The resurrection of the Australian bullroarer

Australian Coach Darren Lehmann

Once upon a time, according to a legend in the Australian aborigine folklore, there lived two brothers in a rocky place in the mountains. They were both married, and each man’s wife had a son named Weerooimbrall. One day, they all went hunting with the other members of the tribe, leaving both the sons behind on a small plateau surrounded by rocks. They left under the impression that the children would be safe, only to be proved otherwise.

The boys were sighted by a devious owner of some savage dogs, who was once offended by the fathers of these kids. For him, the chance for vengeance had arrived. He unleashed his beasts at the boys, and by the time he could get a view of the assault, he found the ravenous creatures fighting over the remains of the two mangled bodies.

Upon discovering the soul-destroying truth, the fathers contrived to end the fate of the murderer in the same manner as their children’s. Employing a magic spell, they turned into Kangaroos. They then executed the plan of killing the dogs and their owner, little to their wives’ solace.

Some days post this incident, the younger brother was using his axe to prise a grub from a crevice in a tree trunk when he dislodged a large piece of bark. It hurtled through the air, spinning so quickly that it made a peculiar sound. After much discussion and experiment, the elder brother finally swung another thin piece of wood tied at the end of a cord. It whirled, twirled and cried like a human voice. It was the voice of the Weerooimbrall spirits.

The Bullroarer thus came into existence. It was a sacred instrument that preserved the spirits of the innocent boys who had been killed. As the years went by, it entered into the initiation rites of young men. They were told that the spirits of the Weerooimbralls were present in the bullroarers, sharing the experiences of manhood with them and strengthening them in their ordeal.

Although this story may look like it is of little relevance, I’ve used this rather lengthy preamble in order to signify the never dying spirit that has been deep-rooted in the Australian culture, centuries before cricket even came into existence.

The Australian cricket team has witnessed a massive turnaround of fortunes in the recent months. Rewinding to just about a year ago, they were whitewashed in the 4-match Test series on their tour of India, with many critics touting them as the worst Australian team in the past few decades. What followed was an early exit in the Champions Trophy 2013. The misery continued as they went down 3-0 in the first Ashes series of the 2013-14 season played in the United Kingdom.

As the past decades have witnessed, the Australians proved yet again that you cannot put them out of reckoning for too long. After missing out by a narrow margin in the ODI series against India (3-4), stirring individual performances led them to complete a barely believable 5-0 rampage over England in the second of the back-to-back Ashes series. Any claims of their success being limited to home games was then thrown out of the window as they outplayed the number 1 Test side, that too in their own backyard. It was for the first time in 5 years that South Africa had lost a Test series.

Incidentally, the last team to beat the Proteas in the longer format of the game was also an Australian outfit, which one may refer to as from the previous generation. A lot of their stalwarts had departed from the game and a new unit under Michael Clarke’s leadership was found to be struggling, as is the case with almost every team in transition. Whether the younger generations of players will be able to scale heights like the previous era had been a haunting question.

Apart from the on-field problems, the off-field ones made headlines to highlight the fractious days during the Indian tour. Four players including Shane Watson were suspended for a Test match, as relationships with former coach Mickey Arthur broke down. Reflecting on the atmosphere in the team room, players accepted that the concept of having fun and enjoying the game had been forsaken in pursuing goals that seemingly became less attainable as the team aspired harder to achieve them.

But ever since Darren Lehmann took over, the dressing room appears less tensed. The players are encouraged to be themselves. By adding perspective to the team, Lehmann has ensured to take the quest for victory as a challenge to be enjoyed rather than an all-consuming struggle to be endured. Soon it showed in the form of improved results.

In an interview post the Ashes triumph, Shane Watson spoke gloriously of Lehman. He said, “It’s not just something you stumble across, it’s something that people do put a lot of time and effort in certain ways to be able to make sure that an environment like this is created and that’s the amazing skill that Darren Lehmann has brought in. It really is an absolute pleasure to be a part of, not just the dream of playing cricket for Australia, but to actually be involved in something that is so much fun, that’s the reason I started playing and why I’m playing now.”

It is evident that it required an Australian in the form of Lehmann to arouse the ruthless winning Oz spirit that had gone missing of late. He handed them the bullroarer back again.

The fact that Ryan Harris, bowling with busted knees that required surgery, manufactured two 140kph yorkers in three balls to deny a resolute Proteas lower order gives ample proof of the same. Mitchell Johnson’s late bloom as the ‘intimidator’ and the transformation of David Warner into a grown up individual are amongst many positives that the country’s cricketing circle can be proud of.

As a cricket fan, you never like to see the Kangaroos out of contention. The rebirth of the coldblooded, hard fighting sons of guns is one of the most pleasing sights for many lovers of the game. Surely, a lot can be expected from this team in the coming times.

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