Tag Archives: Andrew Symonds

Harbhajan Singh’s mother in Peter Lalor’s frame…

In this article in yesterday’s Australian newspaper, Peter Lalor, our good friend from The Australian, takes aim at Harbhajan Singh’s mother and squeaky-voiced Indian TV reporters!

My conclusion after reading Peter Lalor’s recent articles is that he is somewhat upset by Justice Hansen’s ruling. Maybe he has a dislike for anyone that plays the game like the Australians do.

What did Harbhajan Singh do? He stood up to an Australian player.

In my view, that is precisely why Sourav Ganguly, Arjuna Ranatunga, Harbhajan Singh, Sree Santh, et al, are disliked here in Australia. They play the game tough. They give it to the Australians as Australians themselves do to them. I do believe Australians need to get used to this new breed of cricketer from the sub-continent. They are not going to take things lying down — as they have, over the years!

One could mount the argument that Harbhajan Singh was a placid person on the pitch playing his cricket until he ears got pinned by a needlessly ugly behaviour on the field.

Let us not forget that Harbhajan Singh was actually trying to encourage his opponent, Brett Lee, with a “well bowled” comment, when his head got snapped off by the churlish Andrew Symonds. Symonds said that he had an objection to Harbhajan Singh saying some encouraging words to one of the Australians. Symonds said, “my objection was that a test match is no place to be friendly with an opposition player.”

Justice Hansen admonished Symonds’ behaviour and said, “If that is his view I hope it is not one shared by all international cricketers. It would be a sad day for cricket if it is.”

Indeed.

Was Harbhajan Singh provoked? Well, Justice Hansen seemed to think so. Was he right to mouth off back at Symonds in the manner he did? No. And he got slapped a fine for the lesser Level 2.8 offence which refers to “obscene, offensive or seriously insulting language”.

The facts are that both Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke accept that Harbhajan Singh said something in his native toungue that they did not understand. Both of them admit that Singh said something that sounded like “big monkey”. In fact, the transcript of Michael Clarke’s statement, in Mike Proctor’s original hearing, indicates that he heard things being said that he did not hear or comprehend which he referred to as “something something something”. And then he heard the words “big monkey”.

The fact is that Andrew Symonds himself accepted that Sachin Tendulkar of all the participants was closest to Harbhajan Singh during the course of the heated exchange. Tendulkar said that he heard the heated exchange that included swearing between the two main subjects, initiated by Symonds. He also said that he did not hear the word “monkey” or “big monkey” but that he heard Harbhajan Singh use a term in his native tongue “teri maki” (pronounced with a “n”).

The judge needed to be sure that the allegations could indeed be upheld. If he was left with an “honest and reasonable uncertainty” then he should have ruled in favour of Harbhajan Singh.

The problem here was compounded by the fact that of the three Australian players that heard the words “big monkey”, none of them could recall any other words that were said by either party! Which is somewhat strange. Justice Hansen finds this a bit surprising and states, “This is a little surprising in the context where there was a reasonably prolonged heated exchange. Indeed Mr Clarke went so far as to say that he did not hear Mr Symonds say anything. Given Mr Symonds’ own acceptance that he initiated the exchange and was abusive towards Mr Singh, that is surprising. This failure to identify any other words could be because some of what they were hearing was not in English.”

The balance of probability indicates, therefore, that it is probable Harbhajan Singh did indeed use the words “teri maa(n) ki”.

Justice Hansen, in his findings criticises Andrew Symonds for provoking the incident.

The really interesting segment of the ruling is this one below (reproduced here):

Given that is the view of the complainant it is hard to see how the requisite elements of 3.3 could be satisfied. However, given it is an objective interpretation that is not the end of the matter. I must consider if the “ordinary person” would have been offended in a 3.3 sense. That again requires a look at context. Mr Singh had innocently, and in the tradition, of the game acknowledged the quality of Mr Lee’s bowling. That interchange had nothing to do with Mr Symonds but he determined to get involved and as a result was abusive towards Mr Singh. Mr Singh was, not surprisingly, abusive back. He accepts that his language was such as to be offensive under 2.8. But in my view even if he had used the words “alleged” an “ordinary person” standing in the shoes of Mr Symonds who had launched an unprovoked and unnecessary invective laden attack would not be offended or insulted or humiliated in terms of 3.3.

In other words, Justice Hansen seems to have said that even if Harbhajan Singh had used the words “big monkey”, at Andrew Symonds, given that the latter had “launched an unprovoked and unnecessary invective laden attack”, he would not be offended or insulted!

Perhaps I am reading this wrong!

Justice Hansen even accuses Symonds of breaching a handshake deal made when Harbhajan allegedly first called him a monkey in India.

Harbhajan Singh has a problem and this needs to be addressed. He is an ill-tempered hot-head and needs to be counselled.

At the same time, it would be wrong for Peter Lalor and the Australian media to ignore that Andrew Symonds has a problem too. And this needs addressing pronto. Symonds can’t sit on a pedestal placed at 35,000 ft above sea level and preach eloquently on appropriate forms of celebration (cf: Indian post-Twenty20 celebrations) and then carry on like a pork chop after his teams’ Sydney victory. And did anyone see his war-dance when he got Kumble out at Perth? How can this man talk about appropriate post-victory celebrations?

I didn’t see Peter Lalor rushing off to interview Symonds’ mum at that point in time! But he got some choice words out of Harbhajan Singhs’ mother and proceeded to pillory and mock it.

Did Harbhajan Singh’s mother say that she was relieved that her son had made a “derogatory remark about his opponent’s mother’s vagina” (as Peter Lalor writes in his blog)? No. She said, “I am very happy today. It is the victory of truth. I was anxious before the verdict came, but now I am more at peace. I knew God was with us and I had full faith that my son would come out clean.”

What is the “truth” that she talks about? The truth is that there is no evidence to suggest that her son is a racist. Period.

It is easy to mock. Anyone can invade the privacy of another person’s home, stick a mike under her nose, get some choice words out of her and then proceed to pillory the innocent subject who said what she did. To write responsibly and with empathy is not really hard. But it calls for courage. It calls for dignity. It calls for a code of ethics.

And on the topic of mockery. What is with this squeaky-voiced Indian TV reporter? What does a squeaky voice have to do with the price of fish anyway?

Let us stick to the facts please? Court rulings are based on fact, not allegations, anger and opinions. Did Harbhajan Singh say something racist? We will never know. The Kangaroo Court set up by Mike Proctor, a man not trained in things legal, decreed “beyond reasonable doubt” that Singh did villify. That was a wrong ruling — we all know that now. It was wrong because natural justice was not served. The man did not review all the evidence properly enough to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt”. And yet, he pronounced his ruling “beyond reasonable doubt”. That is a huge call to make. And it was made by a man that just did not know.

In any case, the initial ruling by Mike Proctor got thrown out. Thankfully natural justice was served. A proper court indicated that that initial ruling was a mistake. There simply wasn’t enough incontrovertible evidence to suggest that Harbhajan Singh did say what he was purported to have said. On the contrary, there was some evidence to suggest that, on the balance of probability, Harbhajan Singh did say something abusive in his native tongue, when provoked needlessly, that may have seemed to an untrained ear to have sounded like “monkey”.

End of story. Time for all of us to accept that and move on.

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

Australia v India :: Test 2 :: Day 1

Australia-1, India-1, Umpires-1

Posting at 11.00am, AEST

India started the day badly on four counts: (a) They lost Zaheer Khan to an injury, (b) India selected Ishant Sharma for Zaheer Khan, (c) Anil Kumble lost the toss and Ricky Ponting chose to bat, thereby having last use of a pitch that would take spin, (d) India went in with an unchanged side (but for a change forced by injury).

There was no need to plunge into a full-scale panic after the thrashing that India received in the 1st Test against Australia at the MCG. However, I felt that there was a change or two that may have been needed. As it happened, the only change was a forced one! It was nice to hear Anil Kumble deflect the pressure off Rahul Dravid saying “He is too good a player to be worried by a poor performance in the 1st Test“, and stuff like that. However, I’d have thought that there were a few questions that needed to be asked of the batsmen; if nothing, the batting order. However, the only change that India made was a forced one! It was a blow to India that Zaheer Khan was ruled out, after a fitness test, with about 30 minutes to go to the start of play! In his absence, the right thing to do may have been to bolster the bowling (and obliquely, the batting) with both Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma. Ishant Sharma for Zaheer Khan was not a like-for-like replacement in my books, especially given the indifferent bowling form of R. P. Singh. An already weak bowling group suddenly looked even weaker. Having said that, I have no problem with the choice of Ishant Sharma — as I said in my 1st days’ report in the Boxing Day Test match, Ishant Sharma should have been part of the make up for the 1st Test itself!

It was nice to see Anil Kumble support his batting group. He seemed to say to the batsmen, “Same batsmen. Same batting order. Different batting“.

India started well in the bowling department. Both R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma started with maiden overs. The order of play was somewhat similar to proceedings at the MCG where the Australians batted cautiously and where the Indian bowlers beat the bat often.

Unlike the MCG though where the Australian opening batsmen played and missed for much of the first 45 minutes, local boy, Phil Jaques top-edged one from R. P. Singh to M. S. Dhoni in the 3rd over and Australia were 0 for 1 wicket. R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma had begun proceedings well. They were making the Australians play. Not much was left alone and there weren’t too many balls on the pads. There weren’t too many gimme balls either. This was good bowling by the Indians early on.

This bought Ricky Ponting to the crease. With all the pre-match talk from Harbhajan Singh and Ricky Ponting, one almost expected Harbhajan Singh to bowl the 4th over of the match!

Harbhajan had joked at the MCG that he hadn’t seen enough of Ricky Ponting to have a plan for the Australian batsmen on this tour! Not many of the Australians liked this statement! They seemed to think that Harbhajan Singh gets constantly under the skin of the Aussies! To Ricky Pontings’ credit, he acknowledged that there was a serious problem. He said, “He’s got a great record in Tests against me. It was lean last week, I had almost as many catches as runs. But I had a good net, I’m coming off a couple of hundreds in the ODIs [against New Zealand] and I’m feeling good to go.

Ricky Ponting started positively though! He wasn’t ‘falling over’ as he tends to do early on in his innings. This was a good sign for Australia and not a good sign for India. Rickey Ponting, who has 5 hundreds in 12 Tests (1226 runs at an average of 81.73, with a highest score of 207), looked set for many more runs here!

At the time of posting, after 6 overs, Australia was 16/1.

Posting at 12.00, AEST

Things were going swimmingly for Australia despite the loss of Jaques. Australia were scoring somewhat freely and easily. They were taking the singles and the occassional boundary. Yuvraj Singh seemed to carry his ordinary fielding form from the MCG to the SCG.

Then, against the run of play, R. P. Singh brought one in to Matthew Hayden who proceeded to edge the ball to the slips cordon! This was a most unusual dismissal. One would have thought that a top-class batsman would not outside-edge a ball that was coming in to him! But that was exactly what happened. The catch travelled between M. S. Dhoni, the wicket-keeper, and Sachin Tendulkar, the 1st slip fielder. In normal circumstances, M. S. Dhoni would have caught it. However, given that the ball was dipping in to Matthew Hayden, Dhoni’s balance was towards his right. Sachin Tendulkar proceeded to take a smart catch to get Hayden out. Australia were 27 for 2 and Hayden was out for 13!

With Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting at the crease, scoring suddenly seemed to accelerate. Hussey seemed to be a man in a hurry! At the end of the 11th over, Australia were 42 for 2! Despite the loss of 2 wickets, Australia were still scoring at about 4 an over!

The 12th over saw Sourav Ganguly come on to bowl. Ganguly had bowled well against Pakistan in India and, with Zaheer Khan injured, he needed to bowl well.

In the 14th over of the match, all the Indians went up in a huge appeal off Ricky Ponting, who tickled a ball floating down the legside to the hands of M. S. Dhoni. The Indians were already celebrating before they noticed that the umpire had turned down the appeal.

TV replays showed that Ponting was indeed quite lucky to still be there. India could feel hard-done by. Australia would have been 45 for 3 if the decision had gone India’s way!

Ishant Sharma came back for a second spell. The long-haired Ishant Sharma — perhaps India’s answer to Jason Dizzy Gillespie — seemed to be growing in strength and was bowling a good line and length. However, the Australians kept the scoreboard busy and got to 59 for 2 off 18 overs.

Lunch: Posting at 12.30, AEST

The not-out decision against Ricky Ponting could cost India a lot in this game. Was the match result going to hinge on this one bad decision by umpire Mark Benson? I would be willing to bet that Benson would have given an Indian out. Not because he is biased, but most umpires tend to get swayed by the vociferousness of appeals by Australian teams. Ricky Ponting was on 17 at that time, and he was already making that reprieve count.

Signs from India were that the team was looking down after not getting that appeal in their favour. Ishant Sharma got taken to the cleaners in one over by Ricky Ponting and Ganguly looked ineffective after that over.

There was much excitement in the air when Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl the 20th over of the match. He did not get to bowl to Ricky Ponting in that over, but with all the pre-match talk, one couldn’t wait to see these two have a go at each other! In his second over, Harbhajan Singh did induce a false stroke from Ponting. The wily Indian offie bowled a flighted delivery down legside. Ponting missed it. The resulting stumping chance was not completed by M. S. Dhoni. And so, Ricky Ponting commenced his 3rd (virtual) innings in the same dig! This could be a very costly miss for India, who continued to look flat in the field after being turned down by the umpire.

It was upto the captain to pull things together for his team. Anil Kumble came on to bowl the last two overs prior to lunch. Not much happened and so, Australia went to lunch on 2 for 95 off 25 overs. If India had got that 3rd wicket I may have given that session to India. But given the rate at which the Australians scored, it should be scored as an even session.

India looked more alive on the field. Both the pacemen looked good and solid. It was nice to see R. P. Singh bowl with much more purpose and zeal. The Indian in-fielding looked good, if not sharp. Harbhajan Singh bowled more slowly and did give the ball more flight than he normally does. But the Australians batted with purpose and did not let the situation bog them down. All in all, this was an interesting session of Test match cricket.

Posting at 13:37, AEST

Proceedings after the lunch break commenced with R. P. Singh and Harbhajan Singh. They were bowling to a Micheal Hussey and Ricky Ponting who seemed intent on stealing every single possible. This was positive-intent batting at its best. The batsmen created pressure on the fielders with Dinesh Karthik (fielding substitute) and Yuvraj Singh — the two best fielders in the Indian lineup — respectively, over running the ball and approaching the ball lethargically. The odd ball was smashed for a boundary too.

The SCG outfield was much better for Test match cricket than the MCG outfield. The batsmen got maximum value for their power shots. This is how a Test match outfield should behave. The MCG outfield was, in my view, way below standard for Test match cricket.

Ponting raced to 50 off 66 balls; this was starting to get dangerous for India. The fielding was starting to look ragged at this stage. This was epitomised by a skied ball from Ricky Ponting to deep square-leg. This would have been a catch to a Dinesh Karthik or a Yuvraj Singh. Rahul Dravid was slow to get to it, missed the catch opportunity and the ball spun past him to the boundary for four! In that over, R. P. Singh bowled short and wide and non-sense. A few questions need to be asked. Why was R. P. Singh bowling short and wide to a set and positive batsman? Why was Rahul Dravid fielding at dee square leg?

Immediately after that, Harbhajan Singh got his man again! Ponting was out LBW to Harbhajan Singh for 55! Justice seemed to be served because Ricky Ponting had got an inside edge to that ball! He had been given out — when he was not out — 38 runs after he was out (but given not out, when he was on 17)! Harbhajan Singh bowled the doosra and got the Australian captain out — again! Australia was 119 for 3! Harbhajan Singh had backed up his pre-match smart-talk with some good work on the field. He had his ‘bunny’ again!

However, this certainly was an inside edge by Ricky Ponting who stood and glared at the umpire, Mark Benson on being declared out! I would be totally disappointed if umpire Mike Proctor does not pull the Australian captain for showing dissent/disbelief! Like Yuvraj Singh had done in Melbourne, I did not quite see Ponting glare at the umpire in a hostile manner when he was given not out on 17 when he had edged one to the ‘keeper! So, I did not see the reason for him to glare (and even say a few words) after he had made 38 bonus runs! As I said, it would certainly be interesting to see what Mike Proctor does at the end of the days’ play.

Suddenly 119 for 3 became 119 for 4 after Mike Hussey edged to Sachin Tendulkar in the slips cordon! Hussey played a one-day shot to that ball. He opened his bat-face to a ball that was marginally outside off stump to guide it to Sachin Tendulkar. At this stage, R. P. Singh was bowling defensively to a 7-2 off-side field!

After an ordinary post-lunch start, India had bounced back into the game by removing two well-set batsmen.

Posting at 13:45, AEST

119-4 became 121-5 when Micheal Clarke did not play a shot at an off beak from Harbhajan Singh. The Australians had the wobbles suddenly and the pressure was starting to tell. Michael Clarke too glared at umpire Mark Benson! Will he too need to introduce himself to Mike Proctor at the end of days’ play?

Either way, this was an extraordinarily bad shot from Michael Clarke, a batsman who had made a smart fifty in the previous innings! Harbhajan Singh is a bowler who normally takes a clutch of wickets when he takes one! He was bowling really well at this stage.

Posting at 13:56, AEST

R. P. Singh took his 4th wicket and Sachin Tendulkar took his 3rd catch of the innings when Adam Gilchrist edged to the slips cordon! I just couldn’t believe what was happening here. Australia seemed to be blowing its advantage here. They had won the toss and were not making it count. Australia were on the mat at 134 for 6. Australia had lost 4 wickets in 15 runs after lunch and the wobble was starting to look like a fall. Time would tell if this would become a free-fall.

The two Singhs — Harbhajan and R. P. — had got India back into the match in a huge manner.

Harbhajan Singh was bowling brilliantly. Harbhajan Singh was bowling as well as I have seen him bowl. There was guile in his bowling. He had loop, bounce and spin and was extracting whatever juice there was in the 1st day pitch.

R. P. Singh was bowling with maturity and temparament that defied his age. He had gone for a few, but he kept coming back — thanks also to some lose and listless batting from the Australians! R. P. Singh, as leader of the pace bowlers group, had put his hand up and was stepping up to the plate. His bowling figures at this stage read 12-2-50-4. Suddenly the Australians looked tentative. Where they may have taken two runs, they only took a single. There was cautious play with a lot more intent on innings-rebuilding.

What was heartening for India was that the best two bowlers in the 1st Test (Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan) had hardly had a bowl in this innings and Australia were already 6 wickets down with not much on the board!

Posting at 15:10, AEST –Tea Time

In the 47th over of the match, I saw what was the worst ever decision on a cricket pitch by an umpire. Andrew Symonds got a healthy edge after hanging his bat out to a ball from Ishant Sharma. The resulting healthy edge was taken by M. S. Dhoni. The Indian fielders converged after what was a regulation, lip-service appeal. Symonds immediately looked back at the wicket keeper to see if it was caught. He even took a half step forward to mark his walk to the pavillion! All ducks were pointing to a raised finger to uphold the appeal. Unfortunately, umpire Steve Bucknor did not lift his finger. I am not sure what he thought the ball hit? The ball was away from the forearm or shirt sleeve! The edge was healthy and the sound was obvious for everyone to hear! Bucknor was asleep on the job! For the second time in the day, the Indians were done in by the umpires!

This is where I feel that the “appeals process” must come into play. With umpires as incompetent as this, I am sure we will soon see technology take the place of umpires.

With some attractive and positive batting and with some help from the umpires, Australia had moved to 204 for 6 off 49 overs! Brad Hogg and Andrew Symonds had put on 69 runs off 14.0 overs and were starting the rebuilding process with positive batting. In the previous passage of play, Ishant Sharma dropped a skied catch off Brad Hogg. Had that catch been taken and had the umpire been competent, India would have been well and truly on top here! But as it turned out, the game was running a bit away from India.

To make matters worse, Ishant Sharma disappeared into the pavillion. It seemed like he had injured his ankle, coming in to bowl to Andrew Symonds in anger after the caught behind appeal had been turned down! Youthful zest and immaturity perhaps from a 19-year-old!

But the proceedings were certainly wierd and that too for a team that had lost 6 wickets. Australia had made 213 for 6 off 52 overs at a run rate of 4.11! Australia had scored 119 runs in the session — a session in which they had lost 4 wickets! Hogg and Symonds had scored 80 runs in 17 overs at a run rate of 4.66 runs an over! Hogg was batting on an aggressive 48 off 56 balls and Symonds was on 39 off 64 (at a strike rate of 60.93)! In a strange twist, Hogg was the aggressor and Symonds provided the support role!

So, despite the loss of wickets, Australia was still batting in a positive and aggressive manner.

Despite the recovery, I give the Lunch-Tea session to India. India had taken four very important wickets — Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Gilchrist. Any team that takes those four wickets in one session deserves the session regardles of how many runs are scored! The Session By Session (SBS) score, in my view, was 1.5 to India and 0.5 to Australia.

Posting at 16:00, AEST –Tea Time

R. P. Singh and Anil Kumble commenced proceedings after Tea. Brad Hogg continued his positive batting with two fours off the first two balls after Tea! Hogg and Symonds were batting attacking and positive cricket. But there was good news for the Indian batsmen too. Clearly the pitch was easing and batsmen could get value for their shots. Hogg hit some across the line and some on the up too. So, the Indian batsmen could play well too.

Hogg and Symonds recorded a 100 partnership off just 19.0 overs at a run rate of 5.26. Brad Hogg had made 58 runs and Symonds made 42!This was top batting from the Australians.

At 238 for 6, Kumble bowled a slow flighted delivery to Andrew Symonds. Symonds stretched forward, reached for the ball and Dhoni whipped the bails. The resulting appeal went to the 3rd umpire. The Channel-9 commentary team ruled Symonds out! There was daylight — albeit, a very thin ray of light — between his raised foot and the crease when the bails were whipped off. Dhoni had committed a smart stumping to have his man, one thought, although I will be the first to admit that there was some doubt. Perhaps this was a line-ball decision, but it looked totally out to me! Symonds was ruled not-out by the 3rd umpire! Like Ricky Ponting earlier on in the day, Andrew Symonds was on his third innings in the same dig!

Posting at 16:45, AEST

Australia had moved to an imposing (and seemingly improbable) 294 for 6! This was thanks to some inspired batting, some really, really poor umpiring, some somewhat ordinary bowling and a pitch that was easing. The last factor is, to me, the most telling. The second is infuriating.

The Indian batsmen will take heart from the fact that the pitch was easing. However, what was most infuriating for me was the terrible quality of the umpiring. I would most certainly like to see an appeals process in play in Test cricket to nullify such incompetence. The most galling of these was the caught behind that Bucknor slept through!

Australia, thanks to a splendid batting effort were starting to look healthy at this stage! The partnership recorded 160 runs off 33.3 overs at an improbable run rate of 4.77 with Hogg on 77 and Symonds on 83. Just before the drinks break, Symonds hit a ball that seemed to bounce just before it hit the top of the boundary rope! This was ruled as a six! Now, if a batsman can get the benefit of doubt in lineball calls, I wonder why bowlers can’t get a benefit of doubt on line ball six and boundary calls when the third umpire gets called in? The two extra runs may not count in the end analysis. However, the imbalance struck me as odd!

Soon afterwards, Andrew Symonds notched up his century. He made 100 off 128 deliveries with 11 4s and 2 6s at a tremendous strike rate of 78.12. The two Australian allrounders were pulling things back for their country. Australia reached 307 for 6! Indian shoulders were drooping.

Posting at 17:00, AEST

Soon after I posted by last update, after having made 79 in a partnership worth 173 runs, Brad Hogg jabbed one from Anil Kumble to Rahul Dravid at slip. The specialist slipper caught it sharply. The ball spun, bit and bounced and Hogg just poked at it. Hogg had batted sensibly, with energy and with purpose. He always looked in control and what’s more, he looked to be enjoying himself thoroughly! From a terrible position of 134 for 6, these two warriors — well one (Western) Warrior and one (Queensland) Bull — got Australia to 307 for 7, a position of near strength!

Brett Lee was out first ball, in my view. He stretched forward fully and was wrapped on his legs, adjacent to the stumps! Why the umpire did not give it out, I would not know. This was yet another bad call from the umpires who were having a horror day! My only hope is that the umpires continue to wake up on the wrong side of their hotel beds on the remaining days of this match!

Sachin Tendulkar, who had caught 3 smart catches in the slips, was now bowling at the other end. Harbhajan Singh who started the day so brilliantly, had started to spear them in, thanks to the fact the Symonds and Hogg never really let him settle down! This had been a display of very aggressive batting from these two Australian allrounders.

In the very next over, Andrew Symonds started his 4th innings of the matrch — in my view! He stretched forward to a fastish Anil Kumble ball and was wrapped on the pads. If that ball wasn’t going to hit the stumps, I just don’t know what it would have hit! However, umpire Benson must have seen something that everyone else could not see!

Posting at 17:15, AEST

The Indian bowling rate was terribly slow, but improving. The first session saw 25 overs bowled. The second session saw 27 overs bowled. And, with 15 minutes to go, India had already bowled 27 overs in the final session. The Channel-9 commentry team was getting stuck into the slow Indian bowling rate. And yes, it was slow! I would have taken the Channel-9 commentary team seriously if they got similarly stuck in to Australian team on day-2 of the MCG Test. At 5.30pm, the scheduled close time, the Australians were a good 8 overs behind the bowling rate on the second day of the 1st Test match. It is this one-eyed behaviour from the Channel-9 commentary team that makes me want to switch off.

The Indian team was starting to flag in the field and they needed something inspirational — a good fielding effort or a good catch. Sachin Tendulkar was bowling well and so was Anil Kumble. They just had to remove the remaining batsmen with not much more damage. The tactic seemed to be to give Symonds the easy single and then to attack Brett Lee. I am never a fan of this strategy at the best of times. On an easing pitch –like this one at the SCG — this strategy may come to haunt the Indian team!

At 17:15, India still had 10 overs to bowl in 15 minutes of play! They weren’t going to get there before the end of the days’ play, but they sure as hell bowled as fast (in terms of over rates), if not faster than the Australians did at the MCG!

Brett Lee was starting to settle in as well. And there were danger signs for India here! He was playing well and hitting the odd 4 too. He had moved on to 9 runs!Andrew Symonds, at the other end, was on 116 off 154 balls! The score was 7 for 337.

The run rate was a mind-boggling and situation-defying 4.2 runs per over!

The second new ball was now due!

Posting at 18:02, AEST — Close of days’ Play

R. P. Singh came on to bowl the 81st over of the day. Every indication was that Anil Kumble would take the new ball. But the batting indication was that they would go after the bowling. The first ball was cracked for a 4 through the covers and the new ball was taken immediately!

The first over with the new ball went for 3 fours — well, 2 fours with the new ball and 1 with the old ball. This wasn’t the kind of start India needed. But then, R. P. Singh was bowling to a well-set and positive batsman who was on his 4th innings!

Brett Lee smashed the 1st ball that he faced from Ishant Sharma for a 4 through point, indicating the dangers that lay ahead! A quick 50 runs off the remaining 10 overs could well demoralise the Indians. The partnership was already worth 47 runs off 62 balls with Lee making 18 off 34 balls! The run rate for the day was already 4.33! It seemed likely , at this stage, that Australia might make 400 in the days’ play!

There were 4s raining everywhere with some due to good batting and some due to poor fielding. Yuvraj Singh, on the mid wicket boundary, converted an easy single to a four as he let one through his legs.

It was unbelievable that, after being on the mat at 135-6, Australia would end the day on almost 400, scoring at a rate of nearly 4.5 runs an over! This was phenomenal cricket from this champion team.

R. P. Singh was bowling from around the wicket to Brett Lee. Only he will know why! He was bowling at Lee’s pads and all the bowler had to do was tuck it away. It would make sense if R. P. Singh took the ball away or got it to straighten. None of that was happening either!

Yuvraj Singh, meanwhile, was having a tough time in the outfield. He looked ragged and haggard. His dives were not going anywhere and he let a couple go through his legs!

Ishant Sharma was also having terrible problems with his run up. He was bowling into the end from which the wind was blowing in. He had 4 attempts to bowl the 4th ball of that over. The cause was probably the tunnel-effect that was as a result of the Doug Walters stand reconstruction. The redevelopment was causing a gusty wind to bowl through the park and straight in the path of the young Ishant Sharma. The unruly and jingoistic Sydney crowd gave Ishant Sharma the slow clap and the howl but the young lad somehow completed his over!

Sourav Ganguly came on for the next over and bowled a steady over. Harbhajan Singh bowled the 89th over of the match and was able to get good drift when he tossed it up. The Doug Waters stand reconstruction was certainly causing some problems for the bowlers as well as the batsmen! Sourav Ganguly finished off proceedings for the day with a steady over that went for not much!

The match finished at 18.02, 32 minutes past the scheduled close time! It will be interesting to see the Australian bowling rates as this match progresses.

I’d score the last session to Australia, thereby giving a SBS score of 1.5 to India and 1.5 to Australia. This is perhaps not a true reflection and if I were to look at the day as a whole, I’d probably give it to Australia for the amazing recovery that they made from being on the mat! But given that I was scoring the sessions as the game progressed, I will stick with calling it an even day!

India could look at an easing pitch. Traditionally, day-2 is the easiest for batting at the SCG. If they can get the remaining three Australian batsmen for not much, they can look to bat long and put on a decent score here.

Australia ended the day at a strong 376 for 7 at a scoring rate of 4.22 per over! Phenomenal, considering where they were at one stage. The Indians finished the day looking ragged and out of sorts. But they can take heart from the fact that they had the champion team on the mat. They cantake heart from the knoweledge that the pitch will ease. They have to pray that the umpires contine to remain as incompetent as they were today!

Ultimately for me though, this day was marked by terrific batting from Symonds and Hogg but it was thorughly ruined by the utter incompetence of the umpires. The last thing that a team needs when facing up to a champion team is to be up against the umpires too. But unfortunately, that is exactly what happened and the result was that an excellent day was turned into an ordinary day for the Indians. I can’t wait for the day when the ICC will implement an appeals process whereby captains can appeal two decisions per session in much the same way as tennis players can appeal two rulings per set. Bring it on, I say, to keep incompetence at bay!

— Mohan

Twenty20 World Championship 2009 Groupings!

It seems like only yesterday that the most recent edition of the Twenty20 World Championship was over. In a move that is set to raise Andrew Symonds’ ire and displeasure, the Indian victory celebrations have not yet fully concluded — the victorious Indian team was felicitated by the Indian President and Indian Prime Minister of India only a few days back! Luckily, given that BCCI officials were not present, the Indian team took centre-stage — rather than back-stage — in this felicitation ceremony!

However, in amongst all of this, the ICC has released its groupings for the 2009 Twenty20 World Championships already! The 2009 edition of the ICC Twenty20 cricket World Championships will be played in England! The early decision on the groupings was apparently requested by the hosts (ECB) who wanted to complete the venue-allocation process — through a bidding process — followed quickly by ticket sales!

Defending champions India will be placed in the easy group A along with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

This is really crazy in my view. To rank teams and place them in groups nearly two years prior to an ICC flagship event smells of opportunism and nothing else. A rankings-predictor based on the results of one tournament — the 2007 T20 World Cup — is just a nonsense. Who knows what will happen to the official rankings two years from now.

While India seem to have been placed in an “easy” group, we have ODI World Champions Australia in a group with Sri Lanka and West Indies. Try explaining that to the Sri Lankans!

For what it is worth, the groups are:

  • Group A: India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe
  • Group B: Pakistan, England, Associate 1
  • Group C: Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies
  • Group D: New Zealand, South Africa, Associate 2.

— Mohan

The right way to celebrate…

Duh! This is what Andrew Symonds was referring to when he talked about the Indians’ celebrations on winning the T20 World Championship? He was suggesting that the Indians should have celebrated in such a manner that would have got them into trouble with the local cops. I think he was suggesting that the Indians did not celebrate hard enough perhaps?

Now we get it Symmo…

— Mohan

Racist taunts at Andrew Symonds: BCCI caught napping again!

Andrew Symonds was at the receiving end of more racist taunts last night in the day-night cricket game against India played at Mumbai.

A photographer captured some of this on camera and a picture is available here.

A day after he was made out as a modern-day equivalent of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey-God, the BCCI has no choice but to admit that they had a problem on their hands. The BCCI has buried its head in the sand and existed in denial for the whole of the last week — as they tend to do, quite expertly, on most issues — with excuses and banalities. Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secertary, went so far as to say, “What the media and Symonds shouldn’t forget is that the Australian crowds are far more dangerous and volatile than their Indian counterparts.

Even if this were true, what does this have to do with the price of fish in the land?

There is a principle at play here: Racisim in cricket in India is not on!

The Indian media has also indulged in counter-allegations on the racism-in-cricket problems that Australia itself faces. But this misses the point!

It may well be true that Australia faces a problem of rascism in its sport. The irony of the timing of the release of an independent report into rascism in Australian sport wasn’t lost on the Indian media. Pot, kettle and black were phrases that were thrown around quite liberally in the Indian media. But that misses the point totally!

The Indian media has also jumped up and down and pointed to the abuse that Muralidharan is subjected to when he visits Australia. It is interesting, however, to note that Peter Young, the Cricket Australia public affairs manager, calls the lack of respect that Muralitharan receives as nothing more than a “boisterous reception” which would be similar to what Chris Rogers (the WA opener) would receive in NSW if he gets Justin Langer’s opening spot ahead of Phil Jacques, the New South Welshman. I am amazed at this analogy and it just goes to show that the BCCI is perhaps not the only organisation that has pefected the head-buried-in-the-sand routine!

The Indian media has pointed out that Daren Lehmann called the Sri Lankan team a bunch of “black c****”.

But all of this misses the point in my view.

The abuse of Andrew Symonds was a disgrace and an embrassment to the country. Let us not forget that India takes immense pride in its diversity and its affirmative action. Whether true equality actually exists in Indian society is a different issue and is a socio-political debate for another time, place and blog! However, it is, at least theoretically a country where there is a seemingly peaceful co-existence of all sorts of people from diverse backgrounds, colours, religions and castes. What was required from the BCCI and the crowd control authorites was affirmative action. Instead of “waiting for a letter from the ICC” or “waiting for an official complaint from Cricket Australia” the BCCI ought to have denounced racisim forthright. By not doing so, they lost the high moral ground. No moral high-ground exists in this issue anyway and people clamouring to claim it have got it all wrong!

Racism is wrong and if not an apology, some action was warranted. Anything else, lacks grace or decency or morality. The BCCI has done a great disservice to Andrew Symonds and all cricketers, irrespective of their race, colour, religion or caste. Period.

Racism should not be tolerated. It needs to be stamped out. The BCCI should adopt — and be seen to adopt — a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to rascism.

This time, as with many others in the past, they have sadly missed the boat. The BCCI is now peddling fast to catch up. However, as a friend of mine always used to say, “there is no point in trying to board the train after it has left the platform“!

India may have a new problem on its hands that is surfacing. And the BCCI needs to do something about it — or, like Cricket Australia, be seen to be doing something out of it. This is an issue that requires a thorough investigation and a report from an independent International authority like the Human Rights Commission.

The Australian media has, in my view, got it wrong too.

Peter Lalor writes in The Australian with a liberal dose of cultural insensitivity — but then, that is his style!

It will not help if countries like Australia take an aggressive and holier-than-thou posture on this issue! Such an approach will not help either and that is what the Peter Lalors of the world will not understand.

An aggressive, holier-than-thou, finger-pointing approach (let us just call it a LALOR) was adopted in the umpire-bias issue where the root of the problem was actually one of quality and not (predominantly) one of bias! Moreover, at the time, there was as much a perception of bias in Australian umpires in the minds of non-Australian players (for example) as there was in umpires in countries like India and Pakistan in the minds of players from the rest of the world! Rather then be continually battered and bashed with a string of insensitive Lalorisms, Pakistan took a strong lead in that issue by appointing “neutral” umpires in a Test match when none was needed. Now, that has become the norm and every Test match is officiated by umpires from a panel. When cricket needed affirmative action on that issue, the ICC sat on its fingers and collected nothing more than ring-marks on their backsides! While there was an abundance of crude Lalorisms, Pakistan had adopted a proactive posture and fixed the problem! Affirmative action is needed; not Lalorisms.

Once again the Laloristic route was adopted in the match-fixing issue. Indeed, I remember the Australian media laughing away the whole issue as a problem that afflicted only the sub-continent. Once again, the initiative was taken by the police in India. The Lalorites were busy brushing stuff under the carpet from where the ghosts of past misdemeanors of the likes of Cronje, Mark Waugh and Shane Warne emerged. The Lalor-mode did not work then either.

I hope that everyone realises that cricket does not need to do a mere Lalor on racism.

For example, most reports in the Australian media have qualified that the photograph in yesterdays’ match was taken by “an Australian photographer“. The word “Austrlaian” does not add anything to the story. Indeed, if anything it could suggest “there is no way an Indian photographer would have taken such a photograph“. This denies that there is a global problem on hand that needs a global solution. Laloristic solutions are arrogantly myopic and just will not work!

At the same time, the BCCI should not stick its head in the sand and deny that there is a problem. It has to be eradicated through education programs, proper policing and affirmative action.

Players should also receive coaching on the cultural sensitivities that form part of the landscape when they are guests of a country. It is always touchy to ask if the victim contributed to the crime that was perpetrated. And yes, there was a crime of racism that was perpetrated by a few goons in the crowds at Vadodhara and Mumbai against Andrew Symonds. The victim should never be questioned and can never be blamed for crimes that were carried out against him/her. However, the question has to be asked if Symonds acted as a proper guest in a country that he was visiting? Personally, I don’t think so. And while that does not condone the crimes against him, it certainly points to the fact that players do need to receive proper counselling and education on the “dos and donts” that form an integral part of being a cultural ambassador/representative as well as a guest.

My feeling is that the BCCI needs to act and the time is now.

Aussie Media starts its summer early…

Sreesanth is back in the news…

Sreesanth seems to be so much in the news that it almost appears that he is cornering more newsprint in Australia than John Howard — and this, in an election year!

This just goes to show the obsession that the Aussies have with anyone who is even remotely aggressive towards their own players. Agreed Sreesanth has behaved like a git, but for Peter Lalor to make Andrew Symonds out as a tranquil angel seems to suggest that Peter Lalor has been smoking something to make himself more tranquil. If Andrew Symonds is a “man of peace and tranquility“, then I have a full head of hair!

In the latest episode, Sreesanth appears to have earned the ire of the Aussie players and press for having said, “Hard luck mate, you’re going to lose.” as Symonds trudged out on his way to the pavilion. Sreesanth, who was 12th man in this game, was carrying drinks for the on-field players at the time!

Oh no, that can’t be right. He shouldn’t have said that to these proud Australian angels; these absolute exemplars as human beings and elite sportsmen! Of course, it was perfectly ok — and indeed celebrated with much mirth and enjoyment — for Steve Waugh to quip to Herschelle Gibbs, “You’ve dropped the cup mate” on that fateful day in 1999.

Alex Brown writes in The Age about this spat too and indicates that Lalchand Rajput, the Team India manager as saying, “We were trying too hard [to intimidate] at the start, and now we have learned to relax. That should be a wake-up call to the Australians. They have been dominating world cricket for so long, but there is always a circle, and now is the time for other teams to gang up on them.

Richard Earle, writing in The Herald Sun, also talks about this incident and says that this marked a new low in relations between the two teams. Hmmm! Lower than when Symonds sledged Sachin Tendulkar — and copped a spray back — during play perhaps?

In another article Richard Earle comments that former Indian captains are tearing away at each others’ clothing and are cracking up under intense pressure by becoming involved in a public spat.

This is all nothing new. It is just that the usual Aussie media ganging-up-against-the-opposition-strategy has commenced a little earlier this summer. Sigh!

— Mohan