In the first part of this three-part in-depth interview with Peter Lalor (Picture left. Source: “The Australian”), we talked about his views on racism in cricket in the wake of the Andrew Symonds incidents in India in the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series.
Peter Lalor, a respected writer for “The Australian” newspaper, is a passionate supporter of the Australian cricket team and is fervent enthusiast for the way Australia plays its cricket.
Subsequent to Part-1 of our interview with Peter Lalor, in order to achieve a sense of balance in this debate, we asked more-or-less the same set of questions to Prem Panicker. Part-1 of our interview with Prem Panicker is available here.
In Part-2 of our interview with Peter Lalor, we talk about post-victory celebrations, aggression, sledging, match-fixing and much more.
Some of Peter Lalors’ articles are available here:
i3j3: Recently, we have heard comments from Jason Gillespie, Ricky Ponting, et al, saying that there will be boisterous crowd participation in the forthcoming summer. They have also urged players like Muralitharan and Sree Santh to show fortitude. What are your views on those comments in the light of their comments on crowd behaviour elsewhere?
Peter Lalor: If you come to Australia the crowd will try to un-nerve you. It is the Australian way and as long as it is not racist or too offensive there’s not much that can or should be done.
I watch my nine year old play footy and cricket and in both sports the kids sledge each other, it is accepted as part of Australian gamesmanship.
I had no problems with the crowds attacking Symonds as long as it wasn’t racist, although I would have hoped for more sympathy after the first racist taunts.
i3j3: Did you think the Australian team celebrated humbly and appropriately on the victory podium at the conclusion of the last edition of the Champions Trophy? In light of this, what are your views on the comments by Andrew Symonds on the Indian celebrations on winning the Twenty20 World Championship?
PL: Andrew [Symonds] was wrong in criticising the Indian celebrations.
Sharad Pawar was wrong to stay in front of the team when the photographers were yelling for him to get out of the way. I don’t think Damien Martyn was out of line to lead him to one side.
Australians have a healthy disrespect for authority especially when it is in the wrong place as it was then and as it was during the post-T20 celebrations [in India]. Fancy making the cricketers sit behind the officials!
i3j3: There has been a perception for a while now – backed by observations and some fact – amongst Asian cricket players and fans that “white” cricketers and fans alike constantly and consistently demonstrate prejudice, sanctimony and racism in their attitudes because of their perceived “ownership to the game”. For example, when the quality of umpiring was terrible all around the world, it was seen as a problem that afflicted only the sub-continent. A global solution was made impossible by the finger-pointing. Similarly, the match-fixing issue too. What are your views on this?
PL: You are probably right about the umpiring.
As for match fixing I suspect the concentration is on the subcontinent because that is where the bookies are.
By the way the biggest fish landed on that subject was Hansie [Cronje].
i3j3: Now assuming that there is this perception of prejudice – whether right or wrong is somewhat immaterial – where do you see this debate going, especially now when the balance of (financial muscle) power is tilting towards the sub-continent?
PL: India is the centre of world cricket by virtue of population and financial input. This has been accepted and embraced by Cricket Australia who see that they can have some of the rewards if they work closely with the BCCI, that is why CA basically ran the DLF cup and has done most of the organisational work for the ICL/IPL.
Cricket Australia is happy to carry the BCCI’s bags if they get a little bit of the cash that is there within.
It is a fair situation, India spent a lot of time pleading for Australia etc to play against it in the past and it’s good for the boot to be on the other foot.
i3j3: Do you feel that it is this financial muscle power that is making teams from India and Pakistan more aggressive on the cricket field against teams like Australia and England?
PL: No I think it is just an attempt to play on equal footing on the ground. Aggression is a muddled term. In cricket it should mean positive/confident play, but too often it means trying to sledge louder than the other side. This is a poor substitute for good run rates, tight fielding and positive bowling.
i3j3: Is match-fixing a thing of the past? Can it be completely controlled?
PL: Like racism it is something that authorities and lovers of the game need to be eternally vigilant about. Every bookie and punter is looking for an edge.
i3j3: What are your views on sledging? Should it be a part of cricket? And if it is, should there be a line in the sand? If so why?
PL: I think direct personal abuse should be stopped by umpires, but if the wicketkeeper asks the first slip if he thinks a batsman’s backlift is crooked or scoring rate is so slow that it endangers the team, what is the harm in that.
i3j3: What do you think of the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series?
PL: I thought the Symonds thing blew out of proportion but that was because the BCCI refused to take it seriously when it was beholden to do so.
India, I thought, showed promise under Dhoni’s fledgling leadership and should take heart from gaining two matches against a side that has not dropped a world cup game under Ponting.
I must admit one day series are a little hollow for writers. I love the lyricism and lengthy narrative of Tests.
[Source of the above picture: An article on CricketNext.com]
i3j3: It is our view that player behaviour, in the name of gamesmanship, has deteriorated over the years. What do you think ICC should do to curb it?
PL: I don’t think it has. I grew up in the Lillee-Miandad era. I watched many ugly incidents including John Snow being assaulted, teams being lead from the ground by various captains…
Today most games are played in the right spirit and when they’re not there is a framework to deal with it.
Players came close to crossing the line early in the Australia-India series, particularly Symonds, Sree [Santh] and Harbhajan [Singh], but generally behaved themselves after Kochi where they were warned to keep a lid on it.
i3j3: It is also our view that many teams in international cricket are trying to ape Australia in the sledging-stakes. Is this a healthy trend?
PL: No. Sledging is not a positive part of the game but not such a negative that it should gain much attention. I must admit I see mouths move a lot but I don’t know what’s said. If it was heard by audiences it might be a different matter.
i3j3: Crowd behaviour is also another matter that is of concern in international cricket. One of the ideas that has been circulated is that cricket should be banned in venues that have seen trouble. But is it viable to ban cricket from places like the MCG and Eden Gardens (Kolkata)? After all, both these venues have seen bad crowd behaviour. Do you feel there is any other way to curb this?
PL: If bad behaviour persists maybe this is the last alternative left to authorities but we are nowhere near that yet in most situations.
I believe one of [India’s] grounds hosted a riot where even the Indian team bus was stoned. That ground probably deserves a suspension for a match until its fans and officials can provide a safe venue for cricket. None of the behaviour I saw on the last [Australia] tour [of India] warranted such extreme action; some Australian one day crowds come close to that line.
i3j3: How do you rate crowd behaviour and crowd participation in the game in the subcontinent, compared to places like Australia, England and South Africa?
PL: In one day matches Indian crowds can be as offensive as Australian crowds or any others. I don’t take my family to one day matches because of this bizarre behaviour. Tests are usually much better environments. I will probably take the kids to a T20 soon and we’ll see what that is like.
(concluding part of the interview to appear next week…)