With the Ashes, Aussies have again proved to be bad losers. If they can't even win at cricket... just what is the point of Australia?

Australian captain Ricky Ponting trudges off after being bowled by England's Tim Bresnan on day three of the Fourth Ashes Test match in Melbourne

Australian captain Ricky Ponting trudges off after being bowled out on day three of the Fourth Ashes Test match in Melbourne

It is very hard this morning not to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for the Australians. It is not so much that we can beat them resoundingly at cricket on their own soil and are set to retain the Ashes without breaking even the semblance of a sweat, as the sad fact that until we took it away from them, cricket was all they had.

During the past 20-odd years of total Australian cricketing domination, I have longed to turn over the world order and smash them to pieces. But now that we have done it I feel like a parent who has taken a toy away from a noisy child out of pure irritation, and now looks down upon the poor, witless, illiterate blob and feels a bit guilty.

For now that we have taken cricket away, what does Australia have left? Certainly not rugby. England won the World Cup in their country in 2003 and then smashed them last month at Twickenham, while their rugby league team is continually beaten by New Zealand.

They don’t play soccer with any seriousness and nobody else plays Aussie Rules, so we have no way of telling how good they are at that.

Probably rubbish.

They have no art or literature worth speaking of, they barely even have an ozone layer any more, so you can’t go outdoors in daylight without a radiation suit. And now that Crocodile Dundee has been collared for failing to pay his taxes (Paul Hogan currently owes nearly £22million) they don’t even have a film industry.

The best Australia can offer in reply to Shakespeare and Dickens at the moment are the TV soap operas Neighbours and Home And Away — both of which have been relegated to Channel Five.

When a nation’s entire contribution to elevated discourse between adults comes down to a box set of The Sullivans you have to worry.

They used to have a bit of pop music, it’s true, but Kylie Minogue has pretty much retired, her sister Dannii is made out of plastic and prefers television panel shows, and Jason Donovan has about as much chance of making a comeback as Michael Hutchence.

You look at the wider Australian cultural scene and you are forced to ask: ‘What have you got when Rolf goes?’

But it’s sport that defines this incipient nation. The Australian way of life is so throbbingly macho that sport has become the focus of all their self-worth.

Australian cultural offering number one: Crocodile Dundee, aka Paul Hogan, who owes £22m in taxes

Australian cultural offering number one: Crocodile Dundee, aka Paul Hogan, who owes £22m in taxes

Once upon a time if they lost a sporting contest they could at least go home and beat up the wife. But now that’s frowned upon even in Australia, where the advent of their first woman Prime Minister has thrown all the old certainties up in the air.

They had barely got used to ‘blackfellas’ — as they once so charmingly called Aborigines — being allowed to vote, and suddenly there’s a Sheila in charge.

The one place an Aussie man knew where he stood was on the cricket field. And Australian cricketing dominance over the past 20 years has been based on a very macho approach to the game.

There was no craft or wit or delicacy to their game. Their batsmen were giant armoured gladiators reminiscent of the Roman Coliseum, each one indistinguishable from the next, a procession of vast brutal men in masks, white zinc warpaint across nose and lips, swaggering out to the wicket, their jutting jaws as big and square as supermarket shopping trolleys, endlessly chewing at a rock of gum the size of a tennis ball.

Audtralian cultural contribution number two: Almost retired pop icon Kylie Minogue

Audtralian cultural offering number two: Almost retired pop icon Kylie Minogue

And then biff, baff, biff, baff: no art, no careful construction of an innings, just murder. Just slapping at the ball as if beating an intruder one has found rummaging in one’s beer cupboard.

Shane Warne was a genius, admittedly, and the greatest spin bowler the world has known.

But most of his appeal was about the way he imposed his personality, his very maleness, on the game, like a bully in the playground. He took the art of spin bowling, previously a delicate thing (the preserve of ­elegant and thoughtful men such as Jim Laker, and, as it happens, me) and made it into a sledgehammer, all bravado and muscle and ‘sledging’ (the charming Australian practice of inquiring, after each delivery, if the batsman can vouch for the sexual fidelity of his wife or mother).

In the good old days, bowlers used to appeal to the umpire with a ‘how was that?’ which was shortened over time to ‘Howzat?’ or ‘Howzee?’.

It was the Aussies in general and Shane Warne in particular who turned that time-honoured appeal first into ‘Aaaaaaaargh?’ and then dropped the interrogative element altogether so that upon striking the batsmen’s leg with the ball they simply cry ‘Aaaaaaaaaargh!!!’ like a caveman flinging himself upon an antelope.

What was once a polite inquiry between gentlemen has been changed by Australian moronacy into a preliterate howl of rage and hunger.

Now, that kind of preening and swaggering is all very well when you are winning. But the Australians are now being beaten like dogs by an England team that is itself still three or four players short of being ‘world-class’. Beaten like mangy, stinking, girly dogs.

Warne himself is present at the cricket ground only as a giant face on an advertising hoarding, partially obscured by a Big Mac — whoring his soul in front of his bullwhipped former team-mates for American fast-food bucks.

And then on top of that he lends his name to baldness remedies (in short, cosmetics) and exchanges misspelt flirty messages on Twitter with belle Elizabeth Hurley.

What's left when he goes? Rolf Harris

What's left when he goes? Rolf Harris

Not that the current Australian captain, that dot-eyed midget Ricky Ponting, is any better.

Amid stiff competition (mostly from his ­countrymen), he is without doubt the world’s worst loser, and forfeited a significant proportion of his match fee for ungentlemanly conduct this week — which he’s had to do in Test matches several times before. But all Australians are bad losers, which is surprising really, considering how much losing they now do.

Perhaps they will improve. Perhaps they will become nicer people.

There is no reason why they shouldn’t. It is not an open and shut colonial thing.

New Zealanders are painfully polite and terribly gracious in defeat. And even the South Africans, once a pretty scary bunch, are as quiet as lambs these days.

I suppose it is because they have been chastened by the years of shame over apartheid and are now just desperate to be liked, in a way that Australians (who have done so little to atone for their own racist sins against the country’s aboriginal population) simply are not.

So let’s not feel bad about the drubbing we have dished out to Australia this Christmas. Let’s be glad we have given them the chance to set aside their sporting dreams, to look deep into their hearts, and to think about becoming better people. Much as it is against our British nature to do so, we must gloat. For the more we gloat, the more we can help the Australians to improve themselves.

I only wish I had the sort of job that brought me into contact with lots of Australians I could gloat over. But I’m a bit old to be a barman.


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