For the past 20 years, it is as if the Australian cricket team has embarked on a campaign to alienate as many fans as possible.
Much of it can be boiled down to the three S’s: sandpaper, sledging and sex.
The most recent indiscretion was offered up by former captain Tim Paine, whose use of a mobile phone to send illicit pictures to a co-worker four years ago led to his resignation on the eve of the Australian summer.
Whatever your opinion of Paine’s behaviour, one thing we can all agree on is that it was deeply embarrassing. The lion’s share of this humiliation was inflicted by Paine on himself and his family. But it is also felt by the supporters as well.
The first reaction for many people when the news broke in the tabloid newspapers was ‘really, Tim Paine of all players?’.
He was supposed to be the cleanskin, the well-spoken guy who gave off the vibes of a fit stockbroker who runs half-marathons.
But then the cynic’s view took over and it all made sense: this is a pattern of behaviour.
Shane Warne, who once relied on leg spinning heroics to balance the ledger of his off-field antics (see: ‘John’ the bookie; the diet pills), was sacked as vice-captain more than 20 years ago after he bombarded a nurse with sexual phone calls.
In recent years, there was the sandpaper affair. The shame of that brazen cheating involving Steven Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner hardly needs revisiting but it was yet another moment that transformed champions into anti-heroes.
Before 80-grit abrasive was applied to the ball, Australia made its reputation for being equally abrasive on the field. Steve Waugh, considered one of the great captains, was known for perfecting the art of “mental disintegration” — a polite euphemism for sledging players with abuse.
It was part of his philosophy of hard-nosed cricket that had begun during the Allan Border era, as easy-going cricketers became stone-cold terminators.
His successors, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, carried on this aggression, sometimes to the point of farce. Clarke once told England’s Jimmy Anderson, a fast bowler batting at number 11, to get ready for a “broken f—ing arm” when facing the speed of Mitchell Johnson.
Much of this was forgiven when the team won but often the hostility fostered arrogance. Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin justified sledging New Zealand in the World Cup because they were “too nice”.
Some fans might also take issue with another ‘S’, selection. Players in poor form were given too many chances and those with strong records (hello, Brad Hodge) were given none.
There is now a new captain in charge, with Pat Cummins taking over from Paine. I have high hopes for him but worry that he has so much work to do to restore pride in his team.
The return of Smith as vice captain is too soon for some who recall his shocking leadership in South Africa.
This summer brings an Ashes series, which turns my feelings of antipathy on its head.
While I will happily cheer for New Zealand, Pakistan or the West Indies, England is one team I can’t support.
It is the perfect time for Australia to win some of us back.