A few things have to be said: (a) Australian cricketers do behave badly on the field, (b) Sunil Gavaskar was wrong in commenting on David Hookes, (c) Gavaskar was right to talk about the behaviour of Australian cricketers, (d) This has nothing to do with India’s performance (or the lack of it).
Rohit Brijnath writes very eloquently about this saga in The Hindu.
There are some significant cultural differences at play here. An Aussie would think that it is ok to bark at you on the field and then have a drink afterwards. They can live with that form of schizophrenic compartmentalisation. Subcontinental teams cannot seem to live with it. Gavaskar cannot. And Australians cannot expect other teams to be naturally comfortable with that schizophrenic compartmentalisation. And therein lies part of the problem.
Alan Border says that the Aussies play “hard but fair”. The rest of the world perhaps doesn’t’ see it that way! Perhaps the Australians are just misunderstood cricketers? Who knows.
Either way Gavaskar’s point is valid…
The Australian’s are the most penalised team in World Cricket.
So, either the rest of the World has to start to understand them more or the Australians need to learn to tone down.
The Australians aren’t the only grumpy team going around. The South Africans come close, but having watched the Aussies in action over a long period of time, I can safely say that the Australians are the ugliest team going around.
They are currently in a huge war-of-words with The South Africans.
The captain started that war of words. The captain should set a tone. Not drag it down. If the captain can’t control a malaise — and indeed, there is one, in my view — then, he shouldn’t be on the park.
But let us pause to think about the Australians. I’ve written earlier about how the Australians do not like to receive as well as they dish it out. Let us think about some of the most hated players in Australia. If one were asked to name the three most hated international cricketers in Australia, you won’t be wrong if you came up with (a) Arjuna Ranatunga, (b) Sourav Ganguly, (c) Greame Smith. Some cricketers that come close to the above list include Manoj Prabhakar, Sunil Gavaskar (post-retirement), Andre Nel, et al. I’d like to predict that Sree Sreesanth will be on this list soon.
These players give back as good as they receive. They use that 4th dimension (some legal and some not so legal) to get further ahead. They are as Aussie (or perhaps even more Aussie) than the Aussies themselves! Yet, they are the most hated! Isn’t this a strange hypocricy? Perhaps the Aussie cricketers hate themselves (and what they do) so much that they instinctively hate anyone who does it as well — or better — than themselves? I am not a psychologist. So I am not about to indulge in needless amateur psychology here.
Ponting says that often champions are hated. Wrong. The West Indies were not hated. Roger Federer is not hated. Tiger Woods is not hated.
In an earlier article, I wrote:
To be “a sport” is to be fair, even-handed, respectful and level-headed in things that you do in the sporting field — and these days, out of it too. Impact comes not merely from the number of cups that one has in ones trophy cabinet. History differentiates great sporting teams from good ones on the basis of how the team played and not merely on how many cups the team won. Long lasting success comes only if the ‘means’ and the ‘ends’ are balanced. The end rarely justifies the means.
A true champion (and almost everyones’ sporting hero), will be a Roger Federer or a Tiger Woods or a Sachin Tendulkar. They enjoy their sport. They play fair. They play hard. They play strong. They dig deep when their backs are to the wall. They query bad calls. But they get on with it. They have fun. They leave an impression. They are modest. They are level-headed. They are geniuses. They are also as good on the field as they are out of it. They are icons. They are role-models.
We like them not just because they win. That is a fact. They just do! We like them because of the way they win.
I will applaud when Federer or Tiger Woods or Tendulkar win (for they are true champions). I will also empathise with them when they lose.
However, I will continue to rejoice (along with the whole world, perhaps?) when Australia loses. The difference is that they are champions of the game (temporary). They are not champions of the sport (permanent).
So it does depend on ones outlook. Do we want temporary success or permanent glory?
May be it is time for the Aussies to ponder why almost the whole cricketing world dislikes them. If they believe the world hates them because they keep winning, they need to look at Federer and Tiger Woods (habitual winners who are loved) of the world and learn a bit.
Ponting and Cricket Australia need a re-think.
Does Gavaskar have a right to comment about all of this? In my view he does. He did play the game in the “right spirit”. So, he is not being “self righteous”. Ian Chappell commenting about the “spirit of cricket” would be self-righteous pontification. Gavaskar has earned his stripes, in my view.
Gavaskar’s method of retort — the mentioning of Hookes — was silly. He did cross the line there. But kudos to him for bringing Australian bad behaviour up — again!