TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
A recent conversation with an acquaintance revealed that her baby’s first word was “Tuck.”
“He’s trying to say truck, we think,” she said.
Or maybe something else? Starting with F …
“Could be,” she said. “I am Australian, after all.”
Faf du Plessis might differ with that assumption.
“When I first started playing against Australia they were the toughest team to play against because their personalities were of guys who competed by being verbal,” Du Plessis said on Sunday before boarding a flight bound for Perth, where SA will play the first of three tests next month.
“If you look at the Australian team now their personalities have changed. They don’t have those aggressive guys that are at you the whole day, swearing the whole day.”
Du Plessis should know what he’s talking about, having played 28 matches against Australia in all formats since 2011.
“We play a similar brand of cricket now,” he said. “We are very competitive but we respect each other’s personal … whatever it is.”
Australia have built a reputation for relentless aggression, and for being as ready to out-talk their opponents as they are to out-think and out-play them.
The Dutch invented total football. To the Aussies goes the credit for coming up with the cricket equivalent.
But even if Du Plessis is correct and Australia now play more and sledge less, they are not beyond nastiness.
At St George’s Park on October 9, in the fourth game of their one-day series in SA – and despite Australia having lost the first three matches – wicketkeeper Matthew Wade kept up a stream of mouthy puerility from behind the stumps.
When Wade batted in that match he tried, all in one clumsy and failed challenge, to shoulder charge and jab an elbow at Tabraiz Shamsi.
But perhaps Du Plessis had a point when he spoke of the similarity in the teams’ approach.
Consider Imran Tahir’s sustained verbal attack on David Warner in the last game of the ODI series at Newlands on Wednesday.
The leg spinner was docked 30% of his match fee for showing, in the words of an International Cricket Council release, “a lack of respect for the umpires when he ignored their requests to stop by continuing to verbally engage with … Warner”.
What might Warner have done or said to incur Tahir’s wrath?
“I had no idea what sparked it,” Warner said. “I’m still trying to work it out.
“For the first time in my life I didn’t say anything.”
Australians asked themselves about the ethics of how they play cricket in Sydney last week at the inquest into the death of Phil Hughes, who was killed by a bouncer that struck him in the neck during a Sheffield Shield match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in November 2014.
The ball that felled Hughes was bowled by Sean Abbott, but his New South Wales teammate, Doug Bollinger, attracted more attention at last week’s proceedings for allegedly telling the South Australia batsman, “I’ll kill you.”
Doubtless, no-one tried to do so. But Hughes did face nine consecutive bouncers during an innings of 63 that will remain unfinished.
Lawyers at the inquest asked whether bouncers should be banned or sledging allowed, and Hughes’ father, Greg Hughes, maintained that the SCG was an “unsafe workplace”.
Did Du Plessis think the tragedy and its aftermath had given Australians pause for thought?
“It’s quite sensitive what’s going on with Phil Hughes but I don’t think that will have any effect on the games (SA will play in Australia),” he said.
“We will be competitive on the field but I am pretty sure there will be no extra stuff said or even stuff done before the game.”
Don’t be so sure. They are Australians, after all.