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This is an excerpt from Sachin Tendulkar’s not-yet-written, but hopefully soon-to-be-written biography. This is so exclusive that we scratched this straight from Tendulkar’s mind!
Chapter-23: Gilchrist: A funny bloke, good player, big ears!
I played quite a few games against Adam Gilchrist. Funny bloke. I laughed every time I saw him. Not when he spoke though. He wasn’t funny when he spoke. He did not have much humour. How can you if you live life with those flaps? He wasn’t funny when he batted either because the helmet would cover the flaps. Moreover, he would always bat Australia out of trouble. Good batsman. Strong hitter. So it wasn’t funny when he batted.
But whenever I saw him, I cracked up!
Gilchrist was always a great bloke. He walked funny. But he always walked when he was out. Never waited for the umpire’s decision. I once told him, “You are mad, man. If you receive decisions like I did from Bucknor in Brisbane in 2003, why would you walk? It all evens out in the end. There are Type-A errors and Type-B errors. Type-A is when you are not out but given out. Type-B is when you are out but given not out. In the end, you hope it all evens out. Why continue life with only Type-A errors? My hypothesis is that it all evens out in the end.”
Gilchrist replied, “What does hypothesis mean?”
I changed the topic.
But whenever I saw him, I always cracked up! Big ears. You know what they say, “Big ears, big nose, big do-da”.
So I asked him about it one day after a match. We had lost! Again! Gilchrist came around to the dressing room. He wanted to shake hands.
I don’t know why these Aussies always had an obsession with shaking hands. When I was in the field, I would constantly see Ricky Ponting spit into his hands. And then after the match, he would always want to shake my hands. I found it offensive. But what could I do. When we were brought up our parents always said, “Treat others with respect and do what pleases them most.” Shaking hands after spitting in it was a done thing in Australia. It rankled me. But I remembered what my parents said and just stuck my hand out. I’d then rush to the wash room to cleanse all the germs away! I did not wish to be culturally insensitive you see!
But this day I wanted to ask Gilchrist after a game that we had lost — again! — about the correlation between his flaps, nose and his do-da. He came into the dressing room.
Now my habit after a game, whether we won or lost is to first have a private conversation with my father. Then I would call my mother. In India, more than “cursing each other on the field and then making friends when one is drunk after the game”, we have a different culture. We first call our parents and tell them how the game went. They would have seen it too on TV and they would also be depressed that we had lost. Again! But we would still try and let them know how it went. After that call, we would then call the wife and our children and talk to them. Often I would have to also talk to Harbhajan Singh’s mother. She would be crying that we had lost. Again! Harbhajan Singh would be incapable of consoling her. So I would have to do that for my good friend. We would then have to call our uncles and aunts. And then we all sit down and offer prayers to God for helping us not lose so badly as we could have! We would then sit down cross legged and meditate. Finally, we would perform a dance-in-a-trance routine, which normally enabled us to forget the loss! That is our culture.
These rituals would take about an hour or so!
But then every time we visited Australia, there was a queue of hands to shake. Each hand would use that handshake ritual to cleanse the acquired on-field guilt — the mouth that owned the hand would have cursed the oppositions’ mother or sister or father on the field, you see. And this ritual was a quick guilt-cleanse; a ritual akin to a confession. At least, that is how I understood the handshake ritual. It was ok with me. After all, when visiting a new place, I was instructed by my parents to understand that cultures’ sensitivities and peculiarities.
And after the guilt-cleanse handshake these hands would also want to guilt-cleanse further by sitting down to cleanse the throat too with oodles of beer sliding down said throat! This would distract us from our normal cultural habits: phone calls, prayers, meditation and dance-in-a-trance. But then we used to say to each other, “Let’s just shake their hands, have a quick beer with these guys, assist them with their guilt-cleanse process and get these guys quickly out of the dressing room. We can then follow our rituals in peace.” Again, we had been taught to respect our hosts/guests and not offend their cultural sensitivities.
So in this match too, Gilchrist came around and stuck his hand out. I thought I grabbed his hand, but to my chagrin, I had his ears in my hand!
This then prompted me to ask him, “So is there a correlation between the size of your ears, your nose and your do-da?”.
Gilchrist asked, “What does correlation mean?”
I changed the topic!
I decided in the next series that I would not bother with the handshake-beer routine. I decided to bury myself in a hidden room within the dressing room to do my normal post-match phone calls, prayers, meditation and dance-in-a-trance routine.
On the 24th of October 2008, I read that Adam Gilchrist said in his autobiography, “In the Australian mentality, we play it hard and are then quick to shake hands and leave it all on the field. Some of our opponents don’t do it that way. Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, can be hard to find for a changing room handshake after we have beaten India. Harbhajan can also be hard to find.”
I am not surprised! If the Australians had waited an hour before the handshake-and-beer routine, they would have found more than myself and Harbhajan Singh! They would have found both of us, the entire team and about 3000 Indian expatriates who would suddenly lay claim to being our long-lost cousins or uncles or aunts. These 3000 expatriate Indians would often be waiting in a queue to take us to their plush homes to feed us the chicken curry that they had cooked the previous day! The Australians could then have shaken my hand, Harbhajan Singh’s hand and about 3000 other hands!
What better way to guilt-cleanse than shake a whole lot of hands! Right? Of course, our collective beer-bill would have gone up. But if they complained about the cost-increase, we would have got the IPL to pick up the tab!
Anyway, after the first two tours of Australia I said to myself, I can’t stand this handshake-beer routine with people who do not understand the “phone calls, prayers, meditation and dance-in-a-trance routine!”
I know I had incurred the wrath of my mother for not respecting the guest/host. However, I had done the handshake-routine for a long time with people who did not understand what the word “correlation” meant! It was getting a bit tiring. Moreover, the dressing room had younger people like Robin Uthappa, Sree Santh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and others that started to say, “Let us follow our own cultural norms. Is it not up to them to follow our cultural norms too? Why should we be the only ones bending over backwards?”
I resisted this new-India initially. I tried telling these new guys, “Look they are like this only (head-shake). They have been like this only (double head-shake). They will always be like this only (triple head-shake). And we are like this only (head nearly fell off!).” However, this new-India force in the dressing room won. This was a new, vibrant and expressive India. One that I had to concede ground to. This new-India, unlike us oldies in the team, didn’t really care too much about people that did not care about her. This new-India was respectful only of cultures that respected her. It thumbed its collective nose at anyone else that didn’t make even a small effort to understand her.
So, I reluctantly agreed to do the “phone calls, prayers, meditation and dance-in-a-trance routine” and not worry about Gilchrist’s views and despondency at not having an Indian hand glued to the end of his own hand!
Thankfully, as a result of this team policy-change, I did not need to shake Ricky Ponting’s spit-filled hand!
Unfortunately, the Australians never really appreciated our cultural needs and differences. For many years, we had tried to (as the young ones in the new India team had said) “bend over backwards” but the only thing I got from all of that was a broken spine and not much respect from the Australians anyway!
Perhaps these young ones were right after all?
The post match beer routine:
I recall a funny story about the post match beer routine that Australians always like to indulge in.
This concerned the Andrew Symonds episode which has been termed “Monkeygate” by the press.
On that 2007-2008 tour, Harbhajan Singh wanted to get much closer to the Australians! Previously, all of our pre-tour cultural-briefings came from our parents. And they always used to say things like: Respect your elders, Stand up when elders talk to you, Touch the feet of elders even in Australia to offer your salutations and seek their blessings, Do not spit in your hands and then shake someone else’s hand, If you have a big flap hide it, and so on.
But then, in 2005 (I think) the BCCI started to get quite professional about it all. They started arranging pre-tour cultural-briefings. Just prior to boarding the plane for Australia in December 2007, we had our pre-tour briefing. This was the first time we were receiving a pre-tour cultural-briefing prior to a tour of Australia. So although I wanted to rush to my first class plane seat to start seeing the in-flight entertainment program, I was all agog! We were asked to try and be-friend the Australian players. We were also told that there were three sure-fire ways to achieve this objective:
(a) tap someone’s bottom — a sure sign of mateship,
(b) say something nasty about someone’s mother or sister — only mates have sledge-rights on mothers and sisters,
(c) wait for the post-day drink-frenzy to make friends over glasses of beer when one loses ones mind and hence, all sense of rational thinking. But whatever you take with you, for optimal results, the post-match drink-frenzy has to be an intellect-free-zone, which, by the way will not be hard for the Australians.
I thought this was pretty cool. I have always wanted to be close to Adam Gilchrist to ask about the correlation between the size of his flaps, nose and do-da!
Such sharing of beer and war-stories, we were told, are to be compulsorily had after the “what’s said on the field is left on the field” type “hard but fair” Australian way of playing!
Harbhajan Singh took that advice really seriously and set about sledging Brett Lee about his sister on the very first day!
Lee turned back and said, “Mate I do not have a sister, try someone else”! Bummer!
Harbhajan Singh then decided to dump that tack and went on several drink-frenzy trips at the end of the days’ play in Melbourne. He remembered from the briefings that he had to drink lots of beer, exchange war-stories and leave his mind behind in the hotel room too! He had an advantage in the sense that he did not need to try very hard to leave his mind behind. By the time the second Test of that series was on us in Sydney, Harbhajan Singh was already a bit tired of all the beer that had been consumed in the tour up until then.
Every word that was said up until then on the field had been drowned with these glasses of beer that just had to be consumed as war-stories were exchanged. Moreover, the drunken haze left him with not much money, a lot of friends — that he actually did not want — and not much memory of what was actually said the previous night!
It was working well, in one sense, but for someone with not that much money and for someone not used to consuming as much beer and for someone with not much mind-space to retain all the unnecessary stuff that he had heard up until then, it was all getting a bit too much!
After the Melbourne match, which we lost — again! — I saw Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist rush to me. One of them had his hands-outstretched while the other had a large bodily object ahead of him! May have been his ears, but I couldn’t tell. I rushed into the dressing room and commenced my post-match, post-loss — again! — “phone calls, prayers, meditation and dance-in-a-trance routine!”
In Sydney, Harbhajan Singh told me that he wanted to try another tack at making friends with the Australians! He was batting well at this stage with me and, together, we had pulled India out of trouble after Bucknor had insisted on “putting us in our place”.
Emboldened by the amount of beer he had consumed the previous day, Harbhajan Singh was willing to risk option (a) of patting someone’s backside.
After surveying the field, his eyes focussed on Brett Lee’s well-appointed hind as a quick route to making friends with Lee — as his pre-tour cultural briefings indicated!
Rather than wait for the post-match drink-frenzy, he proceeded to tap Brett Lee on the bowlers’ well-appointed bottom. He may have chosen the right bottom to pat — especially since he actually got a positive response from Bertt Lee!. However, what Harbhajan Singh did not realise was that Andrew Symonds also had his eyes on that piece of choice real estate!
When Andrew Symonds saw the bum-tap, he saw red! He proceeded to claim exclusive, perpetual and royalty-free rights for performing said task on Brett Lee’s bottom!
He threw a sledge in Harbhajan Singh’s direction. And it sure was a nasty sledge that involved bottoms, tops and other body-parts of mothers, fathers, sisters and cousins. Now, I am not normally shocked by anything I hear on the ground when playing against Australia. But this one was quite a mouthful. It was also clever because Andrew Symonds — at best, you could describe him as a “somewhat simple fellow” — had managed to bring in a whole constellation of relatives into the one sentence and interspersed the whole construction with some choice four-letter words that involved body parts and body functions of these said relatives. As I said, I was impressed that Symonds was able to muster all his intellect to compile and throw that sledge in the direction of Harbhajan Singh. I was in the process of concluding my analysis with a, “Surely, this very simple man cannot have come up with such a clever construction unless he hated the recipient of the choice words utterly vehemently”, when I observed that Harbhajan Singh had grown red under the collar. Perhaps he was upset that Symonds had managed to even drag into the sentence construction, a third-cousin that Harbhajan Singh once had a mild dalliance with?
But Harbhajan Singh was upset. I know when Harbhajan Singh gets upset. He picks up his bat like a mace and wanders up and down the pitch purposefully.
He was quite miffed at being reprimanded for his quite legitimate bum-tap. He was quite annoyed at having to now wait for the post-day what’s-said-on-the-field-is-left-on-the-field drink-frenzy to make friends with this hard-but-fair bunch of muscular Australians. He may have also been upset that this third cousin and her various body parts had been the subject of ridicule by Andrew Symonds. I don’t know. It is often hard to read Harbhajan Singh’s mind even when he speaks. But given that there is not much in his mind, I know that he only operates in two gears: “cool” and “hot”! Right then, he was “hot” mode!
He proceeded to hurl the words “abey tere maan ki …” towards Andrew Symonds.
His pre-tour cultural briefings may have told him that if a bottom-pat didn’t work, an abuse would — especially if it involved sisters and mothers — only mates have sledge-rights on sisters and mothers! After all, play “hard but fair” is the national way of playing in Australia with this supremely muscular bunch of whats-said-on-the-field-is-left-on-the-field Australians who would forget everything in a drunken haze at the end of days’ play!
So, it is likely that Harbhajan Singh may have wanted to start proceedings early in an anxious bid to not wait for the post-day “what’s said on the field is left on the field” drunken stupor!
Unfortunately, Andrew Symonds heard “maan ki” as “monkey” and, the rest, as we say is history. We had “Monkeygate”.
It was Harbhajan Singh’s fault. He should have chosen Brad Hogg’s bum to pat. I doubt anyone in the Australian team would have been as protective of Hogg’s backside real estate as they would be of Brett Lee’s. And we would not have had “Monkeygate” either!
Leave it on the field:
Now this is one area where I have a real problem with the Australians. They are wonderful players. But this is an area where they have got it wrong.
They say that they are happy to “leave it on the field”. In fact, just the other day, I was reading Adam Gilchrists’ biography.
My copy of that book has a lot of dog-ears in it! I took a long time to read it. Also two of the pages are torn in it and stick out of the book like ears! Funny that!
Adam Gilchrist, in his book, says “In the Australian mentality, we play it hard and are then quick to shake hands and leave it all on the field. Some of our opponents don’t do it that way. Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, can be hard to find for a changing room handshake after we have beaten India. Harbhajan can also be hard to find.”
I have already talked about the handshake-and-beer routine.
Yes, there are cultural misunderstandings.
They misunderstand us! Simple.
But take this thing about “shake hands and leave it all on the field.”
I think this is rubbish.
I normally do not call anything black and white. But in this instance, I do.
For example, the other day an interviewer asked me “Is Shah Rukh Khan a better actor or is Amir Khan a better actor?”
I said “They are both good. One is Shah Rukh Khan. The other is Amir Khan.”.
The interviewers’ jaw dropped. She looked at me incredulously. And then persisted with her line of questioning and said, “Phew! What an answer! I hadn’t realised that Shah Rukh Khan was Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan was Amir Khan till you pointed it out! But on a boring afternoon, after a Test match finished really early after you lost — Again! — whose movie would you watch? A Shah Rukh Khan movie or an Amir Khan movie?”
I said, “I’d see them both on a split screen TV!”
Profound stuff, I thought! I stuck to my normal bet-each-way response. As I said, I normally do not like to call things as black and white. The whole world is grey to me!
But I do think that this “Leave it on the field” stuff that the Australians say is rubbish.
If it has all been left on the field, why did Andrew Symonds sulk for such a long time? Why was he kicked out of the Australian team for his fishing expedition. Surely, if he had “left it on the field” he would have just moved on. Words were spoken. We did not all agree. But surely if we had all “left it on the field”, we will not be sulking and bringing it up in every conversation! Why did Adam Gilchrist continue to rake old muck despite the time lapse and despite his retirement? It appears that he had not “left it on the field” as he has advised other teams and other players to do! Funny man. Funny walk. Funny ears!
My conclusion, therefore, is that I do not believe the Australians leave it on the field. Certainly they leave their stuff on the field. They certainly would like other teams to leave Australian stuff on the field. But they carry what other teams have said with them, as baggage, for a long long time, despite the handshakes of spit-soiled hands and despite the fact that we continually gave up our precious “phone calls, prayers, meditation and dance-in-a-trance” routine in order to do their handshake-and-beer routine with them.
Shall I tell you how we Indians really leave it on the field?
We invite two Australians to captain our IPL teams. We invite a whole bunch of Australians to play in the IPL. What’s more? We make the person at the centre of Monkeygate the second highest paid cricketer in the IPL. That is how you really leave it on the field. We do not beat our chest and promote this “leave it on the field” nonsense as a cultural stereotype. We do not need to. We demonstrate it through actions. Did the Australians play in the IPL and grab all that cash that was on offer? Yes they did. Quite shamelessly, I may add.
So, I think the best way to “leave it on the field” is not through empty words, cliches or words spoken through beer-filled mugs in smoke-filled rooms.
You “leave it on the field” through real actions.
Now, apart from Michael Clarke, all of the Australians came to the first grand season of the IPL. They earned lots of money. Went back. I do not begrudge them earning lots of money. Most of them deserved it. I made lots of money too. However, the Australians went back and started criticising the hand that fed. That is a slap in the face of your host. We do not do that in our Indian culture, but understand the Australian compulsion to do so. That is the way we are.
Adam Gilchrist is right. There are cultural misunderstandings. The Australians just do not understand us!
[To be continued…]
Ps: Watch this YouTube video and look out for Sachin Tendulkar [Courtesy: Prem Panicker’s Blog]