Daily Archives: 30 January 2008

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Even though R. P. Singh has been withdrawn through a hamstring injury and even though Zaheer Khan is absent from the make-up, I believe that this is a well-balanced team.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

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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