I think that the last time Australia unexpectedly won a Test series was in early 2009, in South Africa. At that time the team was literally brimming with aitches – Hughes, Hussey, Haddin and Hilfenhaus. While the team’s current Ashes victory was not totally unexpected – Australia is always hard to beat at home and the 2013 Ashes was closer that the 3-0 scoreline suggested – the emphatic nature of the victory has been unexpected. And all with just two aitches in the side. Very important ones, I admit in Haddin and Harris. But that is not what I want to discuss. The three aitches are ‘honest, humble and hungry’.
We have been hiring at work recently and were discussing what we were looking for in the “new hire”. My manager said he had heard that we should be looking for the three aitches in our candidates – honest, humble and hungry. I find this a thought provoking combination. I will set aside ‘honest’ for now, firstly because how do you work out if a person is honest in a 60 minute job interview? And secondly, because honest is agnostic to the other two attributes – humble and hungry. These are the two that I find interesting. I suggested to my manager that you don’t often find ‘humble’ complimenting ‘hungry’.
To illustrate the point, I had to look no further than the Australian cricket team. To be holistic, I will get ‘honest’ out of the way. Just like a job interview, it’s very hard to tell if a cricketer is being honest. Take the homework scandal of last year, for example. Watson, Arthur and Clarke said a lot of things but who knows what the truth was in that saga? And then again, I get the feeling that some of those guys can be a little too honest when they have a microphone stuck in front of them, or crank of the Twitter account. The candor at times causes me to blush.
The Australian cricket team of this summer is clearly hungry. Ravenous. They have overwhelmed England with aggression, skill and determination and all of this stems from an insatiable desire to win back the Ashes. And not just that, to win back some pride. Australia had gone nine matches without a win and had a horror 2013. All of that culminated in a desperation to win.
You would have to say that the behavior of the team has not been humble. Shy and retiring they have not been. I’m not necessarily criticising that – I’m just making the point that hunger and humility are not often seen together. After England’s first innings of the series, when Clarke told Anderson to “face up and have is f*#@ arm broken”, I heard some discussion on whether it was possible for the Australians to win graciously – that they only seemed to be able to ‘win ugly’. One of the responses was that winning ugly was more becoming that losing ugly.
Whether the Australians can win graciously is an interesting question to which we are unlikely to find an answer because I doubt they will attempt it. The late Peter Roebuck detested this aspect of Australian cricket and his loathing reached a pinnacle in an article he wrote following the MonkeyGate Test (when Australia won in Sydney, with Clarke taking the three remaining Indian wickets in the second last scheduled over of the match). A lot of people don’t like this aspect of Australian cricket.
At any rate, I don’t expect that the Australian cricket team, nor many Australians, will care.
And for the record, in case anyone pays any attention to the ICC Test Rankings, I have done some research. Some people may have been aware that despite David Warner’s hopes and aspirations following the successful 2011-12 Indian summer, of regaining the number one spot by the time the Ashes were played, Australia had, in fact, slipped to fifth place in the rankings behind Pakistan! Using the ICC predictor I can advise that with this series result, Australia has climbed back into fourth place and if England do not win the 5th Test in Sydney, Australia will displace them in third place. England is utterly shell shocked and it is hard to see them wining in Sydney. At the halfway point in Melbourne, they were set up to win, but ultimately Australia won easily.
Happy New Year!