Australia’s horror U19 Cricket World Cup campaign has continued, with opening batsman Jake Fraser-McGurk returning home after being scratched on the face by a monkey.
The three-week tournament has been a nightmare for the young Australian squad, with scandals on and off the pitch. For this first time in 12 years, Australia failed to qualify for the semi finals, having successfully done so in their previous four U19 Cricket World Cups.
Tied in with claims of causal racism, physical confrontations on the pitch, diamond ducks and social media abuse campaigns, it’s been a forgettable tour for the teenagers.
Watch LIVE coverage of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup & over 50 other sports on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
The monkey incident occurred while the Australian squad were on a team outing at a nature reserve in Kimberly, South Africa, following their win against England last Thursday.
After consulting family members and medical staff, Fraser-McGurk was sent home six days after the monkey encounter took place.
Jake Fraser-McGurk batting against India on Tuesday.Source:Twitter
Alex Kountouris, the CA sports science and sports medicine manager, was confident Fraser-McGurk would be available for selection again soon.
“We want to make sure that Jake doesn’t have any ongoing medical concerns as a result of the incident, so we have taken the best course of action,” he said.
“This involves the player returning to Australia for the treatment required within the recommended seven days of the incident taking place.
“We expect Jake will be available for selection shortly after he has completed the treatment.”
Fraser-McGurk made his first-class debut for Victoria last November at age 17, plundering his maiden Sheffield Shield half century.
At the World Cup, Fraser-McGurk was Australia’s second highest run scorer, with 118 runs from four innings.
“You never like to be leaving the boys with the tournament still in progress, but I’m confident we have the team to get the job done in the final two matches,” he said.
“I guess it serves me right for getting too close to the animal enclosure. That’s a lesson learned.”
Not invading the personal space of a wild animal wasn’t the only “lesson learnt” from Fraser-McGurk’s time in South Africa.
On Saturday, Fraser-McGurk posted a photo on Instagram ahead of Australia’s must-win quarterfinal against India.
The teenager was shown executing a pristine backfoot cover drive behind a Getty Images watermark, the caption reading, “Quarterfinals, here we come!”
Many of the Fraser-McGurk’s teammates in South Africa posted comments in broken English, clearly imitating Indian fans.
All rounder Ollie Davies posted, “Sir great player, big fan and will play for India one day.”
Teammate Liam Scott replied, “Sir, give me whatsapp number I want to be friend.”
The U19 Australian players commenting on Fraser-McGurk's Instagram postSource:Twitter
What was intended as a harmless joke was perceived by many to be casual racism. Indian cricket fans were quick to screenshot the insensitive comments, hundreds of images shared across social media, calling out the young Australians.
Their comments were deleted the next day, possibly after the Cricket Australia PR team took notice — but the damage was done. Countless Indian Twitter accounts were labelling the Australia U19 players as “racists”.
English wicketkeeper Jos Buttler and New Zealand spin bowler Ish Sodhi had previously been slammed for similar comments.
Jos Buttler and Ish Sodhi have since deleted these comments.Source:Twitter
This season, we have witnessed two high-profile cricketers use homophobic slurs during a professional match, and now a team of national representatives taking part in “casual racism” online. Yet the most significant punishment was handed down to Emily Smith, who copped a one-year ban for sharing the Hobart Hurricanes WBBL batting line-up before a cancelled T20 match.
When Australia’s U19 team walked onto Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on Tuesday, it was immediately evident the young Indian team had seen their comments. They were fired up, eager for the contest.
Needing early wickets, India could not have hoped for a better start to Australia’s run chase in the second innings. Star batsman Fraser-McGurk was run out for a diamond duck off the first ball of the innings attempting a suicidal single. It was a farcical and embarrassing start to any run chase.
It would also ultimately be his last innings of the tournament.
Next in was skipper Mackenzie Harvey, a Big Bash player with experience at state level for Victoria. After smashing a classy boundary, the 19-year-old was struck on the pad, given out LBW for four.
The Indian team went wild. They had cut off the head of Australia’s XI, and were showing no remorse.
The next delivery, Lachlan Hearne — one of the players who contributed to the comments section a few days earlier — walked to the crease. He completely missed a straight yorker attempting a hesitant short-armed swipe, and Australia were 3/4 after five balls.
Kartik Tyagi claimed 4/24 in a Player of the Match performanceSource:Getty Images
With each wicket, India’s celebrations grew more aggressive. They were angry, and weren’t afraid to offer a few words of advice for their opponents.
The Indian players unsuccessfully appealed for obstructing the field when opening batsman Sam Fanning held up his had to a cricket ball while out of his crease. The umpires refused to award a wicket despite a multitude of appeals from the Indians.
Fanning soon lost his temper, bumping shoulders with bowler Akash Singh while running between wickets. It was deliberate act of poor sportsmanship and pettiness, stoking the flames in Potchefstroom.
In the end, Australia’s batsmen crumbled to be bowled out for 159. The Indian viewers at home had not forgotten their Instagram comments either — screenshots were posted to Twitter after India’s victory, captions encouraging Indian fans to visit the player’s Instagram pages and make their voices heard.
A tidal wave of abuse flooded the Australian’s social media accounts after the final wicket fell. Thousands of comments from Indian supporters were posted to their Instagram pages, a relentless barrage of mockery.
The abuse was at times witty and sarcastic — other times crude and homophobic. It was a continuous, unending stream of hate.
Many comments labelled the Australians “racists”. Others mimicked their earlier posts, “Sir sir sir.”
It was a PR nightmare for the future stars of Australian cricket. Comments were frantically deleted and flagged, but the speed in which they were removed was nowhere near fast enough. Dozens of abusive messages popped up with every refresh.
Some of Australia’s cricketers disabled comments on posts, others gave up completely and made their accounts private. You could only imagine the multitude of direct messages they received as well.
Fraser-McGurk’s Instagram profile copped most of the onslaught. He eventually had no choice but to disable all comments on his photos — even a high school formal picture, where he is seated alongside a male comrade, was receiving homophobic comments and replies.
As of Wednesday evening, nobody can comment on any photo from any Instagram account of the Australian U19 squad. Whether this was a command from Cricket Australia or decided among the players remains unknown.
We have recently witnessed four Australians step away from cricket due to mental health concerns. Two of them — Will Pucovski and Sophie Molineux — were younger than 22 years of age.
When considering the avalanche of online abuse these young athletes received, it’s no wonder mental health is one of the growing concerns for Australian cricketers.
Sam Fanning batting against India in the U19 Cricket World Cup.Source:Getty Images
Harvey and his teammates in South Africa are still young — many of them can’t legally order a beer. Their insensitive comments will hopefully become a forgotten blip in an otherwise successful career.
As shown by Steve Smith, David Warner and Marcus Stoinis, runs can solve any PR crisis.
But hopefully the Australian squad have learnt a valuable lesson from their trip to South Africa, apart from don’t get too friendly with the animals.
Australia’s U19 side will take on either Afghanistan or Pakistan on Sunday in the Super League playoff semi-finals.
— with AAP