A letter to Peter Lalor


I could have written this on Peter Lalor’s blog in The Australian — but it got a bit too long.

I could have sent him an email — but there were points here that I thought I would share more widely.

I could have written a Letter to The Australian — but then I have, in the past and find that, in general, hard words end up in the “Trash Folder”.

I chose to write it here.

—————————

Peter Lalor, the cricket columnist from Sydney for The Australian, has written today, an article that has made me want to write this piece.

In Lalor’s story, “Test furore was just lack of the draw“, he opens cheekily and with some innuendo. He says, “Had Anil Kumble’s men drawn the Sydney Test, you would have to wonder whether they would have sat in a luxury hotel for the past two days, refusing to continue with the tour..”

Lalor thereby signals that perhaps the only reason (or perhaps, the major reason) for all of this deadlock and imbroglio is that Indians are sore losers. This is simultaneously naive and insulting. I will say this in Peter Roebuck’s favour. Although I did not agree with his call for Ricky Pontings’ head, at least he did not hide behind the cloak of inuendo while making his point!

I’d counter Peter Lalor’s opener by saying: “Had Anil Kumble’s men lost in Sydney and had the umpiring been fair and had Ponting’s men played in the ‘spirit of the game’ and had Harbhajan Singh not been called a racist, one would have to wonder why the Indians would not have seen the Bradman Museum on Monday afternoon.”

After all, to say that Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman and their mates hung around in Sydney merely because they lost a cricket match flies in the face of history — something that Lalor has a penchant to reach out for via visits to YouTube (more of that in a minute)! History and past data teaches us that no one is perhaps more used to losing than the Indian cricket team right? They can’t bat. They can’t bowl. They can’t field. They can’t sledge. They can’t win overseas. We have heard it all — and more — from Lalor’s mates over the years. Surely, they are used to losing — and losing badly — by now! So, why is it that Lalor suddenly pins the grumpy attitude of the Indians singularly on that convenient coat hanger of a loss in Sydney?

To do that is to miss the point. To do that is to be disrespectful. To do that is to patronise. To do that is to be in denial. To do that is to be flippant.

Let us even forget, for a moment the umpiring decisions — after all, even though they were in my view incompetent, they were third-country umpires.

Let us also forget the commonly held view that integrity went out of the window in that match (particularly that last evening).

I would then venture to suggest an alteration to the opener that Peter Lalor commenced his article with: “Had Anil Kumble’s men lost in Sydney and had Harbhajan Singh not been called a racist, one would have to wonder why the Indians would not have seen the Bradman Museum on Monday afternoon.”

So, I’d like to appeal to Peter Lalor to get some perspective and context here.

And yes, as Peter Lalor says in his article, the truth is that the Indians lost their collective nerve and lost to a better team.

Losing a match is not the point, though, Peter Lalor. The Indian teams are masters at losing. The team — and her fan around the globe — experiences this feeling regularly.

Not winning”, however, is a feeling that is so very unnatural for the Australian team. So, anecdotally, we have the time-wasting tactics on day-3 when some 6 overs were lost despite the game having been extended by a half hour! Hence the excessive appealing on day-5. Hence the catches that were claimed by Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting.

Let us not forget, the Indian team is comfortable losing. Look into the history books please!

However, in a match where both the umpires thought all along that the Australians were truly honourable men and so all of their appeals must be upheld, we now also had the Match Referee suggesting that Harbhajan Singh was guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” of being a racist because a few honourable Australian men had said so.

Where is the natural justice in all of this?

Do you now understand why Anil Kumble and his men stayed back in Sydney?

Peter Lalor, when natural justice is denied, people do go to extreme lengths to make their point. You saw the anger in Anil Kumble when he said “only one team played in the spirt of the game“.

To trivialise that satement down to the fact that India lost is way beyond “head buried in the sand” territory. After all, Anil Kumble has seen more losses in his life than wins.

You then say that the Indian Team “refused to accept the ICC match referee’s decision to ban Harbhajan Singh for three matches for racially slurring Andrew Symonds“.

I would also refuse to accept a ruling from a Kangaroo-court (not a racist tag, I hope). Mike Proctor is no lawyer, nor is he trained in the law. How he could reach a conclusion “beyond reasonable doubt” and taint a player as a racist is beyond me. Where is the proof? If the proof is so very evident, then share it with the rest of the whole world.

Peter Lalor, you talk highly about the AFL’s bid to stamp out racism. Their hearings are subject to scrutiny and are conducted by well-honed and hard-nosed men of the law. Can we please stop comparing apples and jackfruits!

This “court” was conducted by one man with some help from a lawyer, no doubt, and behind closed doors.

Being accused a racist when there are no witnesses, no mikes and no evidence is a big call to make! For Mike Proctor’s sake, I hope he got it right. Even so, the team was entitled to make its case and press for an appeal.

Clearing Harbhajan Singhs’ name as a racist is more important than the loss in Sydney or Perth or Adelaide. These are mere games. Teams win and teams lose. The Indian team loses more regularly than it wins. They played good cricket in Sydney. They played attractive cricket in Sydney. They enthralled and entertained in Sydney. That matters more to me, and, I suspect the average punter in India, than the end result.

But it is not every day that someone in the Indian team gets called a racist!

Please do try and understand that view point. In Australia, playing hard and fair is a mantra. In India, playing well and fair is a mantra. The team members are ambassadors of the nation. They represent the nation’s voice and spirit. To have one of their members labelled a racist by a Kangaroo-court is a blemish on the nation. That national pride means more to India than a win or a loss. Playing hard is not part of the equation. There are cultures that run at odds here.

—————————

In your article, you then talk about ICC appeasement of the Indians by sacking Steve Bucknor.

To begin with, you say yourself, in an ABC Radio interview that Steve Bucknor has to be sacked, for his performance at the SCG. I am sure you used the words, “He has to be sacked“! This was two days back! Start listening from about 5 minutes and 40 seconds into the interview. You start that segment by saying, “I am astounded that [the ICC] are insisting that [Bucknor] stands in the next Test“.

So, what has changed your view from then to this point where you now say that the only reason why Steve Bucknor was removed was because the BCCI flexed its financial muscle?

Peter Lalor, a response from you would be most appropriate…

It shocks and pains me that the BCCI had to flex its financial muscle power to have Steve Bucknor removed from its matches. It saddens me because I feel it was wrong for BCCI to have done so. It saddens me because natural justice was, similarly, denied Steve Bucknor too (in my view). He may be incompetent. But he is also human.

However, as Harsha Bhogle says, the Indians have been on Steve Bucknor’s case since 1992!

An organisation that sits on its fingers for 15 years will do nothing more than collect ring marks on its collective backside — and that is exactly what the ICC has been doing! Don’t blame the BCCI alone for this mess involving Steve Bucknor.

To their credit — and again, your sense of historical perspcetive will not fail you here — the Indians have been appealing to the ICC about Steve Bucknor since 1992! Harsha Bhogle refers to these complaints in this radio interview (fast forward to 4 mins and 50 seconds into the interview for this reference).

The ICC got it wrong by appointing Steve Bucknor in this marquee Test series in the first place! If they had listened to complaints from the Indians, things need not have come to this.

Did the Indians have a right to appeal against Steve Bucknor standing in the Perth Test? I do not think so.

Did the Indian playing-group make it clear that they had lost their trust in Steve Bucknor? Absolutely yes!

Was their mistrust in Bucknor vindicated during the SCG Test match? Absolutely yes, in my view.

The Indians have not appealed against Bucknor just now in Sydney after the SCG Test loss. They have had a problem with this umpire since 1992 (as Harsha Bhogle says). Which Indian fan can ever forget the way Bucknor mimicked and mocked Rahul Dravid in a one day match in Sydney after the Indian batsman was accused of ball-tampering in the previous match? That wasn’t cheeky or incompetent. It was something else — I won’t say it for it might amount to slander! Bucknor should have been censured and stood down on that day!

Which Indian can forget the crass manner in which Steve Bucknor admonished Parthiv Patel in 2003-04 when he appealed for a caught behind in that vital game in Sydney — Steve Waugh’s farewell game. His face had a look not of a parent admonishing child; not of teacher admonishing errant student. His face had something else writ all over it.

Peter Lalor, I can go on and on and catalog a litany of errors made by Bucknor against the Indians. It is not the errors that matter. It is the surrounding environment in which these errors are made that seems to suggest that there is more at play here than just incompetence. At the end of the day, it is the trust that a playing group has in an umpire that matters.

Bucknor was a good umpire. That his end in the game had to come in this manner is a regret. The ICC should take blame for it in my view. No one should be treated in this manner. Natural justice has not been served in his case. Moreover, this has set a precedent that is, as Sanjay Manjrekar says, quite dangerous for the ICC.

Am I proud that the BCCI flexed its muscles on this issue? Not the least bit. I wrote as much in my blog last night. But did it have to? Make your own mind up.

But when you next write about the BCCI’s bully tactics, please also write that you yourself were for Bucknor’s sacking and that the BCCI has been complaining to the ICC about Bucknor for yonks.

—————————

And then your article delves into a history lesson that suffers from a blurred and tenuous context.

You talk about how the Indians accepted Bucknor’s decision on an LBW appeal at the famous drawn Lords’ Test — one that went in India’s favour in that game. Let us not go down the path of contentious LBW decisions Peter Lalor. That is a slippery path to nowhere. Even in the SCG Test, there were numerous contentious LBW decisions — against and in-favour-of both teams. The umpire makes the call. The players accept the LBW decisions.

Even if we remove these LBW decisions, the umpires — Steve Bucknor in particular — had a shocker at the SCG.

Even sans LBW calls, the decisions were stacked against the Indians at the SCG and they still make my eyebrows arch back to the back of my head!

—————————

Peter Lalor, you seem to be a great fan of YouTube from where you dredge the “M. S. Dhoni, Kevin Pietersen episode”. While we are delving into history books, and while we are mucking around on YouTube to do so, please also type in “Slater Dravid” into YouTube. If this video does not make you wonder at the sheer gamesmanship on display, perhaps you are not a cricket tragic after all. The one video that is there on YouTube on the Slater-Dravid episode does not go on to show Slater giving umpire S. Venkataraghavan a choice spray too.

Let us delve into history appropriately. Let us not delve in selectively.

So what is the relevant context here then?

The catch that M. S. Dhoni claimed was not covered by the same pre-tour understanding that was struck between Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting. In that context, why wouldn’t a player claim a catch — any catch? Slater claimed the catch. It was turned down by the 3rd umpire. Dhoni appealed for a catch. It was initially upheld and then turned down! For each Dhoni-Pietersen catch that you search on YouTube, I will present to you a catalogue of many more such catches claimed. The regime under which these catches were claimed was different. And so it is fair to appeal for those catches in my view.

In context, please present a list of catches that were perhaps-wrongfully-claimed under the backdrop of a pre-tour agreement when they ought not to have been claimed? I lay before you two catches in this context: (a) The catch that Michael Clarke claimed off Sourav Ganguly, (b) The catch that Ricky Ponting claimed off M. S. Dhoni.

Peter Lalor, while the time that you spent on YouTube may have been fun, the case you make is irrelevant in the context of the SCG game.

It is best that that pre-tour agreement is torn up in my view. In my view, when the going gets tough, integrity is the first thing to suffer with this Australian team. Anil Kumble was a dud to enter into a pre-tour agreement with this Australian team and must cop the blame for the consequence of it.

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Peter Lalor, you said in your article, “Some newspapers yesterday posted polls damning Ponting’s captaincy and the Australian team’s sportsmanship. The Australian has seen an email sent around Indian supporter groups urging them to vote against the Australians. Meanwhile, in India the nation is calling on its beaten team to return home.

Two points about this:

  • Which poll have you been a part of in which one group or the other has not developed a propoganda? That is the point of a poll, is it not? You are pitting one group of people with one view against another! I have seen TV programs in this country goading its public to visit a public website to vote for The Sydney Opera House as a Wonder of the World! Fair enough. I saw one of these TV programs and went on to that website to vote for the Opera House. Was I wrong? Why? Did that TV program commit a sin of humanity against the Taj Mahal? Why? I have also seen emails asking me to vote for Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi as “Person of the Century” in some poll that some magazine carried out in the year 2000 (I think). That is the point of polls. It pits one set of people against another and as a natural consequence, it initiates propoganda!
  • To suggest that public opinion has been drummed up only by Indian supporter groups that have dredged up support for their point of view through wanton and callous email lists ignores Radio talk-back callers. You will have heard some of these talk-back callers themselves. Most of these callers were utterly disgusted with the attitude and approach of the Australian cricket team. Unless of course, you are suggesting that Indian supporter groups have the gall (leave alone the ability) to mask their thick accents and suddenly develop an Australian accent and call in to talk-back shows as Bruce or Cindy?

There is a large cross-section of people out there that believes India was dudded in that game. There is a large proportion of people out there that believes that the win-at-all-costs attitude of the Australian team on that last day leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

It is time to accept that and not provide apologies. Australian cricket needs an honest mirror in my view.

This is not to absolve the BCCI or Indian cricket or the ICC of their contributions to this almighty mess. I have said from day-dot that all parties are to blame for this.

[By the way, I am still hugely pained by all of this… but please do not trivialise the pain by saying it is beacause of the loss that India suffered. A loss is a loss is a loss. Furthermore I, like the team I support — one that can’t bat, bowl, field, catch or throw well — am used to being on the losing side].

— Mohan

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21 responses to “A letter to Peter Lalor

  1. Sadly, as you note, both India and Australia have some of the blame for this mess. I commend you on your willingness to note it – and your obvious passion for the game.

  2. Mohan,

    Pls also add two more contentious catches to the two that you mentioned.

    The two “bump” ball appeals that were made by Hussey on Dravid and one more made for a catch of Dhoni.

    Now if the pre match agreement is to go by the fielders agreement for all such contentitious catches ( in other words, to accept the fielders word that the ball did not bounce before he caught it), then why did the umpires go to the 3rd Umpire in both these two instances. They should have first checked with the fielders. I sure did not notice the umpires checking with the fielder. The two umpires discussed and went to the third umpire.

    And secondly does it not call into the question the integrity of both the appeals. Surprising that all 11 players including Ponting did not notice that these are bump catches.

  3. Oh gosh, phew, you are laboring your points … to death.

    We have a saying in Ausatralia, “give it a bone”. It means stop raving on so much. The over-analysis you are engaging in sir (albeit under the guise of a reasonable man) is tedium and akin to Chinese water torture.

    Drip, drip, drip, … you just don’t stop with the drips and the drivel.

    You have got your player (temporarily) re-instated, the umpire sacked and an Australian charged by “flexing your (questionable) financial muscle” and, according to you, winning doesn’t matter.

    So just go to Perth and get another belting, only this time don’t complain if the umpires make a mistake or if the Aussies play aggresively.

    Have you ever heard of the saying, “when in Rome…”?

    By the way, India has as many ‘black marks’ against its name in cricket sportsmanship as what any other side does – except for the English, they doctor all their pitches and serve us poisoned tea and warm beer, but we don’t complain, we just beat them.

    Cheers and “give it a bone”.

  4. That doesn’t seem to have been the agreement. It simply was about whether balls carried to the fieldsman.

  5. well said. If india was complaining because of losing, then with thier financial power they would’ve asked ICC to declare the match void, but they didnt do it. They’re fighting against the false case against harbhajan

  6. hot link. http://www.espnstar.com/cricket/indvaus/newsdetails.cmd?id=7021366

    Itseems England and not BCCI booted Bucknor

  7. Ray, this is Mohan and his team’s blog piece. I think Mohan can talk about the art of watching paint dripping if he wants to – you have a choice to read it or not. Unless of course you are his boss who thinks Mohan spends too much time on this blog – then I understand your frustration.

    I am not sure what your “When in Rome’ remark is supposed to mean – please explain.

    Mohan,

    Peter Lalor had done his homwork very well. He identified ways to move up in the ladder a few months back and has played his card so well that he is on the fast-track to journalistic stardom. IF Lalor had the means, he would replicate IBN by hiring a few goons of the streets to burn effigies of Indian players. Unfortunately they do not have effigy factories in Australia and it is expensive to import from India at such short notice.

    Peter Lalor, If you read this blog and the comments section still – I would that you contact IBN-India as they have leftover Sachin Tendulkar effigies from the wrold cup debacle. If you add a patka to the same, then you can use it for Harbhajan Singh as well. Apparently they are on discount sale as they have no use anymore in India.

  8. The manner in which Kumble has handled and responded during the whole episode has brought to light the great character in him and has elevated my respect for him to supreme heights. Indians should be proud to have such a great man as captain. Like Gavaskar said, he is a great ambassador for India.

  9. How can any one say that the better team won when the manner in which it is acheived is questionable.

    We have heard before the bunkum abuot the Aussies being the better team. That judgement is uttered like a mantra regardless of whether they deserved to win. Just becuase they were the better team that last time it does not mean that they should be allowed to win the next time.

    Bucknor should have been given his marching orders after the last world cup in the West Indies. The ICC got away with murder on that occasion and did nothing about the squash ball saga and everyone forget about it.

    The idea that umpires word is final does not make sense if those decisions are clearly wrong or are questionable. It is not enough to say that they are human.

    If an umpire makes decisions which are wrong on a regular basis then he should go.

    The game will fall into utter disrepute if umpires are not seen as impartial. And that goes for the people who administer the game as well.

    The trouble is too much money is at stake and honour is sacrificed at the altar of the mammon.

  10. Prabu, yes Mohan can “talk about the art of watching paint dripping if he wants to…” and I can tell him how tedious, boring and pointless it all is, if I want to. I don’t have to be his boss to comment on the stuff he’s putting into cyberspace for all to read. If he doesn’t want any comments he can easily fix that.

    It’s “When in Rome do as the Romans do”. It’s a very old saying and in this context it means the Indian side should follow Australia’s example and take the results ‘on the chin’ without complaining, even when they are hard done by.

  11. As Mohan had said, for every example cited to project one team involving in heat of moment act, an equivalent instance can be projected with the other team involving in such acts as well.

    But here there was a pre-series agreement which was breached just for “victory at any cost”

    Thus the quote “only one team was playing in the spirit of the game” is completely justified.

    Aussies are known for sledging, thats ok, but they should be able to bear when someone gives back and not complain it as “racial abuse”.

    The Indian captain requested for sorting out among the two captains and went as far as apologizing on team member behalf, if the aussies were hurt. When this was not respected by the opposing captain, whose team have the reputation as kings of sledging, uncare of whether the persons in the receiving end get hurt or not, then the Aussie captain has no care for keeping up the spirit of the game. Only one thing Ponting cares is “victory at any cost”

  12. BRING ON PERTH!!!!!

    Let the cricket do the talking, not MOHAN, he is boring us all to death..

    Good luck India, you are going to need it. No country in the world stands up to challenges in their sport like Australia. We like the challenges sport brings, but we relish in the tough encounters.

    Indian fans with heart conditions, avert your eyes!

  13. Bill I’m just hoping to see a Big Big Aussie debackle so that you guys can keep ur mouth shut ever thereafter.

    Rmber the T20’S. Didn’t you guys pay for your arrogance. Watch out.

    Cricket is a gentlemen’s game. Don’t forget that.

  14. @Bill
    You said…BRING ON PERTH!!!!!Let the cricket do the talking, not MOHAN, he is boring us all to death..
    Simple solution Bill…don’t read it if he is boring you for gods sake no one is holding a gun to your head. The general view is that he is doing a good job (his passion for the game comes through) and valued by the readers of this site. I have this on my favorites and this my second stop after http://www.Cricinfo.com

  15. Ray,

    I was wondering about the context of what you were saying. Wasn’t Ponting the one who “complained” about England’s dirty tactics of using substitute fielders from county teams that were really good? When you are hard done by after putting in a lot of preparation, it hurts and venting a bit of frustration is good. Who knows what would happen if they carry it to the field?

  16. Prabu,
    Ponting mentioned that, yes, as he should. But he didn’t make an international issue out of it, he just mentioned it, that’s all.

    Venting your feelings is one thing, but India’s reaction has been over-the-top. Also, it’s pretty hard to “carry it to the field” by threatening to go home!

    Let’s face it Prabu, India has reacted with extreme petulance . This is a classic case of the reaction being far worse than the action(s) they are complaing about.

  17. Sorry, “complaining about”

  18. @ RAJ, burning effigies, holding guns to heads, calling the australian cricket captians parents and abusing them, street demonstrations…..you seeing a trend here at all ?!?

    I agree with Ray Dixon. The Indian response to this whole situation has been disgraceful. Thank you for your kind offer to post my blogs somewhere else, I decline, in my country we can say what we want without having others recommending aggressively we do otherwise.

    As I said, bring on Perth. Talk is cheap.

  19. Bring on Perth…we have now initiated the big mental disintegration game (of players, umpires and game) and willl see the fruits of it now….
    my true believe is that without the sledging advantage or cunningness, Australia does not have true talent to win half of the last 16 matches. What happened in the England ashes series when Australia lost was that they become friendly with some england players and in some cases were probably beaten in sledging game. OfCourse some good cricket was also involved. Regarding Sydney game it was so obvious that Andrew Symonds was the instigator and Pointing capitilized. So massive was Poiting eagerness that he came as a runner also and in the end forced even players like Gilchrist and M Clarke to the dark side. I do not mind will to win but when cheating. treachery becomes so obvious then it spoils the fun. I also blame Australian selectors who breed these kind of captains. Players are not to be fully blamed..if they have to stay they have to get results across.
    2015: Wanted for Australia Cricket team who can sledge hard, take one-bounce catches and are cry babies. Playing cricket would be advantageous.
    2018: Australian captain Clarkey today broke record held by earlier captain Pointing for taking most no of one bounce catches 🙂
    2020: Australian team has now set an attacking field for the established batsmen..every fielder is around the umpire ready to put pressure on every ball :))
    If Harbhajan has really abused the second time without provocation then he should be punished..but hey man evrybody in Aus knows hot headed Symonds and what about clarkey..after playing for years u know surely whether catch was right or not…if there was elemnt of doubt like some other players he should have said to the umpire
    Anyway I think Aus should have accepted that they went overboard after the match and not behave like innocent virgins and India should also should have reacted positively and maybe this matter would have been solved peacefully but now no one is accepting so I guess it si going to get worse..welcome to new rivarly.

  20. Bill ,

    Lets Bring on Perth . ha ha ha 🙂

    Indian fans with heart conditions ha ha ha ha 🙂

    cricket can be such a leveller . Bill hope you are alright 🙂

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