Monthly Archives: January 2008

i3j3Cricket is One year old!

Yes, we hit the one year mark 2 days back (29 January 2008). From the time the first post was written here, it has been a fun ride. We have all had heaps of enjoyment, frivolousness, serious debate, arguments and roller-coaster rides — in terms of Team India performances!

But most of all, it is fair to say that it has been a fun and enjoyable journey for all i3j3Cricket’s Contributors.

In this year, we have seen a total of 605 posts.

Thank you to all of you that take the time to visit regularly. A special thank you to all of you that take the trouble to comment or email. Thank you to the other bloggers who BlogRoll us.

For those that used to visit and do not return regularly to read the nonsense we write, please come back! All is forgiven!

— i3j3Cricket Contributors

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A good laugh…

This is a terrific interview with one of the BCCI people that are running the game in India! The incoherence of thought and words is awesome! I’d like to think that one would need to work extremely hard to come across as so jumbled! He seems to have elevated incoherence to an art form! In the midst of the sordidness that surrounds Monkeygate, you should read this for a laugh and a head-shake in sheer wonderment!

— Mohan

On Sledging

In the Monkeygate debate, the need for sledging on the cricket field has been called into question.

Was there a need for Andrew Symonds to pin Harbhajan Singhs’ ear when the Indian said “well bowled” to Australian bowler Brett Lee? Was that an Australian thing to do? Should a player really indulge in sledging at all? These are questions that do need to be asked.

I called in on Jon Faine’s talkback segment on ABC Radio yesterday and repeated my view that all sledging has to be banned. Faine wished me good luck. I added that while mild banter was perhaps ok, ABC’s own contracted commentator, Harsha Bhogle, had said that some of the words that were said on the cricket field would not be heard at his dinner table! Jon Faine reminded me and everyone else that the players weren’t at Harsha Bhogle’s dinner table! They were playing tough, professional, hard cricket!

Fair point.

But does that mean that they should indulge in ugly behaviour and sledge each other on the field?

The Australian Governor-General and the Australian Prime Minister weighed in on the debate yesterday.

Before yesterday’s Prime Minister’s XI match in Canberra against the visiting Sri Lankans, Major-General Michael Jeffery, Australia’s Governor General (someone who seldom gets involved in public controversies), commented that sledging was “totally un-Australian” and should be eradicated.

This is, unfortunately, not a view that is shared by Australian players and media personalities. All of them talk about “lines in the sand”. Who defines the sand? Who writes the rules for appropriate sledges? Where is this “line in the sand”?

Whose line is it anyway?

The Australian Governor-General said that Test players had a responsibility to set an example for juniors, and referred to players questioning umpires’ decisions and failing to walk.

“I think there’s also a need to really take care of the fundamental courtesies and good manners,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd echoed these sentiments and made a plea for “greater civility to permeate the veins of the game”.

Sane words, in my view, from two good men.

And on the topic of sane words, here is an excellent article by Harsha Bhogle in The Age (31 Jan 2008). I do wish the Peter Lalors of this world would read it.

In particular, I reproduce this last paragraph from the article:

So why is India so sensitive about what is happening in Australia? Since I was a child, my abiding memory is of visiting journalists and cricketers coming to India and making fun of us. We were a country finding our feet, we were not confident; we seethed within but we accepted. The new generation in India is not as accepting — it is prouder, more confident, more successful. Those bottled up feelings are bubbling through. This is the great dawn of acceptance. It is a phase both countries must understand. This is the storm before the lull. Let’s play cricket. We’re only a small family.

All I can say is that if Harsha Bhogle had read Peter Lalor mocking Harbhajan Singh’s mother and that squeaky-voiced TV reporter, Harsha Bhogle’s abiding memory will be further fuelled. And if this blatant mockery attempt comes from a knowledgeable, self-confessed Indophile — with a Ganesh idol on his mantle-piece, no less — that same God had better rush to Harsha Bhogle’s aid to erase those abiding memories.

Certainly the Lalors of this world are not going to do it; they will just augment it. And fires of mistrust, cultural misunderstandings and anger will continue to burn.

— Mohan

Harbhajan Singh’s mother in Peter Lalor’s frame…

In this article in yesterday’s Australian newspaper, Peter Lalor, our good friend from The Australian, takes aim at Harbhajan Singh’s mother and squeaky-voiced Indian TV reporters!

My conclusion after reading Peter Lalor’s recent articles is that he is somewhat upset by Justice Hansen’s ruling. Maybe he has a dislike for anyone that plays the game like the Australians do.

What did Harbhajan Singh do? He stood up to an Australian player.

In my view, that is precisely why Sourav Ganguly, Arjuna Ranatunga, Harbhajan Singh, Sree Santh, et al, are disliked here in Australia. They play the game tough. They give it to the Australians as Australians themselves do to them. I do believe Australians need to get used to this new breed of cricketer from the sub-continent. They are not going to take things lying down — as they have, over the years!

One could mount the argument that Harbhajan Singh was a placid person on the pitch playing his cricket until he ears got pinned by a needlessly ugly behaviour on the field.

Let us not forget that Harbhajan Singh was actually trying to encourage his opponent, Brett Lee, with a “well bowled” comment, when his head got snapped off by the churlish Andrew Symonds. Symonds said that he had an objection to Harbhajan Singh saying some encouraging words to one of the Australians. Symonds said, “my objection was that a test match is no place to be friendly with an opposition player.”

Justice Hansen admonished Symonds’ behaviour and said, “If that is his view I hope it is not one shared by all international cricketers. It would be a sad day for cricket if it is.”

Indeed.

Was Harbhajan Singh provoked? Well, Justice Hansen seemed to think so. Was he right to mouth off back at Symonds in the manner he did? No. And he got slapped a fine for the lesser Level 2.8 offence which refers to “obscene, offensive or seriously insulting language”.

The facts are that both Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke accept that Harbhajan Singh said something in his native toungue that they did not understand. Both of them admit that Singh said something that sounded like “big monkey”. In fact, the transcript of Michael Clarke’s statement, in Mike Proctor’s original hearing, indicates that he heard things being said that he did not hear or comprehend which he referred to as “something something something”. And then he heard the words “big monkey”.

The fact is that Andrew Symonds himself accepted that Sachin Tendulkar of all the participants was closest to Harbhajan Singh during the course of the heated exchange. Tendulkar said that he heard the heated exchange that included swearing between the two main subjects, initiated by Symonds. He also said that he did not hear the word “monkey” or “big monkey” but that he heard Harbhajan Singh use a term in his native tongue “teri maki” (pronounced with a “n”).

The judge needed to be sure that the allegations could indeed be upheld. If he was left with an “honest and reasonable uncertainty” then he should have ruled in favour of Harbhajan Singh.

The problem here was compounded by the fact that of the three Australian players that heard the words “big monkey”, none of them could recall any other words that were said by either party! Which is somewhat strange. Justice Hansen finds this a bit surprising and states, “This is a little surprising in the context where there was a reasonably prolonged heated exchange. Indeed Mr Clarke went so far as to say that he did not hear Mr Symonds say anything. Given Mr Symonds’ own acceptance that he initiated the exchange and was abusive towards Mr Singh, that is surprising. This failure to identify any other words could be because some of what they were hearing was not in English.”

The balance of probability indicates, therefore, that it is probable Harbhajan Singh did indeed use the words “teri maa(n) ki”.

Justice Hansen, in his findings criticises Andrew Symonds for provoking the incident.

The really interesting segment of the ruling is this one below (reproduced here):

Given that is the view of the complainant it is hard to see how the requisite elements of 3.3 could be satisfied. However, given it is an objective interpretation that is not the end of the matter. I must consider if the “ordinary person” would have been offended in a 3.3 sense. That again requires a look at context. Mr Singh had innocently, and in the tradition, of the game acknowledged the quality of Mr Lee’s bowling. That interchange had nothing to do with Mr Symonds but he determined to get involved and as a result was abusive towards Mr Singh. Mr Singh was, not surprisingly, abusive back. He accepts that his language was such as to be offensive under 2.8. But in my view even if he had used the words “alleged” an “ordinary person” standing in the shoes of Mr Symonds who had launched an unprovoked and unnecessary invective laden attack would not be offended or insulted or humiliated in terms of 3.3.

In other words, Justice Hansen seems to have said that even if Harbhajan Singh had used the words “big monkey”, at Andrew Symonds, given that the latter had “launched an unprovoked and unnecessary invective laden attack”, he would not be offended or insulted!

Perhaps I am reading this wrong!

Justice Hansen even accuses Symonds of breaching a handshake deal made when Harbhajan allegedly first called him a monkey in India.

Harbhajan Singh has a problem and this needs to be addressed. He is an ill-tempered hot-head and needs to be counselled.

At the same time, it would be wrong for Peter Lalor and the Australian media to ignore that Andrew Symonds has a problem too. And this needs addressing pronto. Symonds can’t sit on a pedestal placed at 35,000 ft above sea level and preach eloquently on appropriate forms of celebration (cf: Indian post-Twenty20 celebrations) and then carry on like a pork chop after his teams’ Sydney victory. And did anyone see his war-dance when he got Kumble out at Perth? How can this man talk about appropriate post-victory celebrations?

I didn’t see Peter Lalor rushing off to interview Symonds’ mum at that point in time! But he got some choice words out of Harbhajan Singhs’ mother and proceeded to pillory and mock it.

Did Harbhajan Singh’s mother say that she was relieved that her son had made a “derogatory remark about his opponent’s mother’s vagina” (as Peter Lalor writes in his blog)? No. She said, “I am very happy today. It is the victory of truth. I was anxious before the verdict came, but now I am more at peace. I knew God was with us and I had full faith that my son would come out clean.”

What is the “truth” that she talks about? The truth is that there is no evidence to suggest that her son is a racist. Period.

It is easy to mock. Anyone can invade the privacy of another person’s home, stick a mike under her nose, get some choice words out of her and then proceed to pillory the innocent subject who said what she did. To write responsibly and with empathy is not really hard. But it calls for courage. It calls for dignity. It calls for a code of ethics.

And on the topic of mockery. What is with this squeaky-voiced Indian TV reporter? What does a squeaky voice have to do with the price of fish anyway?

Let us stick to the facts please? Court rulings are based on fact, not allegations, anger and opinions. Did Harbhajan Singh say something racist? We will never know. The Kangaroo Court set up by Mike Proctor, a man not trained in things legal, decreed “beyond reasonable doubt” that Singh did villify. That was a wrong ruling — we all know that now. It was wrong because natural justice was not served. The man did not review all the evidence properly enough to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt”. And yet, he pronounced his ruling “beyond reasonable doubt”. That is a huge call to make. And it was made by a man that just did not know.

In any case, the initial ruling by Mike Proctor got thrown out. Thankfully natural justice was served. A proper court indicated that that initial ruling was a mistake. There simply wasn’t enough incontrovertible evidence to suggest that Harbhajan Singh did say what he was purported to have said. On the contrary, there was some evidence to suggest that, on the balance of probability, Harbhajan Singh did say something abusive in his native tongue, when provoked needlessly, that may have seemed to an untrained ear to have sounded like “monkey”.

End of story. Time for all of us to accept that and move on.

The Pyjama Cricket circus commences…

In a few days from now the pyjama stuff starts with the Twenty20 game at the MCG on Friday 1 Feb 2008 between Australia and India.

The Australians have lost a few Twenty20 games on the trot to India and will be gunning for the visitors. There is no love lost between these teams. With the recent downgrading of the racism charge against Harbhajan Singh, there will be much more at stake than just the game. The Australians will want to win badly.

The Indians will not have four of their five senior stalwarts. Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and V. V. S. Laxman will have departed. In their place, we have a few fiery youngsters from the “New India”. They have said, even before the opening salvo has been fired, that they will fight fire with fire!

Robin Uthappa has said that he would “give it back if the Australians sledge”!

Controversial paceman, Sree Santh added to the rumbles when he said, “I’m not scared of anyone. On the contrary, I think Australia should be scared of me because I’m back. And I’m back after a rest too.”

We live in interesting times! We are set for a cracker of a game and a cracker of an ODI series after that!

Even though R. P. Singh has been withdrawn through a hamstring injury and even though Zaheer Khan is absent from the make-up, I believe that this is a well-balanced team. The Indian team has a good look to it in my view:

It is likely that the following will be the Indian Twenty20 team (in batting order)

Gautam Gambhir
Virender Sehwag
Rohit Sharma / Dinesh Karthik
Yuvraj Singh / Suresh Raina / Manoj Tiwary
MS Dhoni
Robin Uthappa
Irfan Pathan
Praveen Kumar
Harbhajan Singh / Piyush Chawla
Ishant Sharma / Munaf Patel
Sree Santh

If Yuvraj Singh is injured, I’d think that India would find it hard to beat Australia at the MCG. I suspect Sachin Tendulkar will sit out the Twenty20 game.

One thing is certain. With the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina, et al, in the mix, the visitors’ fielding and the running between wickets is certainly going to be much better than what we have seen in this summer thus far!

The ODI team is likely to be (again in batting order):

Gautam Gambhir
Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag / Rohit Sharma / Dinesh Karthik
Yuvraj Singh / Suresh Raina / Manoj Tiwary
MS Dhoni
Robin Uthappa
Irfan Pathan
Praveen Kumar
Harbhajan Singh / Piyush Chawla
Ishant Sharma / Munaf Patel
Sree Santh

Hopefully we will be entertained. Hopefully we will see no new controversies. Hopefully the cricket will be memorable for the right reasons.

— Mohan

Monkeygate: The Harbhajan Singh Saga

Once again, the key actors in this sordid racism saga were involved in this latest episode. Cricket Australia, ICC, BCCI, Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, the Press…

The scene had shifted to Adelaide. The posturing was somewhat different. Some were approaching it with equanimity. Some were just tired. Some were angry. Some were sang froid.

But, for the first time in this saga, we had a properly trained legal professional handling the case.

In the end, Harbhajan Singh was cleared of the racism charge.

But the BCCI looked like totally ugly school-yard bully when it chartered a plane to take its players back home if the appeals court did not find in Harbhajan Singh’s favour. Their ODI specialist players, like Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, Sree Santh, Praveen Kumar, et al, who had arrived in Melbourne, were whisked to Adelaide in a “show of solidarity”. A chartered plane lay waiting in Adelaide, its engine revved up, in the event that the appeal did not go in India’s favour!

I agree with Peter Roebuck that this stance by the BCCI was “abominable”. What is required all around is strong, ethical, responsible leadership. The BCCI controls more than 70% of the world games’ revenues. The power that comes with this territory has to be used in a responsible manner. I am afraid the BCCI has let India down, yet again, by posturing in the manner that it has. It is all a bit sad really.

The initial ruling in this case was by a Kangaroo Court and it was flawed. I could understand the Indian anger and the disappointment when Team India performed a “sit in” at its Sydney Hotel. However, this was a proper court that was in progress in Adelaide. It was presided by an independent person of honour and experience. To not show respect for the law and the courts and to threaten to take its bat and ball and go home in the event of an unsavoury ruling in Adelaide was, in my view, grotesque. The BCCI is in urgent need of effective leadership, I am afraid.

Everyone anywhere with half a brain knew — as night follows day — that the finding by John Hansen’s court was totally inevitable. It was inevitable that the Harbhajan Singh appeal would be successful. There just wasn’t enough proof to justify the “beyond reasonable doubt” pronouncement that Mike Proctor made originally.

The whole initial process that the ICC put in place to hear the case smacked of a naivety that does not show the organisation in good light. The ICC needs to toughen its stand on procedures such as this. The game deserves it. The ICC owes it to the game.

The ICC is painted in even more shocking light now. It has since emerged that Mike Proctor is believed to have pleaded with Malcolm Speed, the ICC Chief Executive, that the initial case be heard in a proper legal setting. Instead, we had a Kangaroo Court being presided by a man who was not trained in things legal. We had a strong pronouncement of justice when the evidence was shonky and when there was doubt. The man played the emotion card and not the rational card. He was not trained. The man was made to look silly. The ICC had dredged up and conjured yet another scapegoat.

Justifiably there is anger in the Australian camp. The Australian players were sure that Harbhajan Singh used the “monkey” word. Singh denied it. Both deserved a fair hearing. They got it. They just need to accept the ruling and move on.

Did Harbhajan Singh actually say what he did? We had a few readers on our blog who are sure that Harbhajan Singh said it. How are they sure when the court ruled that there was no tangible evidence that he said it! Paranoia even reached comical proportions when a few readers suggested that the news was broken in Indian nwes channels even before judgement was made!

In the end, it does not matter what you or I think may or may not have happened. A court of law had ruled. Those who do not like it, need to take a pill and move on. Opinions and paranoia do not count in a court of law. Facts do. Justice Hansen’s ruling states that on all the evidence submitted before him, “the charge of a Level 3.3 offence was not proven but that Harbhajan should be charged with a Level 2.8 offence instead.”

We can speculate till the cows come home on whether the word “monkey” was used. It will not change anything. We need to accept it and move on.

As Peter Roebuck says, “Court cases are about fact, not stories or opinions or allegations or interpretations or guesses. Once the microphones and umpires did not back up the charges, the case was doomed.

The pity is that this was doomed from the start. Given the ICC’s incompetence, the case has dragged on for this long.

In my own personal view, if something was indeed said, a head-kick-in by Anil Kumble after a strong word from Ricky Ponting would have had a much better effect than all this needless posturing. But that is all history and is currently irrelevant.

The Australian players are angry at the BCCI for flexing its muscles. One un-named player is reported to have said to The Age, “The thing that pisses us off is that it shows how much power India has. The Aussie guys aren’t going to make it (the accusation) up. The players are frustrated because this shows how much influence India has, because of the wealth they generate. Money talks.”

There is one way for the Australian players to show their collective anger and disgust at this ruling: they could tear up that lucrative IPL contract that the BCCI slapped on the desks of Australian players! That will teach them bullies!

That would be radical step by the Australian players — these fine, upstanding gentlemen who do everything the right way. That would be the ethical thing to do perhaps?

However, it is most likely that the Australian players, including the one that was reportedly “pissed off” will queue up and play in the IPL.

Money talks. Life goes on.

— Mohan

Test series wrap up

Here is my summary of the 4-match series…..

Australia

Pluses

  1. Brett Lee – He is bowling the best I have ever seen. In my view he is the best bowler in the world at present – Probably the single biggest difference between the two sides
  2. Matthew Hayden – His batting, specially against India is just awesome – his absence was telling in Perth
  3. Stuart Clark – Started off in McGrath-esque style but tailed off towards the end of the series

Minuses

  1. Lack of a genuine spinning option – This could really hurt in places like SL, Ind and against the English & Souh Africans 
  2. Shaun Tait’s inability to perform in favourable conditions
  3. Batting against sustained swing bowling
  4. For a team that prides itself on aggression and always on the lookout for a win, both the over rate and the scoring rate while batting were not upto to their usual high standards
  5. Catching was well below par

India

Pluses

  1. The re-emergence of Virender Sehwag and possibly, Irfan Pathan
  2. Ishant Sharma – A rare breed of Indian paceman that is not reliant on swing but pace, bounce and the ability to bowl long spells
  3. An ability to sustain (relatively) high energy levels in the field for 3 test matches in a row

Minuses

  1. The abject failure of Wasim Jaffer and Yuvraj Singh against top quality fast bowling
  2. Rahul Dravid’s continued mortality
  3. Harbhajan Singh was (again) woefully short of expectations. He was consistently outbowled by Virender Sehwag and Andrew Symonds in the last two matches.
  4. The bastmen’s (specially the seniors) well recognized inability to retain focus when fighting for a draw. This was evident on the last day at both Sydney and Perth.
  5. The standards of ground fielding seem to have (I know this seemed impossible 🙂 ) dropped further

From an Indian perspective, their poor performance on the last day in Sydney, when they could not bat out two sessions, came back (quit justifiably) to haunt them. I would have loved to see Australia’s batting response in Adelaide had the series been level and they had to go for a win.

 The Black Irishman