Allan Border recently told our Test cricketers to embrace the "Australian way", an ambiguity he defined as playing "tough but fair cricket".
"You finished? Good. Now f*** off," Border told me when I interviewed him, rather innocuously, I thought, on a Gold Coast golf course in the early 1990s. He then turned to a handful of his suitably amused Australian teammates, standing on the first tee, to be rewarded for his arbitrary nastiness.
A few years earlier, in 1989, Border captained Australia to a shock 4-0 Ashes series win in England, employing a new enhanced aggression based on his belief that he would "rather win games and be seen as a prick" than stay the nice-guy losers he considered Australia at the time, said his then teammate, Merv Hughes, in the 2017 documentary Forged in Fire: Cricket's Greatest Rivalry.
The awakening saw Australia emerge from the miasma of the 1980s – including one win in 20 Tests and none at all in 14 matches in the mid '80s – and ushered in a golden age of Australian cricket, as Border’s captain successors, messrs Taylor, Waugh and then Ponting, adopted his blueprint.
It was a blueprint that led to unprecedented success. But it also established Australia as the longstanding pricks of international cricket – their ruthlessness marrying potently with rare talent, and morphing, shamefully, into the ball-tampering scandal.
In August, Border told foxsport.com.au this: “The first thing I’d be addressing is that we play the Australian way and get back on track there. Yes, we want to get back to playing tough, uncompromising cricket, but there’s a spirit of play in the game. Australian teams have always done that really well – tough cricket but fair. Maybe we’ve got a little bit away from that in the past.”
Some would argue that Australia often betrayed the spirit of the game over a lengthy period, as Sharda Ugra, senior editor of ESPNcricinfo, posited in an article in March, when he wrote: "Don't mean to be intemperate or rude or politically incorrect, but why is it that whenever there is an epic-proportion bust-up in international cricket, Australians are almost always involved?"
In the wake of the ball-tampering affair, and under the leadership of new captain Tim Paine and new coach Justin Langer, Australia began their two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE on Sunday, with Paine promising that sledging would be outlawed under his leadership.
In April, he said: "I think there's always a time and a place to talk to your opposition. But I think what's said and how it's said will be very different going forward."
As with Border all those years ago, Paine inherited one of Australia's weakest ever sides. However, the players under his watch presumably won't greet a “hello” from opponents with an expletive, a tactic adopted by Border's team in the triumphant 1989 Ashes series.
Border’s creation turned into a monster – Frankenwarner. What will become of Paine's? Kim Hughes-esque?