Sunday, April 02, 2006

A real blood feud

Time to make a little voyeuristic confession: I'm feeling a bit cheated at not being able to get any access whatsoever to the extended spat/verbal duel/sledgefest masquerading as a cricket series in South Africa. I find the bad blood between the two sides quite breathtaking. Nothing in the world comes close to it. I don't think the Australians have ever been so up the noses of any of their opponents (yes, including the English, to whom they were rather nice last summer). For sustained nastiness, this particular spat, going back to December when the South African team toured Australia, easily takes the cake. Despite spending two years in Australia, and often talking about this phenomenon with my Aussie friends, I never quite understood what sparked this edge. Players on my C-Division team disliked South African cricketers more than anyone else (well, Ganguly took top honours but after that the South African team lined up), and I don't think I ever heard any admiration in any of their comments. Similarly, when I went to South Africa, I was struck by how much dislike there was for the Australian team. One suspicion I have is that the Springbok-Wallaby rivalry, which is quite nasty, spilled over into cricket, and then sustained itself long after the edge went out of the rugby rivalry. Whatever its grounding (in the case of the English, the reasons are straightforward), its the only rivalry I know of, where even the precious beer-after-the-game has been dissed (I've always felt, as I've written in these pages before, that the healing qualities of the after-game handshake and beer are overrated - it took Boucher's interview earlier this year to make that explicit). And when the beer-after-the-game is not enough to heal, and is called out for its failure, then you know you are in the middle of a real blood-feud.

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