Australian-bashing is the last great exception to English political correctness — the Cricket World Cup and Ashes promises to be long and cruel

IT is the last great bastion of political incorrectness.

In an age where most right-minded people agree that is wholly unacceptable to abuse people on the basis of their nationality, there is still one glaring exception. Australians.

Australian cricketers, in particular.

Steve Smith and David Warner are not going to be popular when the World Cup starts
Rex Features
Sandpapegate cracked the ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ facade of Steve Smith
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And cheating Australian cricketers, especially.

In a World Cup warm-up match at Southampton today, Steve Smith and David Warner face England for the first time since serving one-year bans for their roles in the ‘Sandpapergate’ scandal.

For many of the next 115 days, until The Ashes series finishes at The Oval on September 16, cricket’s answer to Dastardly and Muttley will be appearing on English grounds.

They might as well be put in the stocks.

Mocking and abusing Aussie cricketers is nothing new.

The great Shane Warne was always a target, not that it ever harmed him.

Fast bowler Mitchell Johnson was a figure of great mirth, until he exacted brutal revenge by spearheading Australia’s 2013-14 Ashes whitewash.

And Warner has had a target on his back since he punched a baby-faced Joe Root in a Birmingham bar in 2013.

When we transported all those convicts across the globe, they clearly took the glibness genes with them.

Dave Kidd

This is a two-way street, of course.

Pommie cricketers have been hammered Down Under since the days of Douglas Jardine, the evil genius behind Bodyline.

Jardine believed ‘all Australians are an uneducated and unruly mob’ and would not have changed his opinion had he witnessed some of their treatment of Stuart Broad in recent years.

Yet this summer the level of acrimony will be raised because the barrackers have morality on their side.

The impact of ‘Sandpapergate’ on the Australian public consciousness was difficult to over-estimate — with erstwhile Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull even piling in.

It wasn’t just that captain Smith and vice-captain Warner — two of the world’s greatest batsmen — admitted to facilitating the ball-tampering carried out by Cameron Bancroft in a Test against South Africa in Cape Town in March 2018.

It was the spotlight this shone on the rotten culture of a team loathed by rivals, including the English, for its warped sense of machismo.

Not least the self-gratifying jibber-jabber about the mythical behavioural ‘line’ which the Aussies would ‘headbutt’ but never over-step.

This has now been replaced by talk of ‘elite mateship’.

When we transported all those convicts across the globe, they clearly took the glibness genes with them.

Warner has had a target on his back ever since he punched Joe Root in a Birmingham bar in 2013
Getty Images – Getty

The sandpaper scandal arose little more than two months after Smith’s Aussies had completed a thumping 4-0 victory over England to regain The Ashes.

And there was close to zero sympathy within English ranks — especially not for Warner, loathed for his crass sledging and regarded as an absolute shocker of a bloke.

Smith had enjoyed a far more wholesome public image but England’s cricketers weren’t fooled by his ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ facade.

Many England players believed the Aussies had been ball-tampering during The Ashes as well — a suspicion which was never proved.

Smith and Warner, now stripped of their officer’s stripes and back in the ranks, spent a year playing grade cricket, doing plenty for charity and trying to redeem themselves with the Aussie public — with much success.

But English crowds will not be so forgiving, and are likely to be as abrasive as sandpaper itself.

It promises to be a long, cruel summer.

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