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A World War in Cricket?

by Sunil J

I wasted my last two days at work reading the updates from down under. Bad umpiring, bad sportsmanship?, thrilling game of cricket and practically a war breaking out.

It all started when bad umpiring robbed India from drawing the series and breaking the Australian winning streak. We will never know whether India would have won the match or not, but it is certain that India could have at least drawn the match. Let us be fair and give credit where it is due. Australia is a great team, and it has won practically everywhere, and winning against them is the ultimate satisfaction any team can have.

During their previous winning streak, they had defeated all other test playing nation before their run was stopped by the Indian team. I am not trying to belittle any other team, but it is true that only the Indian team has the ability raise their game to an unbelievable level to win against the Australians even when they are at their best. It is true that we can win or fail against any team. I am sure that the Australians are also aware of this.

You may say that as an Indian fan, I would always support my team. That is true, but not at the cost of being honest. Did the Australians forget to be gentlemen? Yes they did, if you look at the fact that they left the decision making for the umpires and then made it difficult for them. If the game was truly being played by gentlemen, then umpires would be needed only for trivial decisions like no balls, wides and for important decisions like close run outs, LBWs etc and that is the reason why umpires decisions are final. The game used to be played by gentlemen who accepted responsibility, but not anymore. These days it is all about crushing the opposition, even if they have to bend the rules to the point of breaking.

Let us be fair again, there were no gentlemen playing in the last test. The only known walker in either team is Gilchrist, but even he left the high moral ground when he was behind the wicket. No one in the Indian team would have complained if the bad decisions had gone their way.

Yet there is a difference between the two teams. Indians were the better of two evils and if not for the Harbhajan losing his cool, about which we will come to later, India would have won the match even when they lost it. The difference is that Australians were bad winners. It was apparent that India had every possible chance of winning and 100% chance of drawing the match if not for the umpires. The least Ponting could have done was acknowledge that they were outplayed and won because of luck. But what happened was something that you would expect on a war field. The Australians forgot they were fighting a worthy rival who scared them out of their skins and ignored the Indians in the moment of their victory. That is something you would expect someone to do after vanquishing a deadly enemy. Even as he admitted that there were a few mistakes, he was not willing to admit that it was result altering mistakes. Compare it with South Africans standing by the Indians when the match referee indicted 6 Indian players for ball tampering, casting a black mark on the until then unblemished resume of Sachin Tendulkar.

The Australians played according to the rules of the street and I would not blame them for that, considering the stakes. The present team is a shade paler than the team under Steve Waugh, and Ricky Ponting can never be expected to fill the shoes of Steve Waugh or Mark Taylor, and the only legacy he could have left behind that matched either of his predecessor was by breaking this record.

The super power that the United States is, is run by George Bush; the super power that the Australian team is, is run by Ricky Ponting. Ponting is one of the best batsmen around and a good captain, but great caption he is not. Dignity, honor and integrity, which were expected of from a great captain, were missing. Have you even seen Steve Waugh losing his cool on the field? Ponting might break the record, but that will remain the legacy of the team, rather than of the captain. Ponting will be remembered for taking the reigns from an all time high and taking it down the hill, basking in the afterglow.

Ponting might have escaped this ignominy, if only he had held back from reporting Harbhajan for racist comment. During the hearing, Ponting and Gilchrist admitted that they had not heard Harbhajan making the comment. Gilchrist is a better man than Ponting and I would not expect him to lie at a hearing, and I would expect Ponting to save his skin. The point is these two “witness” did not hear the comment, but has not said what they heard. There is no evidence that Harbhajan made the comment except for Symons’s and Hayden’s word. Let us forget that Tendulkar has come forward saying Harbhajan had not used the word “monkey”. Is the word of two against one sufficient proof to condemn a man as a racist?

Do remember what happened to Azharuddin, Cronje and Jadeja after they were indicted for match fixing. Azharuddin was near retirement and may have fixed the matches. But Cronje who only fault was to accept payment for passing on pitch information was banned for life, and being one of the greatest captains he may have been relieved to die, rather than live a condemned man. Ajay Jadeja lost a promising career and India lost a genuine all rounder future captain. And to think he was exonerated of all the charges.

A racist tag is much more serious than a matchfixer, and even if the decision were overturned there would still be people who believe that Harbhajan had said it. He has been condemned to check his fighter instinct and be docile. He will never be able to shrug the label completely. If you need an example, take Muralidharan, who is still called a chucker by some even after ICC tests confirmed his action was legit.

This is the reason why India is not happy with Australia. This is the reason why Kumble said only one team played in the spirit of the game. India has now complained that Hogg had called Kumble a bastard, while not a racist term, a very derogatory term to call anyone from the subcontinent. Australia is now going to get a dose of their own medicine as every team start complaining against each other. It would not surprise anyone if Australia wound up piling up the largest number of complaints. Still, Kumble could have resisted the urge to report Hogg. After all, a “tit for tat” approach is not going to resolve anything. While Harbhajan did not deserve the racist tag, he might have deserved a small punishment for losing his cool, just like many others.

The umpiring standard has been pathetic and is nowhere near the 95% accuracy that the elite panel of umpires is supposed to have. Match referee’s decision was unsound considering there was no proof for the allegation. BCCI was caught sleeping by not sending a lawyer for the hearing. ICC was too eager to force a bad decision to make an example. Australian team wanted to kill two birds with one stone (or was it three?) and behaved like school children, picking petty fights and finally Harbhajan for giving in to his emotions. Harbhajan and Sreesanth are two players in the Indian team who think that they have a right to get angry with the least of provocation and get away with it. Not everything that winners (read Australia) does, needs be imitated.

Instead of taking the game forward like a leader of a great team, Ponting has taken it a few steps backward (just like Bush did with his war on terror). Where can we go on from here?

Australian team can admit they got lucky, come clean on Harbhajan, be a bit more humble, if that is possible and give the opposing team the respect they deserve.

Indian team can accept the defeat as a bad day at work, and play with all their heart to stop Australians as they did the last time.

Both teams can have a laugh over the storm they caused over a round of drinks.

ICC can overturn the verdict, as there is no sufficient proof and updates the rules of the game according to the times.

Harbhajan can learn from this and curb his anger.

BCCI is too greedy, and so all the board members should resign and turn over the management to well educated cricket lovers who want to advance the game from an honorary position (without pay).

The umpires should call it a day.

And the fools that we are can start looking at cricket as just another game. Trust me; you will live longer if you did not take it so personally.

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Veetrag January 7, 2008 - 10:47 PM

I completely agree with whatever it written, good one!
Its not a matter of winning or loosing, but 'Badnami ka Daag' on Bhajji is too much!

Sunil Joseph January 8, 2008 - 6:10 AM

Thank you very much. I am glad people can think of salvaging a situation instead of making it worse.


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