I love the idea of Steve Smith as Captain of Australia.
Sure, he’s just the captain of the national (men’s) cricket team, but he’s really a throwback to the days when blokes like Don Bradman, Lindsay Hassett and Ritchie Benaud seemed to embody all the virtues of leadership. And we were proud to have them right at the top of the Australian tree.
They were so different from the politicians who were in their game for what they could get out of it. The Captain of Australia led his team in quest of national pride; and the pinnacle was possession of that little urn of ‘ashes’. Once it was ours, all those ‘mere colonial’ sneers and sleights we’d endured from the English could be returned with interest.
Even then, of course, we couldn’t be trusted with the actual urn, presented to an MCC Captain, Ivo Bligh after his team’s defeat in a Melbourne match in 1882. Instead, we had to be satisfied with a replica while the original remained in a glass case at Lords.
The English took the whole thing even more seriously than we did, most notoriously in the ‘Bodyline’ series of 1932-33 when their captain, the egregious Douglas Jardine, ordered his opening attack – in the days before helmets – to pitch their thunderbolts short and rising at the head of Don Bradman, our greatest batsman.
Fortunately, the laws of cricket were changed before anyone was badly hurt. But the intensity of the battle remained, even when the ‘colonial’ slurs were overwhelmed by a growing Australian maturity and self-confidence, save for the idiotic hangover of a British monarch as our head of state.
This is where Steve Smith comes in. There was a time, early in his career, when as a dual citizen (his mother having been born in London) he was offered a long-term contract with Surrey that could have seen him eventually picked in the English Test team. ‘It wasn’t such a tough decision to turn it down,’ he says. ‘I’d grown up in Australia. I wanted to play for Australia, so I knocked it back, a decision I’ve not regretted for a moment.’
So this product of Sydney’s Sutherland District Cricket Club, with his happy grin, emotional commitment, unconventional batting style and prodigious run scoring capacity, is pretty much Australia’s perfect man for all seasons. For while he fights as doggedly for victory as any of his predecessors (and more than most) he does so with a sense of decency and charm all his own.
This open-hearted joy was gorgeously on show in Perth when he and his team regained the Ashes in only three matches. He even revealed that he’d had ‘a bit of a cry’ in the dressing room before heading out to the presentation and the media interviews.
Not for him the overt bellicosity of an Ian Chappell, the precious self-regard of a Michael Clarke, or the crankiness of an Alan Border. Nope; there’s a touch of the Bradman steel about him, a slice of the Hassett sense of humour, and the rest is all Steve Smith, Captain of Australia.
Long may he reign.
Robert Macklin has carved out a unique place among Australia’s literary biographers and historians. His Dark Paradise swept aside the curtain of euphemism to expose the horror of colonial sadism on the penal colony of Norfolk Island. His monumental history of Australia’s Special Forces – Warrior Elite – is required reading in the fields of Military Security and Intelligence. His best-selling biography, SAS Sniper revealed as never before the battles against Islamist fanatics. And these are just a few of the highlights among his 28 respected and popular works of fiction and non-fiction.
He has won numerous literary prizes including the 2009 Blake Dawson award for business literature with Peter Thompson for their classic THE BIG FELLA – the Rise and Rise of BHP Billiton. His Kevin Rudd: The Biography was shortlisted for the ACT Book of the Year; and he has won three Critics Circle Awards for his military biographies and histories. He has completed a lecture tour of three Chinese universities based on his works and is presently writing a history of Australia/China relations over the last 200 years.
Queensland born, he has been a journalist at the highest level, a confidant and biographer of two Australian prime ministers; a documentary filmmaker in 32 countries of Asia and the Pacific; and is also political columnist and commentator in the nation’s capital. He presently divides his writing time on fiction, non-fiction and screenplays between Canberra and Tuross Head on the NSW South Coast. http://robertmacklin.com