Sunday, January 6, 2008

Champion Cheats and Two Idiots defeat resurgent India

India lost the Sydney test against Australia after a tough fight. So what’s new about that? Aren’t the Aussies world champions? So they were expected to win anyways. Moreover they extended their run to 16 consecutive test victories thereby equaling Steve Waugh and his formidable team’s effort. The current Australian test side is immensely talented and probably deserves this achievement.

What the fuss is all about ?

But what I am objecting to is the manner in which the defeat was inflicted upon India. After their below par performance in the first test at MCG, the Indians came back strongly with a positive performance and put Australia on the back foot. These occasions are rare in contemporary cricket especially against a team as good as Australia who are champions in their own right. But Sachin’s superlative 154 not out and Laxman’s belligerent 109 were overshadowed by wrong umpiring decisions and questionable on-field behaviour of the Aussies. In the thick of action were the two umpires (or idiots) Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson. What is the point in neutral officials officiating in matches if they commit serious blunders that make them look like as if they are on the payroll of the Aussies. Giving Ricky Ponting one life and Andrew Symonds several lives is simply spelling doom for the opponents. And that’s what they did. Symonds made it count with a blasting 162 not out. Even the third umpire of Australian origin joined the party by giving Symonds not out when he was clearly stumped. Despite all these gaffes India scored more than the Aussies in the first Innings led by our old war horses Sachin, Laxman, Ganguly and Dravid.

The Second Innings - Two Blind Men Continue the Slaughter

After Australia set a target of 333 in the second innings everyone knew that it would be impossible to get thos runs in 72 overs against the Australian bowling attack led by the vicious Brett Lee who is in the peak of his powers. Indians were fighting doggedly not giving an inch. But then those blind idiots stepped in once again. First they gave Dravid out caught behind when it was clear that it had hit the pads. The second spine-breaking blow came when Ganguly, who is in sublime touch and was crafting a masterpiece, was given out caught at slips. The culprit in this case was Michael Clarke who not only took the catch on bounce but the ball had touched the ground after he rolled over. The umpire Mark Benson instead of calling for the third umpire asked the fielders and as usual the Aussies lied. Ganguly departed. After his departure Kumble and Dhoni gave a lion-hearted performance and tried their level best to deny Australia its sixteenth consecutive victory. But it was too difficult and the Indian tail was wrapped up after 70.5 overs. Officially India was supposed to play 72 overs. So near yet so far. It brings home the importance of correct decisions on the field in case of such closely fought encounters. India were well on their way to stop the Aussie juggernaut, but the white-coated officials had other plans. The funniest part is these two people belong to the Elite Panel of umpires chosen by the ICC. How can a guy like Bucknor still officiate even after so many fiascos in which he was involved? Most of the times the Indians were at the receiving end especially our ‘Little Master’ Tendulkar. Last year Bucknor and Aleem Dar made Sri Lanka bat in pitch darkness in the World Cup finals. The BCCI needs to lodge a strong protest with the ICC and ensure that these two idiots don’t spoil the game of cricket any further. I would also like to condemn the Aussie behaviour as well. They flouted the spirit of the game by appealing even after the catches were dropped. Winning is a good habit but winning ‘by hook or by crook’ is deplorable. In future statistics will reveal that India had lost the match by 122 runs. But contemporary cricket lovers across the planet will remember this match as a disgraceful victory of Aussie misdemeanour and incompetent umpiring by ‘elite’ match officials.

Of 'Monkeys' , Racism and Integrity

Added to this is the allegation of racist comments against Harbhajan Singh. This is a ploy by the Aussies to disintegrate the Indians mentally. Since when has the word ‘monkey’ become racist? It is the commonest rebuke which Indian kids get from their annoyed parents. Also Hanuman is one of the most revered Gods of India. In fact by calling Symonds a monkey, we have insulted our Lord Hanuman. And what about the four lettered words which the Aussies hurl regularly at their opponents? Indians have also reciprocated by lodging a complaint against Brad Hogg. The match referee has hastily handed over a 3 test ban to Bhajji. It’s an open secret that historically the Aussies had great difficulty in countering Harbhajan’s spin. Even in the current series Bhajji got rid of Ponting 3 times in 4 innings. So an attack without Harbhajan will favor the Aussies in the remaining two games. All these things will decimate the sportsmanship and would result in more loathsome behaviour on and off the field. Already there is no love lost between the two teams. After the match Ponting was defending his integrity (see pic) and Clarke shamelessly justifying his antics. How can one defend something like integrity which one does not possess ? If the Aussies continue like this, they are sure to face hostile crowds in the subcontinent in future.

So Where Does India Go From Here

With two more tests to go India has no chance of winning the series as they trail 2-0. But we can draw our strength from our stupendous performance. Also there were a lot of positives. The formidable Indian batting line up has struck form. So we can give the ‘champion cheats’ a run for their money. The Aussies through their tactics have shown that they are not fully confident of their playing skills, that’s why time and again they resort to these disdainful methods to conquer opponents. India is on a high moral ground. After all it took 14 men (the third umpire also played his part) to beat us. So instead of breaking down, these events should goad the Indians to outplay their rivals in the remaining two tests. A lot of cricket is to be played and hence as a genuine cricket lover I wish my team good luck. I expect to see some great cricket played in the right spirit without violating the sanctity of the game.


Arindam said...

If there is a doping scandal, records are overturned, victories annulled, medals, honors and money taken back.

But there is no such action taken when umpires act blind, and sportsmen act like hench men. Ponting and his lynch mob of merry men are perhaps the worst humans to have played in the test arena. Ponting is right in a queer sort of way when he demands that his integrity not be questioned - how can you question something that does not exist?

subhabrata said...

To understand Aussie cricketer’s psychology, one has to understand their roots and origins. Somebody said that that often geography and history of a region can shape ones mind.

Australia was home to what we call the "Aboriginals" who were genetically more related to Indian "Dravidian" and African "Negrites". When the British settlers discovered the vast island-continent, they hoped that they can utilise its natural resources. To their dismay, Australia was flat, arid and hardly cultivable. They started settling the continent through "penal transportation" just like Andaman was settled. A major percentage of Australian we see today are descendants of those people. Their ancestors, being granted vast amount of land, learned to work hard and live in a civilized society. But the fact remains that a large number of Australians are descendants of socially deprived and marginalized people from the British Empire. There were also some Dutch settlers who, at that time were a "sea-fairing" race and were know for their adventurism and indomitable spirit.

In India you can find an abundance of rivers, streams, delta-plains (and monsoon); so earning ones living through cultivation was not a major challenge any way and people were generally "happy" before the Islamic conquest began. Being living in a land of plenty and free from threats, Indians developed a soft-trait and became susceptible to invasion and dominance. On the other hand, when Australia was settled the people who were adventurous and rough from the beginning and they were made to toil hard to produce their basic food crops along the huge coastline of otherwise arid Australia.

In the second half on 19th century, the British administration on instruction from the royal family diverted a part of the wealth earned from taxes from the Indian sub-continent in building settlements in Australia to exploit its vast reserve of coal to fuels its industrial revolution. So, technically, a part of wealth robbed from India went to fill up Australian coffers. Australia was a rich country by the time British colonial aspirations were crushed by 2nd World war, partly because of their hard work but also due to inflow of wealth from Britain.

Post-1900, we see Indians struggling for meeting two-ends requirement when Australians were expanding to other areas of life including sports. They were able to constructively utilize their aggressive mentality and nervous energy in every sport they took up, especially cricket. Through cricket, the Australian cricket followers saw an effective way to puncture the dominance of English people who claimed to be "gentlemen’s" in their own game since Australian cricketing psyche has always been sensitive of what the world think about Aussie character. This received an enormous boost with the arrival of "Don" who acted as a role-model for future generations. The Australian cricketing fraternity is so hyped-up about the "Ashes" because it is seen as a victory of the Aussie spirit over the gentlemen "English". Continuous dominance over English cricket and recent dominance over world cricket has fuelled a sense of being super-power in cricket with added fear of losing the mantle. In recent time only Sourav Ganguly's Team India have challenged their might and they know very well that Indian natural brilliance can and may overshadow Australian strategy, fitness and power-play.

The recent fiasco in Sydney is receiving so much attention of Indian and Australian media because this time India could not accuse Bucknor of being racist (he is himself black) and had to muster their courage to hurt the soft spot of the oposition team - that the current Australian cricket team are a bunch of men with no integrity. Partly this event was on the cards from the day Anil Kumble agreed to some sort of a treaty with Ponting before the match. Kumble was aware of the nature of Australians- didn't he? Pontings differences with Steve Waugh are well known these days. So, his desire to outshine Steve Waugh's record and the timing of his desire for a gentlemen’s treaty with the Indian team did not augured well from the beginning. In the end, Australian cricket team, lead by Ponting was caught short of skills necessary to convincingly defeat the Indian team and they were able to play with the mind of Mr Bucknor and Benson so as two have two additional members in their team and deal a decisive blow to the Indian team.

In India, people follow cricket in mass because it is the single team-game whose administrators did good work sometime in the last 20 years and for which it has great wealth, fame and media coverage associated with it. After a long gap in history, Indians, particularly Indian middle class are proud of them being Indian and proud of "growing India". It is now Indian money that is powering world cricket. Naturally, being a total loser hurt our sentiment. We all know that Australians are the better team of this series but when due to Australian cricketers flip-flop and umpiring folly, we lost the Sydney test from a winning position, we cried loud and far so as to prove the world that we are not "total loser". Naturally it is a clash of Indian cricketing ego and Australian dominance and character. My friend, the situation that has aroused from the Sydney test is completely natural and there is nothing to be surprised of.

Even in personal an business dealings, Australians are different from rest of the world. In situation where a British would say - "I'm afraid if you cannot deliver on time, I have to rethink future contracts with you. I am sorry to say this.” an American would say - "The deals off if you can’t deliver on time. But before leaving remember to visit my house. My wife is fond of India and Indians.", an Australian would say "I'll F*** you off this deal if you cant deliver on time and I'll make sure mate you do not come on board in any of our future projects for your F****ing generations.".

It is also noteworthy why the Australians are so furious on Harbhajan Singh calling Symonds a "monkey". Leaving aside the uncanny similarity between Symonds facial feature and our ancestor, what could be the reason behind their knee-jerk reaction when the use of the four letter word coupled with ancestral reference is rampant and common? The answer is simple; being "monkey" to Australians is equal to being referred to as uncivilized. The settlers in Australia have all but routed a few thousand Aboriginals and now the Australian cricket team is showing solidarity with Symonds as a way of healing the big wound among the Aboriginal memory of what the settlers did to them. Indian politicians with no knowledge on cricket, on the other hand, are making public statements in support of Harbhajan, not only because Harbhajan Singh’s punishment is unjust, but also that he is a Sikh. So shrewd is the Australian team’s tactics that they keep on heaping praise on Sachins ability and elevate him to Bradman's stature before the start of every series so that they get a "Good sportsmanship" label and get a legitimate license to curse all other Indian cricketers.

If you are an Australian and reading this post, I would say don't be offended mate - the Aussie “Never say die" attitude and the generally hard-working, adventurous character is praiseworthy. In fact, the other teams of the world should take note of the "gamesmanship" of the Australian cricket team. Such gamesmanship, within the boundaries of ethics, adds colour to the game which spans for 5 days. The Australian cricket team is in sync with these traits, but they are forgetting that they are representing their country in a sport in which they are world-champions and other countries including India look up to them as a model team. If you take out integrity and bring in arrogance in a game, it does not remain a game but transform into a war with no rules. It is the duty of the two rival captains’ to make this game a human as possible so that to prevent any talks of robots replacing umpires in he future and making the game mechanical. We have to leave with the occasional error committed by a human umpire on the field. Ideally, the teams should not be over critical of his decisions and on the other hand, the teams should not try to trick the umpire in making a wrong decision. Easier said than done - with the amount of money involved, the game of cricket would have to go a long way before it is free from umpiring controversy. As for the Indian rebel attitude, Australian tough talk and gamesmanship - they are all natural and has to be taken as a part of the game.