Win again

I started last night watching the final of the women’s world cup of cricket, between Australia and the West Indies. I went to bed before Australia had finished their innings, confident that I would wake up this morning to the news that we had won another title. Listening to the 8 o’clock news this morning that was duly confirmed – a thumping win, again.

I’m not sure if Australians are the most competitive sports people on the globe – maybe, maybe not. What I’m pretty confident in saying is that Australians (with the recent marked exception of the London Olympics) are the most successfully competitive race on the earth. I could mean that to say that we punch so far above our weight – which is true, and, if I recall, scientifically proven. In this case what I mean is that we as a nation will make more finals than logic suggests, and having made the final, will win many more times than we lose. I’ve watched enough sports over the years to know that something in our ethos or culture makes us big game players – cometh the moment, we put the foot down. I know it, most of the people I catch up with coffee know it, and, most importantly, our teams/individuals know it too. That makes for great confidence, something of an intimidation factor, and often enough, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That we dominated in a final last night is entirely typical.

Our competitors know it as well. Australian competitiveness is a historical fact now, which is why so many take pleasure in beating us when they can. Still, it is music to the ears listening to our great rivals speak of it.

A little over a week ago I watched a game between Australia and the reigning world champion, England. Australia had made a very modest score, and were bowled out before their allocation of overs was done. The talk in the commentary box was pretty much how England had it in the bag. One such commentator, an Englishman, began to speak as if it was a done deal, then quickly qualified his comments. No game is ever over against an Australian team until the last ball is bowled, he said. They’ll fight all the way through. And so it was.

Australia won. It was a lovely victory, but watching it I thought: how many times have I seen this? So many. Some teams lose when they should win. South Africa in cricket have always had that ability, mighty as they have been, and their nemesis time after time has been Australia. Some teams win when they should. Australia has been that mostly. And some teams win when they should lose. None are better at that than Australia.

That game a week ago the Australia scrapped all the way through. Their focus was fantastic – we’re not done yet, we’re here to win. That attitude meant that not for a moment did they drop off. They exerted such fierce pressure on England that what seemed a simple task of victory became a test of endurance and character. To England’s credit they fought it out to the very end, but the end was somehow typical. Two runs away from losing Australia win. Again.

It affirmed also a remarkable record. England, recent world champions in both forms of the game, can’t beat Australia outside of England – losing something like 14 out of 15 matches. That’s an extraordinary record given their credentials. It may also become self-fulfilling. Certainly it appears that crucial moments Australia holds steady while England has succumbed – the Twenty 20 World cup final is another example (Australia won by 4 runs from a poor position).

That England game was interesting in another, very different way.

Australia was settled about 220 odd years ago. We were a British colony then, but since have had a huge influx of immigrants from all over the world. Lots of Irish, a multitude of Europeans after WW2, and in recent times been the recipient of immigration from many Asian nations. It’s now a pretty cosmopolitan place.

England is similarly cosmopolitan, though with a different mix. In theory we have a common genetic heritage, but I wonder if we have now diverged, and branched off in different directions. (I tend to think we are closer physically to the Americans – another immigrant nation – than we are to the English we came from).

I watched the game between Australia and England and it was like watching competitors from different races compete. Australia is a young side sprinkled with old hands. They looked different from their English counterparts. With exceptions most of the English players looked like feminine equivalents of their male counterparts. They were sturdy, strong, salt of the earth types. If you were to characterise the Australian team you would describe them as blonde and athletic, tall, slender, feminine – sometimes quite pretty – and pretty happy. Lots of smiles.

That last seems at odds with some Australian teams, known better for being harshly competitive, but perhaps we can learn something from the girls.

In any case, well done – again.

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