tends to skew very quickly towards selection issues. The question of who deserves a spot in the team engrosses us as much as the match itself. It definitely engrosses us more than the question of which spineless, focus group-driven monkey deserves a bench in Parliament House.

Politics is a distant, abstract thing. Cricket is there all day on our devices. And so we argue. In pubs and offices and on internet forums, we debate whether Hilfy deserves to keep his spot over Starc, or whether Ricky Ponting’s career is cooked, which for the record, it absolutely is.

Sometimes our cricket arguments are heated, especially when they branch off onto the topic of Twenty20 vs Tests. But mostly they are civil. And always, they aim for the common good. In this day and age, that’s a rare and beautiful thing.

By the way, if they pick Mitchell Johnson for the fifth Test or any Test ever again, screw it, we might as well just appoint Bob Katter PM.

Argue with me here @antsharwood

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    • Gratuitous Adviser says:

      05:11am | 28/11/12

      Cricket, the last great unifier?  Are you mad, man?  I am proud to say that I could not name one cricketer in the Australian team.  It’s too professional, too many tattoos and attracts too many yobbos.

      On the divided nation bit, that’s true and began, for me, when the AWU tossed Rudd and I came to the realisation that they could do it.

      By the by:  Taking in the arguments, Gillard’s decision to abstain from the Palestinian / UN / Observer status vote is the correct position to take, in my opinion.  The Libs position on this issue is pathetic and makes no contribution towards progress for peace in that part of the world.

    • Mark990 says:

      08:33am | 28/11/12

      Wow Grat Ad. If ever there was an advert for having an interest beyond bitching about the news, then this would have to be it. Whilst you may be proud not to know any of our cricketers (because they’re professional and 2 or 3 have tat’s), I am really proud not to know any wet blanket sad sacks like you.

    • Paul says:

      11:42am | 28/11/12

      Do you realise that people actually think less of you because of your elitist attitude?

      The funny thing is that you have it completely wrong.  Cricket is a sport watched and admired by CEOs, Prime Ministers, Street Sweepers, Country Folk, City Folk, Migrants, Aborigines and everybody inbetween.  To be proud to stand apart from your fellow Australians is to deliberately remove yourself from Australian culture and in a way that makes you a little “unaustralian”.

      In life you can _choose_ to learn about (and even choose to enjoy) things or choose not to.  The fact you are proud not to be a part of a unified Australia says a lot about you.

    • AFR says:

      12:44pm | 28/11/12

      Not being able to name a cricketer makes you “proud”?

    • Robert says:

      01:22pm | 28/11/12

      Gratuitous Adviser, did you just read the article and still can’t name a player? Either you are you are not telling the truth or are unable to retain information you just read. IF you simply don’t like the sport say that, but you seem to feel superior then those that do and want everyone to know.

    • acotrel says:

      05:36am | 28/11/12

      We never see women’s cricket on TV -  or men’s netball ?

    • Gregg says:

      06:30am | 28/11/12

      You do see some womens’ cricket televised and you could always go to a ground or court near you and take a green attitude, walking there good for you and you’ll not use the power with the tele.

    • Super D says:

      06:32am | 28/11/12

      That’s because most people simply aren’t interested. Fortunately we don’t yet live in a world where tastes are dictated though an unhealthy minority yearn for such a world.

    • James1 says:

      08:46am | 28/11/12

      We no can dunk, but good fundamentals.

    • Paul says:

      11:55am | 28/11/12

      Actually, we do see women’s cricket sometimes… Have never seen men’s netball though (I’ve played mixed netball but I don’t know of an all-mens league so I suspect it isn’t played competitively).

      Just because a certain sport doesn’t have both sexes represented is not really a problem in itself.  If there is an issue it is the pay grades of competitive sport in Australia (based on sex) and the ability to attract sponsors etc.

      Women’s netball is played at a very competitive level, attracts crowds and is great to watch.  But without getting prime time viewing on a commercial tv station it is “everything it could be”.  Worse, those players who could take the game to another level if only they saw it as a career move (where they could get paid more than the measly few thousand dollars a year our national team gets paid) end up playing basketball overseas.

    • Gregg says:

      06:27am | 28/11/12

      That you want us to argue with you @ antsharwood ant, does that mean we cannot in the Australian way of things express an alternate view here?

      I will anyway, well not such an alternate view but a version of the same events.
      First off
      ” We can’t agree about anything these days. Every debate on pretty much every aspect of Australian life is hopelessly polarised. “
      I’d not say it is as bad as all that Ant and certainly I do hope you are not despairing too badly.
      Take that Holden and meat pies for instance and whilst you could get some lousy cold ones at the footy back a few years, there have also been the Ford Vs Holden camps emanating from the battles on the Mountain and other tracks for many years.

      Eating or culling Kangaroos has always been about, even as more than one football code has and I reckon that it is more just that there is continually more and more media coverage of our lives and how they evolve.
      For instance even five years ago you’d not be waiting @ @ somewhere for an argument but down the pub.

      Sure, economics is more in our face, again courtesy of the media these days and I suspect millions more people around the globe make their living from fiddling with and talking economics than ever before if you take all those exchanges and computer screens into account.
      Like you look at a brokerage or whatever office they show a shot of on tele and there are rows upon rows of desks with suited or dressed or whatever people all peering at screens and it’s like WTF are they doing to likely take home a six figure salary!

      As for the cricket, I am not too sure about a united voice and whilst Mitchell and well may be two may be of great help towards winning the series, I do wonder about the use of Watson and Ponting.
      Watson could quite easily break down and Ponting as good as he was at times has been more of a has been for too long to deserve keeping his place.
      It is sad but he is just past it at the top level or will not perform regularly enough for long enough to be of too great a value and is more being carried and it is past time they just persevered with younger blood.

    • Macca says:

      06:41am | 28/11/12

      Ant, Johnson will be picked for the third, not fifth, test. He shouldn’t be, but it seems he’ll get the nod despite Hazlewood, Bird and Cutting all retrieving better stats this Shield year. Starc’s form with the white ball has been great, but unimpressive in the Shield.

      Ponying has looked cooked for a while, and with Khawaja and Hughes in good touch there seems no better time to introduce the young fellas back into the fold to prepare for the Ashes.

      Hilfy’s action still looks top round arm. He, like Johnson, is so much more dangerous when he delivers the ball from a higher point. He also seems to get more movement when he’s up tall as opposed to slinging and dropping that front shoulder.

      Lyon looks the goods for the foreseeable future. Spinners age like Wines.

      Wade hasn’t cemented his place yet. Has another series in him before he’ll really be under threat, but his performance in Adelaide was really sub-par.

    • I hate pies says:

      07:53am | 28/11/12

      Pick Starc! They’ve gotta pick Starc! I still can’t believe he hasn’t had a run this year. His action is poetry in motion. Johnson is just too inconsistent; the SA’s will slaughter him.
      All will be good again when Shane Watson’s back; top order will be much stronger with him in at 3.
      My only changes for this test would be Watson for Quiney, Starc for Patto (shame, was looking good)

    • gobsmack says:

      08:29am | 28/11/12

      @Macca

      Khawaja and Hughes?  If they’re the future of our batting, god help us.

      As for Lyon, the last day of an Adelaide Test should be the time for a spinner to come to the fore.

      N o country’s Test side can be considered great without a spinner of real class.  Neither the Australian or the South Africans have one at the moment.  Whereas England knocked over the Indians in India with Panesar and Swann taking 19 of the 20 wickets.

    • Macca says:

      08:55am | 28/11/12

      @Ihp, Starc has looked great, but his figures in the 4 day game haven’t been as positive as some of his peers mentioned above. Stats don’t say everything, but ultimately its a results game.

      Bold picking Lyon in Perth. Warne always rated it with the bounce, but I’d be tempted to pick a fourth pacemen (as long as he’s not Johnson).

      Watto for Quiney is a no-brainer

    • Macca says:

      08:59am | 28/11/12

      @Gobsmack, lots of complaining there. You’ll be twelth man in a minute if you can’t come up with something constructive

    • craig2 says:

      09:40am | 28/11/12

      Starc will be picked

    • wolf says:

      12:17pm | 28/11/12

      I’m hoping they’ve just thrown Mitch’s name into the ring to waste the Safers batting coaches time reviewing hours of shield footage. However I have a sinking feeling that the selectors are serious.
      The worst possible outcome for Australian cricket would be a win (or even draw) that locks Mitch and Punter into the squad for a soft series against Sri Lanka (who are losing to NZ right now). This would guarantee their inclusion for the dual ashes series next year and guarantee England retaining them.

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      12:46pm | 28/11/12

      Johnson at Perth against South Africa - no brainer he’s gotta be there.

    • Tubesteak says:

      06:47am | 28/11/12

      Geez the ending to the last test was brilliant. Best game in a long time. Will probably be the best all summer

    • David V. says:

      06:57am | 28/11/12

      Forget cricket. Football is so much better.

    • craig2 says:

      07:05am | 28/11/12

      Crickets absolutely runs rampant over any other sport on the Australian landscape, so many of us have played it and if I had the skill in my later years, I would be still playing. The recent close finish between aus and south A reflects the ad perfectly, siddle busting his gut and I, like others, we’re willing the aussies on. It’s interesting, it shows that you need solid and consistent performers to be a strong and unified team like south Africa , something our politicians could learn but won’t, too deluded about the skills they think they have for public life and will never have.

    • Gregg says:

      07:32am | 28/11/12

      Don’t know about SA being a strong team and strong relative to underperforming opposition teams may be about as strong as they are and yet nowhere near the strength that the great Aussie and WI sides of the past had.
      I reckon you may find that Australia will surge again over the next few years as some of the younger bowlers get develop greater body durability and we cease to have older batsmen in the side even though Hussey has done well this series.

      It may even be that we do knock them off in Perth as it is to onfirm they are approaching their peak and yes we also have a political party well past its use by date as a government, not that they have ever really offered any form other than racking up debt.

    • james says:

      11:44am | 28/11/12

      @gregg Yes SA are not in that league. Not in the same league as the great SA side of 1969/70. They only have arguably the worlds best ever all rounder, one of the greatest ever fast bowlers,and two other batsmen who can match it with the best from the past.Beaten every team in their own home countries etc. Pretty weak really. Stop underestimating our OZ team -  they have done very well to dish it out to this SA side and Clarke’s leadership has been a revelation.

    • VJR says:

      07:23am | 28/11/12

      The divided nation has been brought about by Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott’s bitter feud which has polarised the nation.  This unfortunately hasn’t produced any degree of great nation building ideas apart from nasty and vile comments from both sides of politics.  It’s been a sad time for Australia.  As for the cricket if you can’t bowl them out you can’t win and we end up with a boring draw.

    • HC says:

      07:53am | 28/11/12

      “The divided nation has been brought about by Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott’s bitter feud which has polarised the nation.”

      Bullsh!t.  Well not really, it’s kind of a chicken and egg thing.  All politically engaged Australians are too stupid to debate effectively and so they just sling insults at each other across the party lines because they think that winning some imagined war for the day makes them smart.  The leaders of these parties see how much fun everyone’s having being adversorial little pricks and join in the fray because that is what their idiot voters want them to do.  The pundits fan the flames on all sides because that’s how they make their ill-gotten gains.

      That said I agree with your comment on bowling.  It’s fine to have a great batting side and Australia and South Africa both have great batting sides but the bowlers need to really lift their game.

    • Michael S says:

      07:47am | 28/11/12

      You raise a good point. During the footy season, AFL is the dominant sport in some states; while there’s the public-private school split between rugby league & union in the other states. And while all sports have a presence in each other’s heartland, they remain a minority.
      And within the footy codes, support is split between up to 18 teams. But for cricket, we’re all supporting the same team.

      That was a sensational finish to the Test on Monday. Sadly, I didn’t get to see it - was listening to the radio at work and then on the train home, with radio reception dropping out in the tunnels. But it was all over before I got home. There are many others who were in the same boat. And being held on a weekday during the day, there were only two men and a dog in the crowd.
      Thankfully the next Test is in Perth, so us in the eastern states will be able to watch the last session when we get home from work.
      But surely, in this era where TV rights pays the bills for sport, it’s time we got with the times and had day-night Test cricket. The longer that is resisted, the more appealing that T20, where one can watch an entire game from start to finish after work, becomes.

    • Mont says:

      09:10am | 28/11/12

      Am I the only person who shudders at the concept of day/night test cricket? Surely if there is one sport that shouldn’t get meddled with by television companies then it is the grand old game of test cricket. If you need night cricket then watch the pyjama version.

    • Macca says:

      09:43am | 28/11/12

      @Mont, agreed, Day Test cricket is the only way

    • Robin says:

      07:49am | 28/11/12

      Love the cricket.  Love having the TV on in the background and running in to watch the replay.  Love having it on the radio while poking around in the shed or lying around the pole.  Love having the live scores up on my computer and sneaking glances when no bosses are around.  Cricket to me is summer, it is a reminder of the happy times of my youth.  It is having a few beers after work and the whole table suddenly standing up to see the replay of a great piece of fielding or a dismissal.  Personally, I don’t have much time for the batch of players we have, but that is my age.  Still a great fan of the old Chappels, Lillee, Thommo etc.  And a devout follower of Steve Waugh.  But times change.  Does not matter really who is there, it is cricket, and to me it is all things Australian and summer.  There will always be those who look down their noses - the same crowd who humbug Christmas or slam doors on little kiddies having fun on Halloween.  That’s fine.  They can sip their lattees and have educated discussions on the latest political nonsense and tsk tsk at the increasing number of bogans.  I feel quite sad for them.  Not all my life needs to be spent in pursuit of knowledge, not all conversation needs to be edifying.  Sometimes it is just good to finish that beer and yell “Howzat” excitedly at the screen with my mates whilst Bill Lawry screeches “Got ‘im, got ‘im, what a beauty!”

    • Tork says:

      07:51am | 28/11/12

      I bloody love that advert.  Best one for a while now.  ..plus it wouldn’t surprise me if Johnson gets the nod!

    • Michael S says:

      08:15am | 28/11/12

      It’s been a long way back for Mitchell Johnson after he was so badly humiliated in the Ashes series two years ago. (He bowls to the left, he bowls to the riiight….)
      But the WACA pitch is said to be a fast bowler’s paradise, so maybe this is the time for him to restore his reputation. With Pattinson out, there’s a vacancy; and if the Aussies decide to leave Lyon out and play four quicks, then Johnson and Starc could both get a game.

    • craig2 says:

      11:18am | 28/11/12

      Johnson and starc will play, Johnson, gods knows where he’ll bowl but it’ll go forward faster then anybody else around!

    • I hate pies says:

      07:56am | 28/11/12

      Gee I love test cricket, particularly when it’s against a good team. Especially that first hour of the game. There’s nothing quite like it.

    • Sarah Bath says:

      07:57am | 28/11/12

      SPORT - the means to distract the populus from the important issues. Maybe if sport was not harped about then the real issues could be debated. Like catastrophic climate change for example , Like Marriage equity. Like animal farming and its contribution to climate change.

    • semi concerned citizen says:

      08:42am | 28/11/12

      Sarah, you are in need of some serious distraction.

    • Robin says:

      08:43am | 28/11/12

      Make for a boring summer day around the bbq though

    • I hate pies says:

      08:48am | 28/11/12

      Sport helps to drown out the bleeding heart guilt trippers like yourself.

    • iansand says:

      09:14am | 28/11/12

      Absolutely.  Issues like whether climate change will mean more or fewer days play lost to rain or bad light. 

      There is room in most people’s crania for sport and other important issues to co-exist.

    • Black Dynamite says:

      11:32am | 28/11/12

      Thanks for stopping by Debbie Downer.

      Black Dynamite

    • Ben C says:

      12:59pm | 28/11/12

      @ iansand

      “There is room in most people’s crania for sport and other important issues to co-exist.”

      Try telling that to Sarah, she seems to have no room in her cranium for sport.

    • craig2 says:

      01:14pm | 28/11/12

      Bloody hell Sara, do you another life besides trying to save the world? At least have fun while the house is burning down around you!

    • marley says:

      01:44pm | 28/11/12

      @BenC - Sarah is a troll, the invention of someone’s hyperfervid imagination. I suspect a guy who hates the Greens and feminists,  since Sarah is doing such a good job of making both seem disreputable (or, at least more disreputable than they actually are).

    • Ben C says:

      02:53pm | 28/11/12

      @ marley

      Could well be. I just think that Sarah’s a Greens staffer, trying to draw attention to herself and her party by reciting from the Handbook.

    • Robin says:

      02:59pm | 28/11/12

      @marley - - - not possible mate

    • Stewart says:

      08:19am | 28/11/12

      Footy (insert code here) is over, Wallaby season is over (well almost, just the Welsh to go), Spring Racing Carnival is over and there is usually a 5-6 week gap with nothing to watch, follow, talk over with mates, friends and family ... then ... the Gabba Test, the thursday ... the first ball ... it’s summer and cricket season! Very glad the Test season started early.Ponting is just par-boiled, he deserves to go out on his terms ... he is just aching to be in a winning ashes side again. Johnston, when he’s hot, he’s hot ... when he’s not, piss him off. Been driving Ford over recent years, its been the look or design rather than grunt, mechanics or whatever. Meat pies are still up there in the food chain, happy to try those 3 a.m. lamb sandwiches but those Satay Tofu pies around Byron Bay ... no comment. Friends don’t let friends vote for Tony Abbot and doesn’t QLD breed some nutters in hats? Summer and cricket ... wahoo!

    • Richard says:

      01:03pm | 28/11/12

      Actually, friends give friends a nice new copy of Tony Abbott’s new book for Christmas~

      Here’s the link~ http://bit.ly/Ss7sQb

      Time to let a fit and competent man lead the country. After Ponting’s poor captaincy, what a breath of fresh air Michael Clarke’s adept tactical nous has been.

      Likewise, after Labor’s litany of juvenile stuff-ups, what a relief it will be to have adults in power again.

    • Proud thinking Australian says:

      09:15am | 28/11/12

      Now if we can lance sledging out of Australian Cricket we could have a sport to be proud of again. - Sledging - its just not cricket for me.
      Aside from purifying the game, your right our about our great nation generally rudderless at this point.  So much contention, so little leadership or vision.
      Who would have thought “I support marriage” or I believe in family could be become a loaded political question?

      Can you image a government launching an “Australian Century White Paper”
      A paper that pulls the planks out of our own eyes and then goes on to promote positive change within our Asian regional neighbors - deliberately?

    • Ian1 says:

      09:22am | 28/11/12

      Sport - a great way for men’s health issues to actually play out.

    • BruceS says:

      09:54am | 28/11/12

      Thank you Anthony for an interesting article with which I tend to agree. The same can be said for baseball in the US.

    • Sir Viv says:

      11:18am | 28/11/12

      I love the Cricket.

      As one not of Aussie extraction it allows me to go to games and spend time talking with people who ordinarily would form no part of my world.

      There are very few forums where a thirty something black guy from OS can have a whole day conversation with a 64 year old white retiree whose travelled to the SCG from Young.

      I get a masterclass in Aussie wine. He gets a masterclass in buying this same wine at 50% cost from the UK using virtual addresses.

      We both go home clutching our notes, happy, drunk and enlightened.

      This is how societies should work.

    • Esteban says:

      03:46pm | 28/11/12

      I don’t have any problems having conversations with people older or younger than me at the cricket or not at the cricket.

      However if the cricket can break down ageist attitudes then that is great.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      11:57am | 28/11/12

      Oh what a mess!

    • Richard says:

      12:13pm | 28/11/12

      Johnson TORE through the Proteas at the WACA last time they played there… absolutely TORE through them. 8 for 61. You’re mental if you won’t even consider the possibility of giving him the nod to do it again, Sharwood.

      And as for Siddle, I love the man, I really do. Ever since that hatrick on his birthday two years ago, I’ve supported him passionately, but he has to get a piece of red meat into him.

      I’m serious, he’s so lacking in aggression and red-blooded, hot-headed, carnivourous energy nowadays that his impact has shrunken to an anemic shadow of its former glory.

      Sure, losing Pattinson probably cost us the win last weekend, but what a hero Siddle could have been if only he’d wake up and incorporate three serves of healthy, nutritious red meat into his diet each day.

    • craig2 says:

      03:41pm | 28/11/12

      Dont tell Sara Bath about the red meat, she’ll scream “climate change” at you and blame Siddle for the planet’s problems. Siddle is a bastard! smile

    • mmg says:

      12:50pm | 28/11/12

      “Granted, not everyone joins the conversation” - Not much of a unifier then now is it?

    • Caedrel says:

      01:49pm | 28/11/12

      Cricket’s now got competition in the summer from soccer - so it can’t rest on the assumption of being the onyl game in town any more. More than that, cricket’s got some serious work to do in growing the game - the format is much more challenging for kids than the other sports, and the length of time it takes to play and the difficulty it has in attracting folk from non-cricket playing backgrounds are significant.

      I’ve played park cricket for 13 years: in that time, my side has made the finals once and finished bottom 2 or 3 more often than not - and in that time, we have gone from playing in 10th grade to playing in 4th grade. Although we were in 4th grade last year as well, this year 1st and 2nd grades have been combined. The competition has more than halved over that period of time. Yes, there are demographics at work, but cricket still has a massive, massive challenge to stay relevant and meaningful to the next generation of Australian kids.

    • Jason says:

      03:46pm | 28/11/12

      Not to mention it lacks anyone who looks Indian, Pakistani or Aborginal.

 

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