It’s been a weird old start to the summer.
Familiar faces are gone, KFC classic catches is dead (RIP), and the Australian cricket team resembles the type of ragtag bunch of misfits you might see at the start of a Hollywood sports film. Except the speedy improvement montage set to the tune of a Queen anthem is nowhere to be seen.
And while many aspects of cricket in 2018 have changed, nothing has been altered quite so much as team selection. Mateship now must be elite. Honesty now must be elite. And eliteness is now, to be honest, not as important. Where once our national selectors would favour skills – typically batting and bowling – as the prerequisites for getting into the Australian team, 2018 is far more complex.
In one of his first press conferences as coach, Justin Langer emphasised the importance of being a ‘good bloke’. “Character over cover drives,” Langer said.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got or how many games or how many runs – if you’re not a good bloke, that’s what people remember.”
In many ways, Langer couldn’t be further from the truth: Most of our best past players would be given a wide berth at the pub if not for their immense skill at a game we love.
But it got us thinking: Who are the ‘best blokes’ to have pulled on the baggy green? Who are the players that Langer would love in this new culturally enlightened period of Australian cricket? The ones who would mix drinks with relish, delivering the perfect brew with a smile on their dial?
Here is the ultimate Good Bloke XI:
1. Ed Cowan
Straight in, is Ed. Would offer to face the first ball each time, too. An undisputed good bloke who scored a ton of runs and was dudded by the system. Not that you’ll hear him complain about it.
2. Chris Rogers
Wore glasses, arm-guards and a load of zinc. Decidedly ‘ordinary’ in many eyes, but an honest and hard-working bloke who churned out more important knocks than many. Also known to hit the tiles with gusto. Three votes.
3. Simon Katich
Katich copped criticism for how he handled the infamous dressing room stoush with Michael Clarke. For me, it launched him straight into first-drop in the ultimate Good Bloke XI.
4. George Bailey
The self-dubbed ‘Whitewash Wizard’, Bailey is everything we need in Australian cricket right now. Self-aware, enjoys and game, and can have a laugh. Oh, and is responsible for the most famous vision of the 2012-13 Ashes triumph.
5. Mike Hussey
Anyone whose heart isn’t warmed by Mr Cricket’s love for the game is a hardened soul. The guy took kitchen scales on each tour, just so he could weigh each of his bats. Bless.
6. Brad Hodge
Possibly the most unlucky Australian cricketer (alongside Stuart MacGill) ever. Would be a test legend if he was born ten years later. Nevertheless, kept plugging away and finished with a test average of 55. Jokes on you, selectors.
7. Adam Gilchrist (c)
Skipper of the Good Bloke XI. Was such a nice bloke that he once put a squash ball in his gloves to allow the opposition a chance of getting him out. They didn’t, of course.
8. Jason Gillespie
Loved by all who played with/were coached by him. Three things that catapult him straight in: scored a double-ton for a laugh, had a curly mullet, and celebrated batting milestones better than anyone in the game’s history.
9. Andy Bichel
Twelfth man for a record 19 times, Bichel never once cracked the sads. Steve Waugh has even said dropping him continually was one of the hardest things he had to do as captain. Bichel just gritted his teeth and kept delivering gloves and cordial to elite standards.
10. Kerry O’Keefe
The elder statesman of the side. No one takes the mickey out of themselves like Skull. He makes the team on his treasure trove of anecdotes alone.
11. Ryan Harris
A hard-working and affable fast bowler who cared little for the histrionics. Ran in, bowled seam upright, back to the mark. Known to (actually) enjoy a beer with the opposition, too.