Category Archives: Peter Lalor

An Interview with Prem Panicker (Part 3)

In the first part of this three-part in-depth interview with Prem Panicker, the noted commentator on Indian cricket, we talked about his views on racism in cricket in the wake of the Andrew Symonds incidents in India in the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series. In the second part of the interview, we talked about aggression, sledging, Indian cricket and more.

Prem Panicker is a respected writer on a wide rage of subjects for Rediff.

We carried out this interview with Prem Panicker to seek his views on a wide range of issues but also to strike a sense of balance with the views of Peter Lalor, a respected writer for “The Australian” newspaper. We asked both Peter Lalor and Prem Panicker the same set of questions. Our interview with Peter Lalor is available here (Part-1, Part-2, Part-3).

In this concluding, Part-3, of our interview with Prem Panicker, we talk about Australian cricket, Twenty20 and more.

Prem Panicker blogs here:

 

i3j3: Talking of Australian cricket, how do you feel Australia will cope with the absence of Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Justin Langer? Will their absence make the Australian team more vulnerable?

PP: It would be naïve to imagine that any team can shrug off the exit of two such bowlers – especially considering they were still turning in match winning performances when they quit (it is not, for instance, like say a Kapil Dev, who had to be carried through the last leg of his career).

Even across just one ODI series, you could see the gap Warne and McGrath have left – their skill, both as enforcers and as bowlers who could when the going got tough could come in and reel it back – was clearly missed.

Australia will cope; it has in reserve players who would walk into the first XI in most international sides. What will serve as a litmus test of calibre is how quickly the team learns to live without two players who were at its core. Michael Clarke recently warned the public that the team would not be as totally dominant as in the past, and I think he might have got it right – there is an opportunity here for other teams, if they can rid themselves of the fear that the green and gold induces, to close a ridiculously big gap.

 

i3j3: There is daylight after Australia in the championship stakes. Is this good for the game?

PP: No – the greater the competition, the more the interest. Thing though is, Australia has nothing to do with the present situation – the onus is on the other sides to rethink the way they think of the game, the way they train, the way they play, even the way they plan for the longer term. For instance, and to my disgust, I read of Australia thinking of, and working towards, virtual reality practice and of India muffing up one more opportunity to select a good coach for its national side, on the same day.

 

i3j3: What is your take on the Twenty20 game? Is it a bit of hit and giggle? Or does it really have any capacity to (a) broaden its spectator base, (b) provide benefits to both the 50-over game as well as Test cricket in terms of strategy, control and robustness, (c) enforce and speed up innovation in all aspects of cricket.

PP: Theoretically, it has the potential to do all the things you have listed in seriatim, and more — but frankly, my experience with T20 is limited to following about half a dozen games, some of them not even fully, during the recent World Cup. You can pontificate on the basis of even less empirical evidence, but I’d prefer to wait and watch.

 

i3j3: You have been quite critical of Sree Santh. What do you think of this young and talented cricketer?

PP: Young, talented, and imbecilic, did you say?

His youth is a matter of fact and his talent is not going to be too hotly debated either – but the guy needs a swift kick where it will do most good.

He has, unfortunately, discovered the heady pleasures of playing to the gallery – but his play-acting is having a dampening effect on his performance. The trouble is if he goes on as he is now, he could lose coming and going – sooner or later his so-called “aggression” will lead him to do something that puts him beyond the pale (Of all the ridiculous things I have heard in recent times, his statement that he is testing to see how far he can go gets the biscuit); simultaneously, the focus that characterized his early days will get further eroded, to the detriment of his game.

 

i3j3: Your views on the 2007-2008 summer of international cricket in Australia? What would you be most looking forward to?

PP: The Tests. With due respect, I find the format of the triangular series too long-drawn-out.

 

i3j3: How do you rate the chances of Sri Lanka and India in the Tests?

PP: Early days, especially as both teams are to varying degrees in flux – how about you ask me this after we are done with the Pakistan Test series, at which point we might have a better idea of personnel?

 

i3j3: Would you be happy if we had another chat mid-series with you?

PP: Sure, whenever – hopefully the “question paper” won’t be quite as long, though; the last time I had to work this hard, I preferred to drop out of college!

 

 

We at i3j3Cricket are grateful to Prem Panicker for the time he took to answer the many questions we posed. Some of them were direct questions and some of them were curly. We respect Prem Panicker for his sincerity and applaud his patience.

I am sure we will all continue to read, appreciate and savour Prem Panicker’s interviews and articles in Rediff and elsewhere .

Thank you,

From All The i3j3Cricket Contributors

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An Interview with Peter Lalor (Part 3)

peterlalor In the first part of this three-part in-depth interview with Peter Lalor (Picture left. Source: “The Australian”), we talked about his views on racism in cricket in the wake of the Andrew Symonds incidents in India in the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series. In the second part of the interview, we talked about aggression, sledging, Indian cricket and more.

Peter Lalor, a respected writer for “The Australian” newspaper, is a passionate supporter of the Australian cricket team and is fervent enthusiast for the way Australia plays its cricket.

Subsequent to Part-1 of our interview with Peter Lalor, in order to achieve a sense of balance in this debate, we asked more-or-less the same set of questions to Prem Panicker. Part-1 of our interview with Prem Panicker is available here. And Part-2 is available here.

In this concluding, Part-3, of our interview with Peter Lalor, we talk about Australian cricket, Twenty20 and more.

Some of Peter Lalors’ articles are available here:

 

i3j3: Talking of Australian cricket, how do you feel Australia will cope with the absence of Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Justin Langer? Will their absence make the Australian team more vulnerable?

PL: Here comes the cliché: how can you not be the lesser for the loss of the first two who were world champions? However, Australian cricket is blessed with great depth and if Jacques doesn’t replace Langer then there is Simon Katich (300 [in the last game] for NSW including 170 in a session) Rogers, Hodge and so on. Australia has plenty of good fast bowlers but apart from the brilliant MacGill, lack a decent wrist spinner.

 

i3j3: There is daylight after Australia in the championship stakes. Is this good for the game?

PL: No and it’s annoying that people seem to be waiting for Australia to come back to the pack rather than urging the pack to catch Australia.

 

i3j3: We read your articles on Twenty20 with interest. You dismiss this form of the game as a bit of hit and giggle. Would you be willing to revisit those views in light of its capacity to (a) broaden its spectator base, (b) the benefits it would provide both the 50-over game as well as Test cricket in terms of strategy, control and robustness, (c) its ability to enforce and speed up innovation in all aspects of cricket.

PL: T20 will benefit the longer forms of the game to a degree. It will help with slog hitting and death bowling. It brings money, entertainment, chaos and new fans to the game which is great.

It rewards raw talent but I love the longer form because it asks questions of a cricketer’s ability to display their talent over a more sustained and searching period.

 

i3j3: You have been quite critical of Sree Santh. What do you think of this young and talented cricketer?

PL: I am a big fan of Sree as a person and hold a lot of expectation for his ability. I spent a lot of time chatting to him in airports and on aeroplanes and he is an intelligent, interesting and humble young man. A good bowler too, but I think he needs to control his temperament a little better and he agrees.

He is making great steps forward and I thought his decision to clap Michael Clarke and Brett Lee late in the series, thus defusing a hostile situation was brilliant.

You probably get more leeway for your behaviour when you have the record to back it up.

I sincerely hope he succeeds because he is an exciting talent and great bloke.

 

i3j3: Your views on the 2007-2008 summer of international cricket in Australia?

PL: I hope that the Indian “seniors” show us once more why they are among the best batsmen in the world and that some of the younger players start to establish themselves.

I want to see Mitchell Johnson play Tests.

It is always an honour to watch Tendulkar, Gilchrist, Dravid, Ponting and the like play the great game.

 

i3j3: How do you rate the chances of Sri Lanka and India in the Tests?

PL: I don’t think that either country has the team to consistently play better than Australia.

 

i3j3: Would you be happy if we had another chat mid-series with you?

PL: Of course.

 

We at i3j3Cricket are grateful to Peter Lalor for the time he took to answer the many questions we posed. Some of them were direct questions and some of them were curly. We respect Peter Lalor for his sincerity and applaud his patience.

In particular, we thank Peter Lalor for not ducking a single bouncer and playing everything with a straight bat. There was no question that went through to the ‘keeper! [Cliche overdrive off]

We will read Peter Lalor’s articles in The Australian and elsewhere with great interest as the summer of cricket unfolds in Australia.

 

From All The i3j3Cricket Contributors

An interview with Prem Panicker (Part 2)

In the first part of this three-part, in-depth interview with Prem Panicker, we talked about his views on racism in cricket in the wake of the Andrew Symonds incidents in India in the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series. This followed our “conversations” with Australian journalist, Peter Lalor (part-1, part-2).

Prem Panicker is a valued and articulate Indian writer. He writes mostly on cricket, but, like Peter Lalor, writes on almost everything under the sun – politics, science, travel, literature, sports and more. Prem Panicker blogs actively too.

In Part-2 of our interview with Prem Panicker, we talk about post-victory celebrations, aggression, sledging, match-fixing and much more.

 

i3j3: Recently, we have heard comments from Jason Gillespie, Ricky Ponting, et al, saying that there will be boisterous crowd participation in the forthcoming summer. They have also urged players like Muralitharan and Sree Santh to show fortitude. What are your views on those comments in the light of their comments on crowd behaviour elsewhere?

PP: I could wish they would leave the topic alone, if they have nothing of purpose to contribute.

How would it be, for instance, if the Indian captain was to say, before the next Australian tour of India, that the visitors will likely find our crowds somewhat boisterous and uninclined to mind their p’s and racist q’s, and advice that the visitors just grin and bear it? Clearly, such comments are counter-productive, even if they are not intended that way.

Gillespie and Ponting and others may not have meant it that way, but that sort of comment comes dangerously close to handing the crowds a license.

i3j3: Did you think the Australian team celebrated humbly and appropriately on the victory podium at the conclusion of the last edition of the Champions Trophy? In light of this, what are your views on the comments by Andrew Symonds on the Indian celebrations on winning the Twenty20 World Championship?

PP: Oh shoot, way too much is being made of that. What in any case is a “humble” celebration?

I think it is disrespectful to push and shove a dignitary on stage, the way the BCCI president was pushed and shoved.

I saw that incident, and I did not think it was racist, or white supremacist, or any such – it was a bunch of young men, suffering – if that is the word – the adrenalin surge of victory in a hard fought sporting contest and behaving in a distinctly adolescent fashion. Sure, you do expect a higher standard of behaviour, you do wish your sporting heroes could be ambassadors for the country at large – but equally, isn’t it a bit much to demand such standards of behaviour from people not trained to it?

Ponting and others subsequently apologized to the individual concerned and that apology was accepted in the same spirit by Pawar; isn’t it counter-productive to rabbit on about it endlessly?

Symonds’ comments in that column were daft; they sounded juvenile in the extreme. Victorious teams have been greeted with ticker tape parades before – including quite a few Australian teams and individual sportsmen; for members of some other team to characterise such national celebrations as extreme and uncalled for is churlish.

That brings up something I have speculated on, in the aftermath of that incident. I have interacted with Aussie players and the management in the past, when I covered cricket regularly for Rediff, and always found them incredibly media savvy.

Unless things have changed dramatically, comments of the kind Symonds made are not likely to be underwritten by the management. That makes me wonder – did the player talk to some ghost writer and, inter alia and without meaning anything by it, say something on the lines that the hoopla is over, and it is time for the Indians to come back to earth – comments a ghost on the lookout for the sensational sound byte then expanded on?

Knowing how the whole ghost-writer business works, I suspect that some such thing happened here. This is not to absolve Symonds, but merely to try and explain an act that is to the best of my knowledge uncharacteristic of visiting Australian sportsmen.

i3j3: There has been a perception for a while now – backed by observations and some fact – amongst Asian cricket Players and fans that “white” cricketers and fans alike constantly and consistently demonstrate prejudice, sanctimony and racism in their attitudes because of their perceived “ownership to the game”. For example, when the quality of umpiring was terrible all around the world, it was seen as a problem that afflicted only the sub-continent. A global solution was made impossible by the finger-pointing. Similarly, the match-fixing issue too. What are your views on this?

PP: For starters, we – as in the “brown” segment of the cricket audience – are quite as prejudiced as the “whites”.

I don’t know whether the examples you point to qualify as racism, but I would certainly not dispute a degree of prejudice. I thought it was particularly so in the case of match fixing – when the issue first hit the headlines, there was a tendency to write it off as one of those dirty things that only happened on the sub continent – a malaise that “white” or, more accurately, players not from the subcontinent were for some reason immune from.

The unfortunate bit about such knee jerk reaction is that it perpetuates, rather than resolves, the problem. If racism, or match fixing, or whatever else, are seen as your problem or my problem and never as ours, as a problem afflicting the game, we are in trouble.

Because then, I sit back waiting for you to resolve what I see as “your” problem; so too does the administration. And problems of this magnitude cannot, ipso facto, be resolved by you or me – it takes a concerted, collective, effort.

Significantly, the issue of match fixing was resolved, after a fashion, only after the Hansie Cronje case hit the headlines and, inter alia, indicated that even “white” players were susceptible to corruption – a fact that had been consistently ignored, even denied, till that point in time.

i3j3: Now assuming that there is this perception of prejudice – whether right or wrong is somewhat immaterial – where do you see this debate going, especially now when the balance of (financial muscle) power is tilting towards the sub-continent?

PP: I think what you are seeing is more nations sharing the decision-making process, where earlier it used to be England, with Australia’s backing. And this is not particularly new – the revolution if you can call it that began after the second World Cup, when the Indian administration was snubbed at Lord’s, and hit back by making a bid to host the third World Cup.

The bid won the support of enough nations to win India the right to host the Cup – and though this is often ignored, that particular incident preceded India’s discovery that it could make money out of the game. So to equate recent developments with India’s emergence as the financial powerhouse of the game is a bit naïve.

It is increasingly fashionable to raise the India bogey and to suggest that India pretty much has its own way when it comes to taking decisions. Again, that is not true. To cite the most recent example, India did not want a Twenty20 World Cup; it said as much, it lobbied with other nations to come down on its side – and yet not one single nation voted along with India on this one.

That should tell you that India’s money doesn’t of itself translate into an automatic leadership position — decisions are still being taken by the majority, and that majority clearly will not be seduced or brow-beaten to take decisions against what they see as being in their interests, so what is this fuss all about?

The best you can say about India’s emergence is that decisions to do with the governance of the game are no longer a monopoly of one or two traditional powers – and I don’t see why anyone needs to wear sackcloth over it.

i3j3: Do you feel that it is this financial muscle power that is making teams from India and Pakistan more aggressive on the cricket field against teams like Australia and England?

PP: No. You mean to say a Sreesanth, for instance, is going out there saying to himself duh, more than 80 per cent of the sponsorship of the previous World Cup came from India so let me go out there and be a brat?

Seriously, the answer is no. Indian teams, post-Independence, used to be characterized by a fawning subservience. That changed when the Nawab of Pataudi took over, and led his team out against all comers with something of a swagger. The barest minimal knowledge of our history is enough to understand the early subservience, and the subsequent sense of equality.

Today, India as a country is changing dramatically. Ten years ago, we were largely apologetic about ourselves; today, we celebrate our emergence in various sectors, not least the economic sector. It is a heady feeling, and you see it best reflected in places where the young congregate. Again, ten, twenty years ago, young people kicked over their traces but always, there was this sense of uncertainty about the future. Increasingly, today’s young people replace that insecurity with confidence, with a sense of sureness of purpose and direction.

The national mindset is changing (and the fact that this is a very young nation is highlighting that change dramatically); you could stretch a point and say that such change is occasionally being reflected, not always in the best way, on the cricket field as well.

You could equally say that a team used to losing will over time become apologetic in its demeanour; as you learn to compete and to win (we went through the late eighties and all of the nineties with no significant win outside Indian soil; check the records from 2000 on and you will see that we are shedding the tag of “lambs abroad”, especially in Tests), you develop confidence which manifests in your play and occasionally, translates into your behaviour.

i3j3: Is match-fixing a thing of the past? Can it be completely controlled?

PP: Match-fixing was not even a thing of the past – quantifiable instances of entire matches being fixed are negligibly few. What was pervasive was the trading of information for cash, and the shading of individual performance also for cash – two things that aid spread betting.

The thing to keep in mind is that bookies rarely make significant money on the outcome of a match – not enough, anyway, to justify all that time and trouble to fix an entire team, or a significant part of it. The money comes from the little bets, placed on every possible permutation and combination beginning with how the teams will line up to how the toss will go and who will do what on winning it.

Does that continue? My best guess is yes, though not quite as openly as before. Can you control it? Again, my best guess is no, short of monitoring 24x7x365 the phones and personal meetings of every single player playing the game, and every person who comes into contact with that player. There will be a few who will take a phone call, pass on some information, and pocket a wad of cash; the best the authorities can do is make such transactions tough to pull off.

i3j3: What are your views on sledging? Should it be a part of cricket? And if it is, should there be a line in the sand? If so why?

PP: The prevalent wisdom seems to be, this is a competitive sport, people will “in the heat of the moment” say things and do things, and as long as the limits of decency are not transgressed, anything goes.

So, suppose I am taking guard, the bowler is running in, and from the slips, some bloke yells out ‘Hey mate, guess who is doing your wife just now?’

Is that within bounds, or outside of them? Okay, how about if the hypothetical voice yells out ‘Hey, mate, your knees are knocking, not scared are you?’, is that permissible?

You would say the first instance is not on, the second is harmless. Really? As a batsman, I don’t need you saying anything to me, when my entire focus is on the ball about to be bowled – so then the question is, when debating the merits or otherwise of sledging, should the debate be confined only to the insult-quotient of the words used?

The debate over sledging has been one endless exercise in hair-splitting. Cricket’s laws proscribe any deliberate attempt to disrupt the concentration of the player – what is the point of laws that are not even remembered, let alone upheld?

i3j3: What do you think of the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series?

PP: I was interested in it for various reasons. For starters, Australia had to cope with the exit of two giants who have spearheaded the team to victory for over a decade. The last time Australian cricket suffered such significant losses, it took much tears and hard work and heartburn before the team could be rebuilt; I was curious to see what would happen this time.

From an Indian perspective, the administration in recent times has been geared to hinder, not help. The question of a coach for the side has assumed farcical proportions. There is heartburn, within and without the team, over the presence of some of the ageing superstars. And the team acquired a new captain who would need to stamp his authority over a dressing room lately divided between three contemporary greats.

All things considered, I thought a 4-2 result was complimentary to India; that it was not a 3-3 ending owed equally to traditional failings.

i3j3: It is our view that player behaviour, in the name of gamesmanship, has deteriorated over the years. What do you think ICC should do to curb it?

PP: Simplify the current regulatory process. Today, if I misbehave (including in ways that can impact on the opposition and thus influence the course of the game), nothing happens. The umpires have at the end of play – horse, stable door, anyone? – to make a report; the erring player is then invited into cricket’s version of the headmaster’s room. He is fined, and those fines are more often than not underwritten by his daddy, that is to say the cricket board. How is any of this a deterrent?

One important part of the on-field umpire’s brief is to keep order on the field. If the ICC has any sense, it will give that responsibility back to the umpires, together with the authority to enforce on-field discipline. I’ve heard of the soccer-style red/yellow card method of policing being mooted for cricket, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

The baseline thinking should be, discipline is an on field requirement, and its enforcement should equally be on the field of play, not at some later date. Imagine if Zinedine Zidane had to go to the match referee’s room after play (accompanied maybe by a high priced lawyer), explain his head butt and maybe pay 50 per cent of his match fee?

i3j3: It is also our view that many teams in international cricket are trying to ape Australia in the sledging-stakes. Is this a healthy trend?

PP: No, for reasons already elaborated on. Sledging is, most times, an attempt to unfairly disrupt the concentration of the opponent, and cricket legislates against such practices. When there is applicable law, why do we need an extensive debate?

i3j3: How do you rate crowd behaviour and crowd participation in the game in the subcontinent, compared to places like Australia, England and South Africa?

PP: Each country has its own peculiar set of problems; we have ours. Among them, you could list the fact that increasingly, audiences who are actually into the game prefer to stay home and watch on telly, while those who come to the grounds seem impelled to treat it as a party, an excuse to kick over the traces and hope that if their behaviour is sufficiently outrageous, they will make it to the giant screen. Add to that the fact that cricket is increasingly getting to the smaller venues, ones without a cricket-watching tradition, and you add an extra element of volatility to the crowd that creates its own set of problems.

An interview with Peter Lalor (Part-2)

peterlalor In the first part of this three-part in-depth interview with Peter Lalor (Picture left. Source: “The Australian”), we talked about his views on racism in cricket in the wake of the Andrew Symonds incidents in India in the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series.

Peter Lalor, a respected writer for “The Australian” newspaper, is a passionate supporter of the Australian cricket team and is fervent enthusiast for the way Australia plays its cricket.

Subsequent to Part-1 of our interview with Peter Lalor, in order to achieve a sense of balance in this debate, we asked more-or-less the same set of questions to Prem Panicker. Part-1 of our interview with Prem Panicker is available here.

In Part-2 of our interview with Peter Lalor, we talk about post-victory celebrations, aggression, sledging, match-fixing and much more.

Some of Peter Lalors’ articles are available here:

i3j3: Recently, we have heard comments from Jason Gillespie, Ricky Ponting, et al, saying that there will be boisterous crowd participation in the forthcoming summer. They have also urged players like Muralitharan and Sree Santh to show fortitude. What are your views on those comments in the light of their comments on crowd behaviour elsewhere?

Peter Lalor: If you come to Australia the crowd will try to un-nerve you. It is the Australian way and as long as it is not racist or too offensive there’s not much that can or should be done.

I watch my nine year old play footy and cricket and in both sports the kids sledge each other, it is accepted as part of Australian gamesmanship.

I had no problems with the crowds attacking Symonds as long as it wasn’t racist, although I would have hoped for more sympathy after the first racist taunts.

i3j3: Did you think the Australian team celebrated humbly and appropriately on the victory podium at the conclusion of the last edition of the Champions Trophy? In light of this, what are your views on the comments by Andrew Symonds on the Indian celebrations on winning the Twenty20 World Championship?

PL: Andrew [Symonds] was wrong in criticising the Indian celebrations.

Sharad Pawar was wrong to stay in front of the team when the photographers were yelling for him to get out of the way. I don’t think Damien Martyn was out of line to lead him to one side.

Australians have a healthy disrespect for authority especially when it is in the wrong place as it was then and as it was during the post-T20 celebrations [in India]. Fancy making the cricketers sit behind the officials!

i3j3: There has been a perception for a while now – backed by observations and some fact – amongst Asian cricket players and fans that “white” cricketers and fans alike constantly and consistently demonstrate prejudice, sanctimony and racism in their attitudes because of their perceived “ownership to the game”. For example, when the quality of umpiring was terrible all around the world, it was seen as a problem that afflicted only the sub-continent. A global solution was made impossible by the finger-pointing. Similarly, the match-fixing issue too. What are your views on this?

PL: You are probably right about the umpiring.

As for match fixing I suspect the concentration is on the subcontinent because that is where the bookies are.

By the way the biggest fish landed on that subject was Hansie [Cronje].

i3j3: Now assuming that there is this perception of prejudice – whether right or wrong is somewhat immaterial – where do you see this debate going, especially now when the balance of (financial muscle) power is tilting towards the sub-continent?

PL: India is the centre of world cricket by virtue of population and financial input. This has been accepted and embraced by Cricket Australia who see that they can have some of the rewards if they work closely with the BCCI, that is why CA basically ran the DLF cup and has done most of the organisational work for the ICL/IPL.

Cricket Australia is happy to carry the BCCI’s bags if they get a little bit of the cash that is there within.

It is a fair situation, India spent a lot of time pleading for Australia etc to play against it in the past and it’s good for the boot to be on the other foot.

i3j3: Do you feel that it is this financial muscle power that is making teams from India and Pakistan more aggressive on the cricket field against teams like Australia and England?

PL: No I think it is just an attempt to play on equal footing on the ground. Aggression is a muddled term. In cricket it should mean positive/confident play, but too often it means trying to sledge louder than the other side. This is a poor substitute for good run rates, tight fielding and positive bowling.

i3j3: Is match-fixing a thing of the past? Can it be completely controlled?

PL: Like racism it is something that authorities and lovers of the game need to be eternally vigilant about. Every bookie and punter is looking for an edge.

i3j3: What are your views on sledging? Should it be a part of cricket? And if it is, should there be a line in the sand? If so why?

PL: I think direct personal abuse should be stopped by umpires, but if the wicketkeeper asks the first slip if he thinks a batsman’s backlift is crooked or scoring rate is so slow that it endangers the team, what is the harm in that.

i3j3: What do you think of the recently concluded India-Australia ODI series?

PL: I thought the Symonds thing blew out of proportion but that was because the BCCI refused to take it seriously when it was beholden to do so.

peterLalor-charuSharma-vidyaShankarAiyarI thought Australia again performed well after a long break. One day tours are hectic and hard work when you travel so much in a foreign country.

India, I thought, showed promise under Dhoni’s fledgling leadership and should take heart from gaining two matches against a side that has not dropped a world cup game under Ponting.

I must admit one day series are a little hollow for writers. I love the lyricism and lengthy narrative of Tests.

[Source of the above picture: An article on CricketNext.com]

i3j3: It is our view that player behaviour, in the name of gamesmanship, has deteriorated over the years. What do you think ICC should do to curb it?

PL: I don’t think it has. I grew up in the Lillee-Miandad era. I watched many ugly incidents including John Snow being assaulted, teams being lead from the ground by various captains…

Today most games are played in the right spirit and when they’re not there is a framework to deal with it.

Players came close to crossing the line early in the Australia-India series, particularly Symonds, Sree [Santh] and Harbhajan [Singh], but generally behaved themselves after Kochi where they were warned to keep a lid on it.

i3j3: It is also our view that many teams in international cricket are trying to ape Australia in the sledging-stakes. Is this a healthy trend?

PL: No. Sledging is not a positive part of the game but not such a negative that it should gain much attention. I must admit I see mouths move a lot but I don’t know what’s said. If it was heard by audiences it might be a different matter.

i3j3: Crowd behaviour is also another matter that is of concern in international cricket. One of the ideas that has been circulated is that cricket should be banned in venues that have seen trouble. But is it viable to ban cricket from places like the MCG and Eden Gardens (Kolkata)? After all, both these venues have seen bad crowd behaviour. Do you feel there is any other way to curb this?

PL: If bad behaviour persists maybe this is the last alternative left to authorities but we are nowhere near that yet in most situations.

I believe one of [India’s] grounds hosted a riot where even the Indian team bus was stoned. That ground probably deserves a suspension for a match until its fans and officials can provide a safe venue for cricket. None of the behaviour I saw on the last [Australia] tour [of India] warranted such extreme action; some Australian one day crowds come close to that line.

i3j3: How do you rate crowd behaviour and crowd participation in the game in the subcontinent, compared to places like Australia, England and South Africa?

PL: In one day matches Indian crowds can be as offensive as Australian crowds or any others. I don’t take my family to one day matches because of this bizarre behaviour. Tests are usually much better environments. I will probably take the kids to a T20 soon and we’ll see what that is like.

 

(concluding part of the interview to appear next week…)

An interview with Peter Lalor (Part I)

During the recent ODI series in India between India and Australia, Peter Lalor [See picture to the left, picture source, “The Australian“] has been in the news in India and elsewhere – perhaps even for the wrong reasons. Peter Lalor is a respected writer on cricket for “The Australian”. He is a passionate supporter of the Australian cricket team and is fervent enthusiast for the way Australia plays its cricket. He has been writing about cricket for a long time. However, he shot into prominence in the consciousness of the Indian public and Indian media because of his open and direct criticism of BCCI’s handling of racism taunts that Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds received from crowds in Vadodhara and Mumbai in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia and India.

Following this, Peter Lalor has been derided and lampooned in the Indian media and on blogs that carry Indian cricket content. He was also needlessly – in our view – branded an insensitive racist in some quarters of the Indian media. Some of this criticism was, we felt, way over the top. We, at i3j3cricket.wordpress.com, have been consistent in denouncing the ugly face of racism in India, while acknowledging that it is not a problem that only India faces. We did also, however, have a go at some of Peter Lalor’s views.

On his return from India, Peter Lalor took the trouble to visit this blog and commented on it.

We thought we would use the opportunity to talk to Peter Lalor – to get his views on cricket, Australian cricket, racism, sledging and a bevy of other things. If nothing else, we wanted to ensure that we did our bit to understand Peter Lalor, the man and his views.

Some of Peter Lalors’ articles are available here

i3j3: Tell us something about Peter Lalor, the person. Where were you born? Where do you live? Where did you study? Your cricket/sporting past?

Peter Lalor: Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. I was born in Bendigo, a central Victorian town where I played cricket simultaneously for the junior and senior sides until I was 17. I retired [from cricket] when I went to Melbourne University as I had to work weekends to pay the rent. Cricket was the richer for my absence.

I now live in Sydney with my wife and two children who I am proud to say have learned to love the local Indian cuisine despite being only 9 and 12. They have been subject to years of their father’s obsession with all things from that region and grew up eating the roti and raita from their parents’ thali-s, before graduating to curries.

Our family goes to Australian Rules football matches in winter and tries to have a thali at a restaurant near the SCG before most games.

I spent almost two years in India as a younger man, falling in love with the country from the time my feet first touched a Benares road. I have travelled far and wide and often dreamed of living there.

i3j3: How and where did you start writing? And how did you start writing about cricket?

PL: I’ll take you up on one issue in your generous introduction. I have been writing about cricket on and off for some years, but have rarely been a dedicated cricket writer. More your drop in and out type. My first Test series in “cricket writer” capacity alone was 2004.

I have recently rejoined Malcolm Conn as a cricket writer on the paper. Until then I wrote for all sections of The Australian newspaper.

I was always called on to do specialist jobs in the past and that often included covering things like Steve Waugh’s last Test, his 100 at the SCG the year before, David Hookes death, the Ashes 2006-07 and Shane Warne’s complex failings.
The Hookes piece and a number of others were published in a book and a recent magazine piece on Ponting won the Australian Sports Commission Award.

i3j3: In your writings, you come across to us as a passionate fan of the Australian cricket team. Where do you derive that passion from?

PL: Forty years of being a fan are hard to overcome in a couple of years writing, but I would defend my professionalism by saying that when you cover a team as good as Australia you have to laud its achievements and by contrast you become very aware of where other teams fail to match up.

However, I would hope that when Australia plays badly I will be as honest about their failings. Time will tell.

i3j3: Are you passionate about any other team in world cricket today? Why?

PL: No. As I said all other teams fall short of the standard set by Australia in Test and One Day Internationals.

However, I will say that the achievement of Dhoni’s [India] team at the T20 was wonderful and I sincerely hope he can use that to build a good side for the longer forms of the game. The signs are positive but the hurdles are enormous.

I suppose I support India as a second team out of love for the country and admiration for Sachin [Tendulkar] and have to admit that my son and I cheered [India] to victory over England this year.

i3j3: How did it feel when you returned to Australia after the India-Australia ODI tour to learn that you were being branded as a racist?

PL: Shocked and sobered. I questioned myself and my writing a lot. I hope it was an error in reading the direct style of Australian journalism, but must take some blame even when I think I’m misunderstood as it is my job to be understood.

i3j3: What do terms like “racist” do to a person like you? How has it affected you?

PL: I suspect I will be more careful, but only slightly more careful, in my communication from here on in.

I was branded a racist in 2004 for posing a very veiled suggestion that Murali may throw. It is a judgment of his bowling not his race.

I have been branded racist this year for referring to Indian Gods in a piece about racism and will take that more seriously, although the piece was an attack on people who suggested the racist sections of the crowd were praying to Hanuman or Ganesh. A ridiculous excuse. I was attacking the excuse not the deity in question.

I was branded a racist for a piece that suggested the secular Andrew Symonds was a man of peace and the religious Sree should count himself lucky. The suggestion Symonds is a man of peace was an attempt to “take the piss” but done to point out that Sree was indeed lucky that he could taunt such a belligerent fellow and survive. This was not understood by many.

i3j3: Do you feel that you are being vilified in Indian media and Indian blogs for the opinions you have openly and directly stated?

PL: I was branded a racist by Headline television but they are unerringly sensational and quite often plain wrong. I was also branded racist on blogs which I take more seriously. I don’t feel vilified, just a little bewildered.

i3j3: How do you intend going about correcting that image that you seem to have acquired?

PL: I think (hope) these people were wrong, but perception is reality and I have to deal with it by being more sensitive to these perceptions in future.

I wish people had read the feature I wrote on Saturday 20th in The Weekend Australian which set out my views at length.

i3j3: What makes a comment racist as opposed to one that is rude or personal? Does there need to be a link with race, gender or some sort of generalisation? What specifically (in your view) made the comments against Andrew Symonds racist?

PL: Racism is clearly an attack on somebody that uses their race as an element of derision.

As a white man in a white-sliced-bread world I have little personal experience but Indians who travel must have great experience of this. Indeed living in a country that has a caste system and an inherent hierarchy of skin tones you should be acutely aware of this.

If I call an Indian a “creep” that is rude, if I call them a “black/brown creep” that has crossed the thin line.

Racism and sexism have been central elements of a dialogue and education process in Australia over the past two decades.

We had a lot to learn and still do.

The attack on Symonds was racist because the suggestion that black people are closer to apes/monkeys than white people is a Darwinian article of faith in the thinking of vile white supremacists.

i3j3: Several Australian crowds would often “send off” a departing Indian batsman with a “You drive a taxi” comment. In your view, is this a racist slur?

PL: It’s getting pretty close to a racist slur. I think it’s humiliating enough to warrant ejection from the ground.

i3j3: Are you planning on writing on this topic of racism in cricket?

PL: I think racism will be a hot topic this summer after the Symonds affair and with Sri Lanka and India in town there will be plenty of talk.

I pray my countrymen are on their best behaviour, but know that their xenophobia has been exploited by a ruthless government and that racism is a deep-seated ignorance that is hard to root out of many Australians.

[to be continued…]