Too much Katerwauling after selectors scratch itch
You come home after a media-free long weekend away, you plough through the papers piled on your doorstep and a theme emerges: unanimous outrage over the axing of Australian opening batsman Simon Katich, beginning with Katich’s own hissy fit. Well, maybe his dumping was an injustice. All the same, it doesn’t give Katich the excuse to yowl like a kitten whose tail has just been stepped on.
These are seriously weird times. Only last weekend, Australians marched in the streets to demand the right to be taxed. Then this weekend, a senior federal minister and a lawyer spoke out in defence of a cricketer whose contract was not renewed. Who knows what surprise is in store for next weekend? Perhaps someone on Australia’s Got Talent will actually have, you know, talent.
Katich, of course, does have talent. You don’t score 4,188 runs in 56 Tests at an average of 45.03 by getting lucky. But by no stretch of the imagination was he one of the greats of Australia’s dominant era, or what might politely be termed the transitional era thereafter.
Don’t be fooled by his recent stats, which everyone trotted out this weekend in his defence. Sure, Katich made more runs than his team mates in recent years. Hello-o. That’s because none of his team-mates can lay bat on ball these days. And OK, the Kat made more runs than anyone in world cricket bar England’s Alistair Cook in the last three years. That’s because Australia plays twice as many Tests as most other nations.
If you’re one of the Katich defenders, ask yourself this. What was his really big moment? All great batsmen have unforgettable moments when they don’t just score runs, but runs that really matter. Remember Gilly in Perth in ‘06, and all those years back with Langer in Hobart? Or Steve Waugh’s countless match-winning knocks? So when was Katich’s big day in the sun? Struggling, aren’t you.
The fact is, Katich went missing in action when he was often most needed. In the fateful 2005 Ashes series, he passed 50 just twice. He started the 2009 Ashes with a century, then did bugger all afterwards. That century came in a match where we agonisingly couldn’t take the last English wicket.
No one’s saying the Cardiff draw was Katich’s fault. But the guy somehow didn’t put game out of other teams’ reach. Not like Hayden and Langer did. Fact is, Katich is best remembered for his dressing room stoush with Michael Clarke rather than his heroics out in the middle.
None of this is to argue that Katich is not still among the best 25 players in the country. Even at age 35, he is clearly still in the top 10. Neither is it to excuse the national selectors for this or a range of other baffling decisions in recent times. Their ongoing ineptitude has quite rightly been turned into the lead story in the Katich debacle.
But for all that, it is not for players to sook when they don’t like the selectors’ thinking. As much as we yearn for characters in sport, and for guys to speak their minds instead of regurgitating the same tired old quotes, Katich’s outburst was nothing more than a sook.
See, this is sport, last anyone checked. And in sport, as in life, unfair stuff happens. People pick teams for various reasons, right or wrong. Sometimes that old chestnut of “youth and experience” is what’s required. Other times, a thorough cleanout is in order. That of course doesn’t explain the retention of Hussey and Ponting, but that’s exactly the point. This is sport, not science. It’s a little bit random. And that, by the way, is one of the things that make it fun.
What’s really at play here is not that Andrew Hilditch and his fellow selectors are dithering fools, which we all knew anyway. It’s the sense of entitlement of the modern athlete, who has known nothing other than gyms and playing fields and team buses since school days. Or in the case of Katich, since university days. These guys are in such a cocoon, they think sport owes them a living. But it doesn’t.
These sports jocks should try life in the real world, where the inexplicable happens every day. Idiots get promoted. Talented people don’t get the rewards they reserve. Bankers ruin ordinary people’s lives and still earn their obscene end of year bonuses. And if you whinge and sook about it, absolutely nothing changes. In fact, things usually get worse.
There is a final reference point to all of this, and it comes from another big weekend sports story. In America’s NBA finals, the unfancied Dallas Mavericks upset the Miami Heat to win the title.
The Heat, you’ll recall, are the team LeBron James defected to in the vulgar event billed as The Decision. If you missed it, The Decision was basically America’s biggest ego stealing an hour of the nation’s time to explain why he was ditching his team-mates in Cleveland to go somewhere where he felt he had a real chance of winning a championship ring.
Oh sweet, sweet justice that LeBron fell at the final hurdle. Is there any dish more delectable for the sports fan to savour than the comedown of an over-opinionated brat?
Katich is no brat, and his spray at the end of last week wasn’t half as indulgent as the stuff that comes out of LeBron’s mouth on a daily basis. Indeed, it made pretty compelling viewing. It was hard not to cheer for him.
But the bottom line is this. LeBron sooked because he played for a losing team. Katich sooked because he wasn’t considered good enough to play for one. Either way, it’s guys acting like primadonnas.
Sportsmen earn big money by kicking, hitting or throwing a ball around. They should be grateful for it. And they should cop it sweet when things don’t go their way.
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