Jan 7, 2008

The day the Aussies won and Cricket lost…

For any cricketer playing the best team in the world Down Under is the pinnacle of their career… something that is matched only by a World Cup victory perhaps. The sheer drama, excitement and effort it takes to perform there in bouncy pitches and quality bowlers makes Test match a memorable experience. The fact that no one has been able to dominate them at their own backyard stands testimony to the immense talent of the Aussie team.

The 2007-08 India’s tour of Australia was memorable in many ways than one… it was Captain Kumble’s first overseas assignment, The Big Four’s last tour down under (perhaps), Australia without the likes of Warnie and McGrath but with a new look Lee.

India fancied their chance against the Australia since they have such a strong batting line-up and the only team which has managed to trouble the Aussies in their quest for world domination.

After the drubbing in the first Test at MCG India bounced back in the Second test with a string of good performance from VVS Laxman and Tendulkar and good support from the other players. They should have gained a 1st innings lead in excess of 150 had the umpires lived up to their reputation. Glaring omissions from the umpires and somewhat unfair tactics of the Oz team left India high and dry and eventually they were set a target of 333 in 72 overs. In tight matches such as these one or two bad decisions can alter the equilibrium of the match and after Rahul and Sourav were sent back by the conniving duo of Bucknor and Benson it wasn’t hard to see the writing on the wall… India were denied a fair chance to redeem themselves and Aussies equaled their World record of 16 consecutive test wins but I guess that victory is soaked with the blood from Cricket’s murder.

Whatever transpired between the umpires to make such glaring mistakes? Or, was there something else that dictated the movements of their fingers upwards every time an Indians walked into the field? My guess will be as good as yours.

A point of view that has come up was that the Umpires were overawed by the greatness of the Aussies team (atleast in the record books) and they felt pangs of guilt giving them out while they were batting and were merrily giving the mediocre Indians out while the Aussies were bowling. They thought the Indians can make do with a few losses in their kitty without much ado. Can we call it the ‘reverse Stockholm Syndrome’? Psychologically this series can be analyzed from many points of reference. Was Bucknor taking ‘revenge’ due to the constant negative reports filed by the Indians?

Another aspect that became evident was the sportsmanship of the current Aussie team… Since when did winning became the one and only motive of a game of cricket and that too for a team that has a 70% winning record against all the teams in the world. Why did they stood their ground when they nicked the ball and were clearly out? The statistical fact that Symonds went on to score a match winning knock stands testimony to the fact that something very intrinsic to the game of cricket was missing… a sense of old world fairness that is perhaps too idealistic for the present times.
Even self proclaimed ‘walker’ Adam Gilchrist couldn’t resist the temptation to play it dirty when the stakes went a tad higher for them. Nothing succeeds like success but the game of Cricket that I knew should have remained one of those glorious exceptions far from the vulgar emotions. It reminded me of some gully cricket that we played during our younger days when we gave some balls as wides and some touch-and-go run-outs but in retrospect those were laced with childhood innocence and much less intense than a Test match down under against the ‘World Champions’. Maybe, we should wake up to the fact that the Aussies are bad losers and they haven’t digested the loss to Indians in the recent times as well as the T20 World Cup.

Where did the Indians go wrong and the way forward?
1. The openers failed to give the team a decent start in the 4 innings that India played.
2. Yuvi and Dhoni failed to deliver when they mattered. The OSO hangover must have been a constant distraction and the new found T20 winner’s tag must have lent a sense of complacency and arrogance that has hampered their performance.
3. All said and done Sehwag is a Sehwag… either you pick him in the team to play or just leave him out of the squad. It’s a vulgar option to let him wait and wait for him term and I would rather have him open the innings alongwith Dravid than the out-of-sorts-in-Australia Jaffer
4. The loss of Zaheer to injury has harmed India’s cause for sure and the absence of a quality bowling spearhead has been felt like never before. The frequent injury to the likes of Sree, Zaheer, Munaf is somewhat disturbing and it makes us to question the training set-up for the faster bowlers or can we blame it on our genetic structure or maybe the packed cricket schedule.

As I pen down the last few lines I can feel for the Indian team who are disconsolate after the loss and also the 3 match ban handed over to Bhajji due to alleged ‘racist’ remark against Andrew Symonds. The Symonds saga is a continuation of the Mumbai test match where he was gestured and jeered by a few spectators (who were rightly removed from the stadium afterwards) and the latest spat was a logical extension and part of Australia’s Plan BPlan B= Full fledged psychological attack against the Indians if they appear to be dominating the test match and taking it away. Agreed that the Indians and specially Bhajji and Sreesanth are no Saints but to accuse them of racial abuse is like taking things too far out into the realms of fantasy and fiction. Normally one doesn’t see a well set batsman starting a verbal spat with a fielder/bowler since he has got better things to do (read: concentrate on batting) and what Symonds did was to instigate Bhajji who isn’t well known for his cool temperament and he also gave him a mouthful of sweet nothings. His ban for 3 matches by the match referee Mike Proctor was also mired in controversy since the law of natural justice was not adhered to… he believed in the verbal testimonies of the Aussie trio of Clarke, Hayden and Symonds and chose to ignore the testimony of Sachin. No proof, no evidence but still held guilty of a serious charge… Isn't this some kind of racism against the Indians as well?

Why only racism be dealt with seriously? Why not take action on any kind of demeaning insults meted out to the Indians that the Aussies are so good at? In my opinion a little bit of sledging is good for the game and it brings out the colorful side of the cricketers and makes a good read… afterall, a bowler should be given some freedom to vent his anger albeit in a restraint manner if things are not going his way. That’s normal and that’s part of cricket…

To cut a long story short… The Indians must have felt a sense of being undone by dubious circumstances and history will remember this Test match for all the wrong reasons.
Alas! Australia and the Umpires won but the game of Cricket lost its fairness and sportsmanship.

1 comment:

rt said...

very apt title....