Daily Archives: 3 March 2008

The Harbhajan Singh case “scratched”, as expected…

As expected, the ICC has said that it is perfectly within the rules for cricket players to scratch their arm pits during any passage of play on the cricket field!

At the end of Sundays’ CB Series Finals game, that came at the end of a summer in which the Australians have been constantly beaten at their own mind games, The Sydney Morning Herald heralded new and hitherto unvisited depths of despair! The Australian media captured a photograph of Harbhajan Singh scratching his armpit and claimed that this was evidence enough that the feisty Sikh was making “monkey gestures”.

In doing so, the media in Australia merely demonstrated that, apart from the players — particularly the captain — who had already shown signs of getting there, it was possible for the media to mentally disintegrate too!

All of this emanated from the Australian media making a “mountain out of a molehill”. More precisely the Australian media caused a stink out of a Sikh’s public scratch by claiming that Harbhajan Singh imitated a one-handed monkey when he proceeded to scratch his right armpit!

To support such a wild and mildly obnoxious (Ooops! That word again!) claim, the smart investigative Australian reporters whipped up a photograph and thumped it on the desk of the ICC Match Referee. On close inspection, the photograph showed a cricketer — Harbhajan Singh — scratching his armpit! It may have been an ungainly scratch. And on Channel-9’s new and yet untested device, the scratchometer, that photograph did produce a bit of a stink! But apart from that there seemed to be nothing much wrong with that photograph!

But the reporters, the sub-editor and the entire editorial staff pressed on anyway in a gripping manner, straight from the Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein territory! Either that or they thought they were filming an episode of Seinfeld!

The reporters proceeded to get a few random statements from a few Australian fans in the crowd. Nice idea, and smart thinking 99! But these fans were hardly credible! They apparently wore T-shirts with the words “Monkey See… Monkey Do” emblazoned on them!

Don’t laugh! This is really serious!

This was getting way beyond Seinfeld territory by now!

What was worse, however, was that these comments were procured from Australian fans in Bay 29 who constantly hurled racist abuse at Harbhajan Singh himself — they admitted to this themselves! Some of these choice chants included “show us your knot” and “get a haircut” – both references to Harbhajan Singh’s Sikh roots. These chants were spitefully racist in nature! Yet, the Australian media bent over backwards to concoct a case of racism on the person who was seemingly at the receiving end!

I mean, if things had gotten any funnier, it would have been part of a Monty Python sketch!

Fortunately for most people around the world, the ICC ruled that it was perfectly legitimate, although perhaps a tad noisome, for human beings to scratch themselves when they itch! It is a custom that is practiced with annoying regularity in most parts of the world although it would seem that Australians — particularly Australian reporters and even more particularly, reporters from the Sydney Morning Herald — have somehow been exempt from this particularly distasteful habit. Perhaps this is in their job description — although, it would make an interesting case for any equal opportunities commissioner to see a Job Description Statement that showed up employers as scratchists!

Newspaper reporters in Australia were last seen scrambling all over themselves in a bid to beat a hasty path to Australian Quarantine officials to see if they could press with a legislation that banned public scratching.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia has not issued any comment on the racist abuse hurled in the direction of Harbhajan Singh!

— Mohan

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Hail Tendulkar!

Amidst all the mediocrity in behavior surrounding him, the great man did what only he can. He played a masterly knock to further deepen the crevices in an increasingly ordinary looking Australian side. In doing so, he silenced his critics for the umpteenth in his career, all this nonsense about his “second innings” weakness. What an innings it was, sheer artistry combined with focus and determination, abundunce in intelligence and all that, reminding me a lot of music concerts of our very own Sanjay Subrahmanyan.

What was even more glorious to watch was his interaction with supposedly his protege, Rohit Sharma. No one can deny the fact that Rohit Sharma played a gem of an innings, something he could probably have done so only in the presence of the master himself. Sharma did return the favor by running for life when Tendulkar was nearing his hundred doing everything he possibly could to ensure that the maestro walk away from Australia this time with atleast a one day hundred on its soil.

It was interesting to hear how the Aussie commentators, at the start of the innings, constantly referred to the fact that India’s winning chances depended entirely on Tendulkar stay the course in a vein that sounded like a subliminal prayer for his dismissal. Their words certainly came true while their hearts may have grieved.

Back to the man and the innings, you could sense from the word go that he was going to glue himself to the wicket and the sticky conditions come what may and see India start on a winning note in this finale. Nothing would deter him, not even the deliberate (did I say deliberate, oops it was a slip!  Who knows where the truth lies.) attempt on his ribs by one Mr. Lee (it is starting to get a little to irritatingly frequent from this bowler). A smile, a pat on the back and a tame apology after an ugly episode such as this is a poor man’s version of a sore loser. Unlike other sore losers, the high road seeking genius put an immediate end to any speculation of deliberate cause by accepting the apology even if it came from Lee.

My wife, who does not watch much cricket these days, had this say about the Aussie behavior of late, “Mr. Bradman would be turning in his grave”. The Australian team under Ricky Ponting may have played great cricket most of the time but have thrown away every inch of the respect that they earned over the years. All the glory years brought to its lowest and dirtiest state by one man in a jiffy. Steve Waugh’s Australia looks angelic in comparison. India’s gutsy performance through the series aided by the occasional wins by Sri Lanka has brought the true shady colors of Mr. Ponting and his crew.

 Amidst all this, one little man stands tall. Thank you, Sir Tendulkar!!

– Srikanth

India win U-19 WC

In a rain affected low scoring tense final, India won the under 19 World cup. India won all the games that they played and thoroughly deserved the cup. It does bode well for India, but they have to nurture these youngsters so that they move into the senior team in a few years time – and stay there. India were runners up a couple of years ago losing the finals to Pakistan. Two of the stars from that WC – Piyush Chawla and Rohit Sharma are already playing for the senior team. And from the team that played the World cup before that, players like Uthappa, Raina, Karthik and VRV Singh have already represented Team India.

It is good to know that junior cricket is producing a lot of talent that eventually play for the Indian team. But there is also the tendency for a lot of players who show plenty of promise at this level to eventually fall away. For instance, only Yuvraj Singh from the team that won the World cup in 1999-2000 is still playing for India.

-Mahesh-

Monkey Letter

Regular reader, Sampath Kumar has sent this letter in to The Age today. He sent it in to us and we thought we might share it with all our readers…

Dear Editor,

Has Pauline Hanson become the speech writer for Mathew Hayden and Sports Editor for The Age, at the same time?

Instead of The Age, publishing an action shot of Sachin Tendulkar,who scored a century and won the game, on the front page of the Sport section of The Age today, we see a picture of Harbhajan Singh scratching his right arm pit, with the caption,”more monkey business?”

I challenge you to show this picture to 1000 Aussie kindergarten kids and ask them what they think of the photo. I bet my house that not one — that is right — not one will connect a man scratching ONE arm pit with a monkey.

Instead of Harbhajan Singh facing an ICC tribunal, it should be the Sports Editor of The Age that should be worried about a phone call from the Australian Press Council, asking for an explanation.

Sam Kumar
Melbourne, Australia

Pretty Poor Ponting…

In an apologetic article in The Australian, our good friend, Peter Lalor provides a long list of apologies for Ricky Ponting’s woeful form this summer.

He says, for example, “It seems [Ponting’s] mind leaps to create his own controversies at the crease. And why shouldn’t they dog him out there? From the moment the one-day series started in India last September he has battled nonsense and scandal at every turn. Players have clashed on the field and nations have clashed off it. His team and his board are at loggerheads for the first time in years.”

Two things leap to my mind. First, is this not an admission of a mentally disintegrated state? In which case, I think we could call it 1-0 to India! After all, Australia has prided on “targeting” the opposition captain as an object for disintegrating. Second, the same controversies that have dogged Ricky Ponting have also dogged his opposite number, M. S. Dhoni — or Anil Kumble, depending on which form of the game the controversies arose. The last time I looked, both Dhoni and Kumble were leading their side tremendously competently (with bat, gloves, ball as applicable) through these controversies. Indeed, after the nightmare of the Sydney Test match — arguably the worst of the controversies that dogged the two teams this summer — it was India that rose to play superb cricket. It was Anil Kumble that bowled and capatined well.

Through the ODI series, M. S. Dhoni has had to deal with three facets/dimensions: his own game, the puerile sledging controversies as well as a young (very young) team. And frankly, he has come out the better on all three fronts. He has had to dig the team out of trouble with his batting on a few occasions. And each time there was a crisis, his batting has been assured and Zen-like. He wanted and got a young, inexperienced team. He rode the storm of protest and effigy-burning that accompanied his call for a young team. He rode the strident protests of his detractors in the Indian media. And he continues to prove his critics wrong. In yesterdays’ match, he backed his instincts and opened the bowling with Praveen Kumar. He roped in Piyush Chawla for the 19-year-old leg-spinner’s first game of the series! Both moves were masterstrokes. He knows his players and their capabilities and backs them. They deliver — mostly. I also think that Dhoni has come out of the sledging wars in much the same way as Anil Kumble has. He has stayed above the waters and come out of it with composure, poise and dignity. I can’t hold my hand on my heart and say that Ponting has come out of the sledge-fest with a clean head. It is certainly not a clear head. He is muddled and unsure and this has translated into his batting.

Ponting appears to be floundering with his batting as well as his responses to the sledging controversies. Here is a captain who is, in my view, somewhat (mentally) disintegrated. He is ending the season with a dismal batting record and a somewhat woeful auction price in the IPL auction! He needs a good long break from the game to rediscover himself.

The Australian team needs a fully-(mentally)-fit and a firing Ricky Ponting. A good start would be for excuses from the likes of Peter Lalor to stop now.

John Eales, the great Australian Rugby captain often said that leadership is about maintaining composure and form under pressure. It seems to me that Ricky Ponting has lost his own mental disintegration battle. And the more Peter Lalor’s tribe provide excuses for his bad form, the worse it will get. I do think it is a matter of time before Ricky Ponting re-discovers his mojo — he is too good a player to continue to drift the way he is. But to do that he needs to listen to John Eales and not to Peter Lalor!

After last nights’ loss to India in the first final of the CB Series, Ricky Ponting was said to have delivered a “kick in the backside” to his team. Interesting! How does he kick himself in the backside?

— Mohan

More monkey controversy

Harbhajan Singh seems to have been embroiled in another “monkey” controversy during India’s win over Australia at the SCG. Got to wait and see how this one unfolds…

-Mahesh-

India win first final!

“He doesn’t do well in run chases!”

“He hasn’t got a ODI century in Australia!”

Those are just some of the comments that Tendulkar has had to endure. There is some truth to it, though. In his previous 38 appearances in Australia, he had never scored a century and his average in a chase in the last couple of years is only around 30.

Tendulkar got the monkey (no pun intended) of his back  tonight with a hundred batting second and being there till the very end to see India through.

Dhoni lost the toss again and Ponting promptly decided to bat first. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the  right decision as the dew factor didn’t help them. India made a bold move in bringing in Piyush Chawla and opening the bowling with Praveen Kumar. Australia were soon reduced to 24 for 3 (although Clarke could consider himself unlucky). Hayden and Symonds set about restoring the Australian innings, but in an aggressive way. Hayden in particular was severe on Pathan, who went for 29 runs in his 2 overs. Harbhajan was brought into the attack, along with Piyush Chawla. Bhajji took the important wickets of Hayden and Symonds and the two spinners also put a break on the Australian scoring. Chawla was particularly impressive although he didn’t take any wickets. Australia eventually limped to 239, which seemed competitive, but way of the mark of what Australia seemed like getting when Symonds and Hayden were playing.

Uthappa and Tendulkar played with caution to get the score to 50, before Uthappa was caught at the deep by Hussey. Gambhir was needlessly run out and Yuvraj came and went.

The score at that time was 87 for 3 and it looked like anybody’s game. Tendulkar, however played with a lot of determination and played what I call “safe” cricket – not willing to give his wicket away with any false strokes. Just when Tendulkar got to his hundred, there was a lapse in Rohit Sharma’s concentration and he was bowled by Hopes. Rohit Sharma (66) seems to show more and more maturity with every innings and his partnership (123 runs of 136 balls) with Tendulkar was the base from which India were able to win.

Ponting said that the loss to Sri Lanka was just an aberration, but they appear to have lost the momentum and they’ve just got one day to re-coup before the game in Brisbane on Tuesday.

 Is this going to be a repeat of last year, when they lost to England in the finals after dominating the early part of the tournament? We will find out soon enough…

-Mahesh-