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Australian captain Steve Smith fails the test of leadership with behaviour against New Zealand

Look, I grant you, it was not the most cringeworthy moment of Australian sport in the last 12 months, for the yellow jersey in that crowded field is still held by Nick Kyrgios, well out in the lead, muttering at Stan Wawrinka, at a time the Swiss champion was cleaning the court with him: "Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend, sorry to tell you that mate."

All of us were sometime in therapy on that'un​, knowing we shared the same nationality as the one who uttered the epithet, and that in many ways our whole country was being judged by the sheer brattishness of one of our junior members.

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Australians furious at third umpire

Josh Hazelwood and Steve Smith give the umpires a verbal spray after an LBW appeal goes against Australia during the second cricket test against New Zealand.

But, and I mean this, the events in Christchurch in the second Test on Tuesday ran it close.

As if you didn't know, a stink erupted when the Australian fast bowler Josh Hazlewood thought he had Kiwi batsman Kane Williamson plumb LBW, only for the the umpire, Ranmore Martinesz to give him not out. The Australian captain, Steve Smith, decides to send an appeal "upstairs," to the third umpire, Richard Illingworth, who spooled through the footage back and forth until our noses bled.

He continued to do so, while we watched on live television and saw what he saw. Hot spot showed, beyond any doubt, that Williamson had nicked the ball before it hit his pads. The third umpire gave his decisions to onfield umpire Martinesz, who confirmed his decision accordingly:  "Not out."

So far, so straightforward?

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The Australians appeal to the third umpire, meaning the decision has passed from the hands – and the index finger – of the onfield umpire? That gentleman uses modern technology, and his own expertise, to give the verdict that the onfield umpire's decision was correct? So everyone shut the hell up then, and get on with the game, just like we were all raised? You know, the match official is there to do a job, and though you might not agree, it is inimical to the interests of the game, and bad sportsmanship to boot, to carry on about it? All on board for all stations to The Bleeding Obvious? Next stops: Common Sense, Because Mum Said, and Tantrums Are Tedious.

Nuh. Not our blokes. Derailed the whole thing.

Representing Australia, enough of them carried on like pork chops you could sell them as a meat tray on a Friday night pub raffle, and be rushed off your feet. Have a look at the footage. 

First the Australian captain strongly remonstrates with the ump, possibly to the point of swearing, as is claimed – as if the ump has anything to do with it at all, which he doesn't, and as if that is acceptable behaviour, which it isn't. Then Hazlewood barrels in, and asks, as the cameras roll – and the Australian cricket team makes a break from the pack and heads out after the yellow jersey – "Who the f--- is the third umpire?"

Former Kiwi Test player Mark Richardson in the commentary box nailed it: "I'm sorry, but that's intolerable. There's a few players out there that need to come to the realisation they do the playing, not the umpiring."

Exactly. Even as they left the field for lunch, Hazlewood was still going on with it, yelling abuse at New Zealand batsman Corey Anderson.

 At the limit, Hazlewood just might be given some allowance, as it is not consistent with his pattern of behaviour. Fellow fast bowler Jackson Bird, however, backed by some former players was quick to spot the problem. Of course, the on-field microphones!

For them, the problem was not that our blokes behaved like spoiled brats, nor that they showed a shocking lack of base-level respect for crickets, its traditions, its officials. No, the problem was the microphones.

I disagree.

It is you, Australian captain, Steve Smith. You set the tone, and the others follow you.

Mate, we expect better from you.

You were meant to be the start of a new era, remember? And your job there was to tell Hazlewood to pull his damn head in, and others to settle down.

"I think we're at our best when we play a good, hard, aggressive brand of cricket," you wrote in a column a fortnight ago. "I think there's a line there that we don't want to cross, and we know where that is."

If carrying on like that at an umpire who doesn't even have the right to make the decision you are protesting is not across the line, what the hell is? Smacking him one?

The point is, if any of us were coaching an under-10 side or an under-17 school side who carried on like that, the whole damn lot of them would be sent to the principal's office. But what an excuse they would have now: the Australian side does it, so why can't we?

And yes, I see that right as this column goes to press, you've apologised, after facing a fine for dissent, saying "I need to be better as a leader; I need to set the example. That wasn't good enough."

That really is something, and good on you. But geez, Louise. No more please. The outgoing Kiwi captain himself, Brendon McCullum, has been giving you credit for ushering in a new era of decent behaviour. You could do worse than follow his lead on sportsmanship, as the Kiwis under his command have been notable for it.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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