Monthly Archives: July 2009

A good read while we take a ‘break’

Given that Team India is not playing any cricket currently, all of us have decided to take a break from things cricket. However, I thought I would post this excellent piece from Times On Line by Mattew Syed on what I have jokingly referred to as “The Spit of Cricket” in the past.

I have been continually amazed at Ponting’s constant reference to “The Spit of Cricket” manual that he and his mates drew up hastily before India’s 2003 tour of Australia.

Only a week after that “Spit of Cricket” document was written we had the parody of Sachin Tendulkar given out LBW to a ball from Jason Gillespie that may have been called a bouncer on another day! The bowler commenced his appeal, almost apologised for having appealed and then laughed uncontrollably when he got the decision in his favour from Steve Bucknor!

Tendulkar looked at the umpire for a milli-second, turned on his heels and marched off towards the pavilion. Yes, there will be people who will point to his Mike Denness incident to indicate that Tendulkar is mortal too. However, while we do not know what Mike Denness was involved in at the time, we do know that he hasn’t been seen or heard of since then! His departure from cricket came a game too late is all I can say about that unfortunate blemish that he caused to Tendulkar’s copy-book! A cricketer like Tendulkar does not need a “Spirit of Cricket” document in order to act like a role-model. His “Spirit of Cricket” did not need to be documented and signed. He did not need to chest-thump to ensure that the whole world accepted his “Spirit of Cricket” story. The only “Spin” he needed was the bowling he did and not the sort that “marketing gurus” from Jolimont indulge in. That would be for lesser people wearing green caps! His “Spirit of Cricket” was etched in his heart and his very being.

Meanwhile, a few days later — and indeed, a few days after the “Spit of Cricket” document had been signed, and after several grown men wearing Green Caps had pledged their support for it — Justin Langer who was plumb in front, shook his head so violently after he got given out that I feared his head would detach from his body! Here was a man, though, that had signed the “Spit of Cricket” document! Surely, he must be an honorable man!

It is in that context that I felt that the article below from Matthew Syed resonated stunningly. I was pointed to this article by a friend who thought I had written this under a pseudonym! I wish I could write as eloquently and compellingly as Mattew Syed. He has, however, taken the words straight out of my mouth!

The link to this excellent article is provided here and the whole article is reproduced below…

From The Times

July 15, 2009

Ricky Ponting walking a thin line

Matthew Syed

What planet is Ricky Ponting living on? The Australia captain has accused England of failing to play within “the spirit of the game” after the so-called time-wasting antics in the opening Test match in Cardiff. Had the words been spoken by just about anyone else on Planet Cricket, they might have carried some weight, but from the diminutive Aussie they smack of crass hypocrisy.

This is a man who has turned slow play into an art form, regularly failing to get his bowlers through their overs quickly enough. Australia have been fined 33 times for slow play since 1995: 20 of them under Ponting’s captaincy and eight times since the start of 2008. They were fined in four Tests and two one-day internationals in 2008 and have infringed twice more in 2009, most recently in the World Twenty20 defeat by Sri Lanka last month.

This is a man who has time-wasted in previous Ashes contests, including on the fourth day of the third Test at Old Trafford in 2005, when Australia spent an inordinate amount of time setting and resetting the field as the clock ticked away. Steve Bucknor, the umpire, was so concerned that he started to tap his watch and, when Ponting persisted with his tactics, warned the Australia captain.

This is a man whose attempts to put pressure on umpires has become so sustained, insistent and aggressive that it has started to cause concern at the highest levels of the game. Minutes before the end of the Test on Sunday, Ponting was at it again, almost going nose to nose with Aleem Dar to appeal for a catch that missed Paul Collingwood’s bat by the width of Ayers Rock.

This is a man who regularly refuses to walk when the ball has snicked his own bat; who has appealed for catches that didn’t carry (is it any wonder Andrew Flintoff pointedly stayed at the crease when Ponting took a catch low down in the second innings in Cardiff?); who perceives wrongdoing in just about everything except for his own actions.

This is a man who has been fined six times for breaches of the ICC Code of Conduct (in addition to the fines for time-wasting), not to mention all those occasions when he has behaved dubiously and not been charged; who made an offensive gesture after being given out against India in Sharjah in 2003; who leads the national team that invented sledging, perhaps the most ghastly and immoral tactic in the modern game.

Spirit of cricket, Ricky? Spirit of cricket? Why not listen to your own countrymen, who have made their opinions plain on this very issue. A poll for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph in January 2008 showed that an extraordinary 82 per cent of Australians believed that Ponting was not a great ambassador for his country and 79 per cent felt the national team did not play within “the spirit of cricket”. Seen in this context, Ponting’s finger-pointing is almost beyond parody.

Had the positions been reversed, we all know what would have happened. Ponting would not merely have sent on the twelfth man and the physio; he would have dispatched the batting coach, the doctor and the team toe-nail cutter. Hell, he would have sent out Dame Edna, Rolf Harris, the cast of Home and Away and Skippy the bush kangaroo if he thought he would have got away with it. With Ponting, for “spirit of the game” read “winning at all costs”.

It is remarkable that Andrew Strauss failed to keel over laughing when he heard Ponting’s comments; remarkable that the England captain bit his lip long enough to resist retaliating with a sentence involving the words “pot” and “kettle”. But even more remarkable is that the Australian press has taken up Ponting’s lament with barely a reference to the Australian captain’s track record. Could it be that the Aussies are closing ranks because they have begun to sense a repeat of 2005?

The delicious aspect of all this from England’s perspective is that it is the twelfth man, once again, who has got up Ponting’s nose. At Trent Bridge in the fourth Test of the Ashes series of 2005, Gary Pratt, who had come on for the injured Simon Jones, ran out Ponting with a wonderful shy at the stumps when the Australian looked like he was getting set for a humungous innings.

Ponting’s charming nature was again revealed in that episode, shouting and swearing at Duncan Fletcher, the England head coach at the time, as he walked up the steps to the pavilion.

It has already been suggested that England should make full use of this over the course of the series, with a rotating twelfth man selected to maximise Ponting’s exasperation. Pratt – now playing Minor Counties cricket – has been mentioned as someone who might be drafted in again, as has the chap who thumped Ponting on the nose in an Australian nightclub in 1999.

Sure, this is all said in jest, but it might actually serve a useful purpose, alerting Ponting to the fact that it will not do to preach about the spirit of cricket when so much of his behaviour, and that of his team, fails the test.

And that is, perhaps, the most saddening thing about this whole episode. If Ponting possessed a shred of moral authority, the focus would now be on the England captain for what happened in the last few moments of Sunday’s play rather than on the Australia captain’s duplicitous response. We would be investigating the shaky rationale provided by Strauss for the two visits to the middle – I mean, if he wanted to provide information to the batsmen about the time left to play, why did it need to be repeated? It is not as if Monty Panesar is hard of hearing.

The fundamental problem is that cricket has been on a slippery slope for so long that few players of any nationality seem to understand, still less care, about the spirit of the game, except in so far as it provides a pretext for pointing the finger at others.

This is a dispiriting state of affairs for a game that, at one time, was a byword for ethics, etiquette and courtesy. But on the wider point, who should take responsibility for this moral malaise? Only a fool in a baggy green cap would deny that the Aussies are the principal villains.