The frog hesitated when the scorpion asked for a ride across the river.

"Relax," said the arachnid, "if I sting you we'll both drown."

Halfway across the river, the scorpion strikes.

"WTF?" thinks the frog as it falls into paralysis before they're both flushed downstream towards certain death.


The moral of this story is a bleak one: something that is fundamentally cruel will remain so because it is in their nature, even if it is ultimately self-destructive.

As far as we know, this little tale has never been picked up by a stump mic, but it nevertheless serves as a neat parable to the Australian cricket team.

Ask the question as to why the likes of David Warner and Nathan Lyon would act like jerks when all it was going to do was drown out a celebrated win away from home against a tough rival and the answer is the same as to why the scorpion bit the frog.

They don't know any other way. On the rare occasions Australia attempt to modify their behaviour they start to struggle in other parts of their game so quickly revert to type.

Former wicketkeeper Brad Haddin drunkenly confessed this after the 2015 World Cup final when admitting they had been sucked into being too nice to New Zealand during pool play. It didn't suit them. So they dialled up the aggro and didn't think twice about making Daniel Vettori's last memory in international cricket an earful as he walked from the MCG.

Australia aren't the only runners in the Infantile Stakes. South Africa are chippy, the England of Anderson, Broad & Stokes have learned to be. The subcontinental sides create cicada-like cacophonies of chirping around visiting batsmen, while the West Indies were openly hostile in their pomp.

For a time in the late-90s and early-00s, the Black Caps sledged with embarrassing regularity in the futile hope that acting like Australians would translate to playing more like them.

But no team has taken the verbiage to such noxious levels as Australia. They have thrived on conflict since the days of "The Demon" Spofforth, who gave the good doctor WG Grace cricket's first recorded send-off when bowling him for a duck in 1878.

(Having listened to what passes for parliamentary debate in Australia, you could mount a compelling argument that sledging is the national discourse.)

The hard-bitten approach permeates its way through all levels in Australia. It acts as a reverse filter. The purity, for want of a better term, is sucked out of the game level by level and what you're left with is, often, not just the best players, but the grimiest.

Or, as Daniel Brettig, an Australian cricket journalist wrote from Durban: "Like a family heirloom, the concept of verbal hostility on the field of play is passed from one generation of Australian cricketers to the next."

Even their most cerebral and celebrated modern cricket writer, the peerless Gideon Haigh, is a frequent defender of verbal abuse. During a particularly cantankerous Ashes series of 2013, he wrote: "Cricket is a game replete with aggressive acts… If some excess of belligerence is decanted off verbally, should we be in the least surprised?"

Apart from the fact this paints a pessimistic picture of humanity - subtext: grown men are by nature violent so better they use words as weapons than, you know, actual weapons - nobody, to answer his question, is in the least surprised. This crass behaviour has been tolerated and even celebrated for so long we normalised it. It's just harmless banter (it's not, it's often cruel), it's witty (it's not, mostly puerile) and it's just part of the game (no, it's mindless crap). We're even less are surprised when Australia are the protagonists.

Presciently, Haigh noted in the same piece that David Warner could be a "tit" but apparently a perversely endearing one if you're in the same team as him.

Warner is a great player. Whenever Australia bat first in a test, the opening session is appointment viewing. About the biggest compliment I can offer is that I believe he is a better player than another couple of left-handed loudmouths, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.

But that's not how he's going to be remembered outside Australia.

That CCTV footage that saw him restrained as he tried to confront the cherub-faced, arsenic-tongued Quinton de Kock, shone an infrared light onto his ugliness.

You're forced to ask: Why would such a great player, such a wonderful entertainer, behave in such a self-destructive, ugly manner?

It's in his nature.


Greg Hay last week joined a select group of New Zealanders. When he made a match-winning unbeaten ton for Central Districts in their win against Otago, he joined a small club who have scored 10 first-class centuries and have never played a test.

At a rough count, there're only five currently playing: Otago's Brad Wilson (14) and Anaru Kitchen (10), Wellington's Stephen Murdoch (12) and Luke Woodcock (10), and now Hay.

As for which New Zealander has historically scored the most first-class centuries without playing a test, I can't find anybody higher than Michael Parlane's 15, though Francis Payne may be able to put me right on that. Incidentally, Parlane's younger brother Neal also notched 12 without getting within cooey of a black cap.


Last week, I wrote this. This week, it was pointed out I have an ally in the president of Germany's Football Association, Reinhard Grindel.

"The biggest competition to kids coming to our sports clubs is not handball or basketball but the use of digital equipment. That is absolute impoverishment," Grindel told reporters. "Sport plays a social function and this happens in the community. With sport you have direct contact with those you play... For me esp***s is not sports."

Well said, Reinhard.


Many people have perversely enjoyed the apparent downfall of cycling's sanctimonious Team Sky. This is both a shame and the right thing to do. Any team who professes to be "cleaning up" something while finding new ways to get dirty deserves derision, but fans of that great sport should also feel sad that, again, it appears the only way to get to the top of the hill faster than others is to take unethical shortcuts.

The British papers, many of them behind a paywall, have wrestled with this dilemma all week. The Guardian's cartoonist neatly captured the dichotomy between Sir Roger Bannister and Sir Bradley Wiggins in this drawing. Their leader writer tackled the big question: what is the point of sport? Richard Williams tackles the dilemma faced when your fandom makes you question your judgement.