Will Anil Kumble, a proud, fiercely competitive and honest cricketer — his record speaks for himself — want to shake hands with an opposing Captain who, he feels, has played the game wrongly in a desperate bid to win? Is there a point, then, of playing on in Perth and Adelaide?
RIP :: Cricket as we know it…
The Australia v India tour is a mess right now. The players are stuck in their hotel in Sydney. Ironically, they cancelled a tour to the Bradman Museum in Bowral, enroute Canberra and stayed in their Sydney Hotel instead. The great Don may be turning in his grave in anguish at the sorry state of the game here in Australia. The game, as we know it, is in the Intensive Care Unit of an unknown hospital somewhere.
Who is to blame for this sorry mess? The Indian team alone? The ICC? Cricket Australia? Harbhajan Singh? Anil Kumble? Ricky Ponting? Mike Proctor? Umpires Benson and Bucknor? I believe each of these actors in this sordid play have to stand up and take some responsibility.
My feeling, though, is that if Proctor had not banned Harbhajan Singh — or if he had imposed a suspended sentence due to lack of complete and irrefutable evidence — things would not have come to this. Then again, if Ricky Ponting had not “dobbed in” — let us remember, when Australia were in danger of the game running away from them — things would not have come to this.
The Indians would have cried on a bit about the umpiring and disappeared to the Bradman Museum and then, Canberra.
But then, Ricky Ponting, we are told, had to report Harbhajan Singh. And Mike Proctor had to do his duties as Match Referee.
Within the Indian player group there is much anger and disappointment.
India, with the backing of its financial muscle power (over 70% of the games’ revenues come from India) has dug its heels and stuck to its guns, despite the danger of a $2.3m fine for pulling out midway from a tour for reasons other than security-risk. Cricket Australia indicated that the tour was certainly on, with CEO James Sutherland suggesting (as one would to one’s angry child, perhaps) that once Anil Kumble was a bit more sober, everything would be ok! His view was that Anil Kumble’s “outburst” was understandable for he had just lost a game and tensions were running high. Strong empathy there. Well done. Patronising perhaps? No way.
The BCCI has held emergency meetings and postured angrily and at times, with some confusion. Former Indian players were angry and scathing in their views over the goings-on. This had now become an issue of national pride; not just one man’s 3-Test ban.
How appropriate that the Test series itself is called the 3 Test Series!
Arun Jaitley, the BCCI’s lawyer as well as a BCCI Senior Vice President, has already filed an appeal against the Harbhajan Singh ban.
The BCCI has taken this on as an insult, not merely to the player in question, but to Indians as a whole around the globe. This issue has been politicised and yet again in cricket, a sense of proportion has been lost. In a terse and angry statement, the BCCI said, “The Indian board realises the game of cricket is paramount but so, too, is the honour of the Indian team and for that matter every Indian. To vindicate its position the board will fight the blatantly false and unfair slur on an Indian player”.
I think Mike Proctor has acted in a manner that, in my opinion, has not been either consistent or great for the game.
He was incorrect, in my view, for not banning Yuvraj Singh for dissent after the 1st Test, for if he had banned Yuvraj Singh, it would have provided India with a better batsman in the Sydney Test!
But jokes apart, Mike Proctor has not, in my view, been entirely consistent.
How he could let Ricky Ponting get away with three acts of misdemeanour in the Sydney Test is way beyond me: (a) Ponting’s dissent on being given out in the 1st Innings of the SCG Test, (b) The Australian teams’ appalling over rate in the Indian second Innings, (c) Claiming a catch off M. S. Dhoni when he must have known that he had grounded the catch.
I also refer the reader to an articulate posting by Prem Panicker, a well-known and well-respected journalist for Rediff.com.
Ponting must have known that he grounded the catch. Look at direction his eyes are appearing to look at in the picture!
Now, a cricketer has been banned in the past for claiming a catch when it was not out. Pakistan player, Rashid Latif was banned for five matches for claiming a “grounded” catch in a Test against Bangladesh.
The Match Referee in that precedent? Mike Proctor. Hello! Hello!
And what has Mike Proctor done in this game? He banned Harbhajan Singh. He hasn’t even questioned the integrity of Ricky Ponting. If Ricky Ponting could claim the catch against M. S. Dhoni, should he have the power to be a 4th umpire in the catch against Sourav Ganguly that Michael Clarke claimed to take cleanly?
I personally do not think so.
For a start, on the basis of this evidence, I feel that the pre-tour agreement on claiming catches between Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting will be thrown out of the window. If the tour does go ahead, I do not believe the Indian team will (or indeed, should) have any faith in the integrity of the Australian captain or the Australian team.
If the tour goes on, in my view, all catches have to be referred to the 3rd umpire.
The hypothesis at play here is that in times of extreme duress, distress and anguish, integrity is the first thing that suffers in Australian cricket.
The backdrop against which this observation is made is important here.
Ricky Ponting was desperate to prove that the timing of his declaration was apt. A fact that made him interrupt Channel-9 interviews (at the end of the days’ play) with other players to scream out against Tony Greig’s criticism of the timing of the declaration. Adam Gilchrist was similarly under the pump too. He too was reported to have interrupted interviews to scream out (perhaps in jubiliation and perhaps in relief) at Tony Greig’s criticism of the declaration-timing. The criticism meant a lot to this team. Pontings’ timing was based on shutting India out first, winning next. He had achieved the former. He wanted the latter desperately. Evidence, albeit ancedotal, supports that. It was obvious that the win meant so much to Ricky Ponting. Apart from having things to prove to Tony Greig and the rest of the commentary team, and despite his public denials, the consecutive-win record would have meant much to this proud and fiesty cricketer.
Would he do anything he could to snatch that victory? Make up your own minds. But here was a captain that was, in my view, very very desperate to win… at any cost too, perhaps.
When questioned repeatedly on this facet of his (perhaps desperate) attempts ot win at all costs, Ricky Ponting reacted angrily and testily to G. Rajaraman, the Outlook India correspondent, who records the events in his blog. The question clearly rankled Ponting.
“Only one team played in the spirit of the game“, said Anil Kumble at the conclusion of the game. You wonder why?
In a scathing attack, Peter Roebuck certainly thinks that Ricky Ponting brought the game into disrepute and should be stood down as captain of the Australian team.
But then Australians will point to the fact that Anil Kumble may have meant that it was perhaps Australia that was the one team that had played in the spirit of the game — and not Kumble’s own team. After all, Harbhajan Singh was the only one to be slapped on his wrists at the end of the game! History would perhaps record Anil Kumble’s comments as a salutation to Australia’s immense sportsmanship?
But I seriously wonder if Mike Proctor had enough evidence to ban Harbhajan Singh for 3 games? Or was this yet another gaffe from the Match Referee, who did not pull up Ricky Ponting as he had, Rashid Latif? Only time will tell. The lawyers will make money out of this.
However, history will record that, in a game where people from the Indian sub-continent and black South Africans have withstood decades of discrimination and villification, an Indian is the first to be booked for racism under the ICC’s new code. There is a strange irony to this. I have always maintained that, despite the baggage of past history (and provocation), if anyone could be proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, they should do the time. So, time will tell if Harbhajan Singh was a victim or indeed, the person that dished out an abuse.
I do believe that this is a horrible deadlock; one from which either party will find it hard to back down from.
The ICC has indicated that it will not allow Steve Bucknor to be stood down in the Perth Test. They have their backs up and will not let one of their own suffer an inglorious exit from the game. And fair enough, in my view. After all, the ICC has already been through a nightmare scenario once after the Darryl Hair issue! They would not want yet another umpire to go the same way! In all probability, Perth will be Bucknor’s last Test match. If he does not retire, he must be asked to do so. So, whether the Indians like it or not, I feel that Bucknor will officiate in Perth.
Cricket Australia and Ricky Ponting have their backs up, claiming that they have done nothing wrong and, if anything, it is the Indians who are to blame for all of this mess. Having said that, Cricket Australia has imposed a gag order on Andrew Symonds. Meanwhile, Cricket Australia has to come to terms with that fact that almost every Poll in the land has delivered bad news for the national cricket team; almost all of them have indicated that Australian cricketers are bad sportsmen (an example, here).
Meanwhile, Sachin Tendulkar has come out openly to state, “Harbhajan is innocent. I assure you of this.”
So, is Proctor saying that Sachin Tendulkar is a cheat?
I feel that cricket has to go on, but I do believe that this entire episode has tarred relations — perhaps beyond repair — between these two cricket nations; each with a proud history. I somehow cannot see Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble shake hands prior to the Perth Test. Sources close to the team say that Anil Kumble, a proud, fiercely competitive and honest crickter — his record speaks for himself — will not shake hands with a cricketer who, he feels, has played the game wrongly in a desperate bid to win.
If the Indians play on, in this tour, I doubt it will be because they want to play the game; it would be because they were forced to and not because they want to. Is this good for the game? For a bunch of XI players to rock up to Perth and Adelaide and for the game to be over in a day or two?
Who is to blame for all of this sadness?
Have your say…