PAUL FARBRACE said after the Headingley Test that England could learn much from New Zealand.
The England coach was talking about the way that New Zealand play the game, which is unfailingly positive and relentlessly aggressive.
Throughout the contest, the Kiwis scored at just under five runs an over and treated the crowd to some rich entertainment.
Granted, that type of approach does not always work, but, when it does, it is something to behold.
Now that the dust has settled on the two-match series, which finished 1-1 and left most people wishing that there could have been a decisive third Test instead of the drudgery of a five-match one-day series that starts on Tuesday, I would contend that all countries in fact, could learn much from New Zealand.
I am not referring to the way the Kiwis play the game tactically, which is clearly the ideal way if you have good enough players and can pull off that policy, but the spirit in which they play the game.
In a few weeks’ time, the Australians will arrive on these shores to contest the main course of the summer – the Ashes.
Like New Zealand, they are brilliantly led, skillfully coached, and play an exciting brand of attacking cricket.
Unlike New Zealand, they do so while too often behaving in a manner that is puerile and emblematic of everything wrong with modern professional sport.
The spirit of cricket to which Australia captain Michael Clarke so movingly referred at the funeral of his friend Phillip Hughes last year is the same spirit of cricket to which Clarke himself has rarely adhered.
Can you imagine the New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum telling a player to “get ready for a broken f****** arm” as Clarke did to James Anderson in the 2013-14 Ashes series – a cretinous, cowardly comment as he prepared to face the fastest bowler on the planet, and one heard by thousands of impressionable children on television?
Clarke has been brought up in a cricketing culture that has a pretty warped understanding of the term “spirit of cricket”, as has most of his side, the Australian coaching staff, and, indeed, English players such as Anderson, whose own antics have been a disgraceful blight on the international game for some time now.
Anderson is a magnificent bowler and England’s leading wicket-taker in Test cricket, but he is also someone apparently bereft of any notion as to the true nature of sportsmanship as shown by McCullum and the New Zealand team, something he proved, incidentally, when he relentlessly sledged Yorkshire’s Joe Sayers at Liverpool a few years back in a typically class-less attack.
Returning to Australia, who are by no means the only culprits in this era of personal abuse camouflaged as banter, the likes of Clarke, David Warner, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc have done the game a great disservice, and yet there are few people within the game who have the power to act who would be brave enough to stand up to them or to tell them that straight.
The idea that you can only play hard and fair and, crucially, be successful at the same time by hurling abuse at the opposition and posturing and gesturing in the face of equally pathetic umpiring is absurd.
McCullum and his men have proved it, and, in the process, taught everyone a lesson.