Steve Smith and David Warner are leading defending champion Australia's campaign in the World Cup. Besides taking on the world's bowlers determined to dislodge them, they also have to cope with the âboosâ of the English crowd that has not forgotten or forgiven them for their transgressions of the laws of the game in allowing tampering of the ball. They were banned for a yearÂ and back in the thick of action, guiding Australia to victory against the host and World Cup favourite England in a warm-up game.
Smith has shrugged off the booing by the crowd as âwhite noiseâ and âwater off a duck's backâ after his century guided Australia to victory over England. He was booed not only when he went in to bat but also whenever he passed landmarks like a half century and then the century. âEveryone's entitled to their opinion and how they want to treat people,â Smith said.
Compare this to the warm reception the Australian cricketers got in India as they made their T20 comeback in the IPL. They were made to feel at home and, in fact, tears were shed when Warner played his last IPL game for the Sunrisers before having to leave for home to join the Australian team's preparations for the Wold Cup.
Smith said both he and Warner, his deputy in the Cape Town Test last year, had been welcomed back warmly by their Australian teammates. âIt's like we never left in a way. I know I've got the support of my team-mates up on the balcony and for me that's the most important thing. If I can make them proud out in the middle and make Australians proud as much as I can then that's my job.â
When the left-handed opener stepped on to the field on Saturday in Southampton, England, one fan shouted: âGet off Warner you cheat.â
But competing loyalties ware also in play as the few chants of âcheat, cheat, cheatâ, were met by a lone Australia fan who shouted âGet 'em Stevie!â when Smith wasÂ making his century in the match.
It is different in India where the heroes of the public remain so when they are in jail like some of our political leaders. As for sportsmen, they are adored and quickly forgiven even if they have crossed the ethical line some time. Fans have shown their adulation towards cricketing icons who were even banned for life for indulging in such crimes against sport as match and spot-fixing.
Smith dismissed the chants saying they were just white noise that a sportsman does not allow to disturb his concentration at the crease or on the field.
Warner, who needed extensive family support during the ball tampering crisis, was seen at his best for Hyderabad Sunrisers whose fans cried as he had to leave the IPL early when the team was just short of qualifying for the playoffs.
There was support for the Australian duo from the likes of former England captain Michael Vaughan who warned England fans that the English are better than booing the Aussies all summer.