“YOU’RE (AL)RIGHT.” It’s the expression you hear the most in Australia. Those more cliched examples of the Aussie colloquial, “no worries mate’ or even “gidday mate” pale in comparison, in terms of frequency. For Australians, it’s the go-to phrase while responding to anything from an apology to an invite to a request for validation or even a show of gratitude. And you’ll hear it from people of all ages and wherever you go. Of course don’t expect one when you forge ahead in a roundabout without waiting for the oncoming vehicle from the right. No, no that’s the ultimate taboo Down Under.
The country’s most commonly used feel-good expression though unfortunately hasn’t been associated much or used alongside Australian cricket of late, till they turned the corner somewhat on Wednesday night in Delhi. For, little’s been right in recent times, and we aren’t even talking about Cape Town here. Australian cricket stopped being “(al)right” a while before Cameron Bancroft stuck his hand down his pants. The last 12 months have been dominated by all this talk about culture reviews and playing cricket the right way. But the chief reason for the disillusionment around the team has been the fact that those donning the Baggy Green and the canary yellow have stopped doing what they had historically got their partisan fans so used to, winning nearly every match they played. To put their India series win in context – their first since 2017 – who would have imagined to start with an Australian ODI team could go two full years without winning a series? Not many from the last two generations that have grown up watching cricket for sure.
And that’s what makes their back-from-the-dead 3-2 victory so special, maybe even their most significant bilateral ODI series win ever. Never before had an Australian team come back from having gone down 2-0 to win a five-match series. Let’s face it, rarely in the past would they have found themselves in that situation. That it’s come in a World Cup year and without a number of their key players who’ll be in England regardless only adds to the magnitude of Aaron Finch & co’s achievement. All of a sudden, for the first time in six months, the talk around Australian cricket is not when Steve Smith and David Warner will come back but in whose places will they come back in.
It’s the story of a young team who refused to give up when all odds were stacked against them and rallied to conquer uncharted territory – as far this lot go – is what’ll warm the hearts of their fans back home though. That they never gave up is the narrative that will give their beleaguered fans here hope and belief that they might actually live up to their tags of defending champions at the World Cup in two months’ time.
In most scenarios, “you’re (al)right” is an expression that’s self-explanatory and literally stands for “don’t bother”, maybe the closest to “koi nahi” in Hindi. It is also, however, in some ways an ode to the perseverance and the resilience of the Aussie folk and their never-say-die approach, in a sporting arena anyway. It’s an expression that goes much beyond and for many here is a belief that in the end it’ll all be alright. It was a belief that suddenly seemed to have left Australian shores with regards to their cricket team, even if newspapers have continued to carry updates on how many “sleeps” are left before Smith and Warner come back.
The leading cause for that wasn’t quite a piece of sandpaper but the fact that this Australian team had started to surrender and give up way too often. They did so in the UAE after a brief Usman Khawaja-inspired escape in the first Test. They did so in both the Tests and ODIs against India at home. In a rare turn of events, when the going got tough, the Aussies weren’t getting tougher; they were instead waving the white flag and laying down their arms. It’s this change of mindset that has created the disillusionment around Australian cricket in recent times.
By doing what they did in India against some of the most high-profile players the 50-over format has ever seen-or as Khawaja described Virat Kohli, “the best it will ever see” – the Aussies didn’t simply redeem themselves, they rediscovered themselves and their identities. The pitches turned, the boundaries were small, the schedule was hectic, but led by Khawaja and Pat Cummins, the Aussies played like the Aussies of old – even finding a new hero in Ashton Turner at Mohali. They even overcame a mini-collapse in the final ODI – at which point it seemed like we were in for the familiar tone of India somehow recovering in time to guard their citadel once again – to seal their dramatic comeback in style.
It took former opener Matthew Hayden to sum up the mood around Australia about their cricket team before and after the Delhi ODI. And he did so with a lot of emotion on commentary.
“It’s amazing how a sporting field can be famine or feast and it’s been famine for Cricket Australia. The drought has been broken in this country, which is remarkable really when you think about the level of competence from India going into the World Cup as favourites. There has been down and then down with no real significant up. It just goes to show you the courage required to win a series in this country but also to gather and muster the strength without some of your formidable players – your Smiths, your Warners, your Starcs,” he said.
It was also kind of apt that the two men who led the rebound charge for Australia were Khawaja and Cummins. The left-hander, who became only the second batsman after Chris Gayle to record 4 50+ scores in an ODI series on Indian soil, had come off a tumultuous summer both on and off the field. His batting had come under great scrutiny against India and Sri Lanka before he scored an important ton in Canberra. Khawaja would reveal post that knock about just how “tough” the summer had been for him, having had to deal with his brother’s arrest in Sydney.
“My family’s very close to me and I’m very close to my family, so at some level yeah I think it made it tougher to go out and concentrate and execute my skills,” he would say. There was no certainty over his place in the ODI setup either coming into the India series, with many suggesting he could be one of the fall guys once Smith and Warner return. But as it turned out, it was he who dragged his team back from the brink and set up their historic conquest.
Cummins was the one who lifted them all the way up though. If there was one player during the entire Aussie summer who deserved an “you’re (al)right” almost every time he took the field, it was the New South Wales paceman. He after all embodied the very reason Australians play sport and the manner in which they pride themselves on doing so – he played it hard and he played it fair, much like Finch’s victorious team in India. It eventually turned into one of those odd occasions in history when an Australian win was welcomed with smiles and delight around the world – even begrudgingly in India perhaps. For, they’d not only won in style but also done so in a way they’d endeared themselves to the cricket world, and their fans.
There’s still a lot more drama left to come in Australian cricket over the next few months. They’re set to welcome back the Cape Town trio -Smith and Warner in particular – in the UAE in two weeks’ time. They’ll then have to figure a way out of taking them along while keeping their focus on retaining the World Cup, not to forget the Ashes thereafter.
But maybe, just maybe, Australian cricket, for now “you’re (al)right”.