Tag Archives: Interview

A few old interviews on Sachin Tendulkar…

While we are waiting for the IPL to kick off and while we have been rating and reviewing the various IPL-2 teams as well as on what a “Good T20 Composition” ought to be, I thought we should take a breather and catch up on an old interview of Sachin Tendulkar by Harsha Bhogle!

Here is an interview with Sachin Tendulkar by Harsha Bhogle. I’ve been meaning to post the full collection of the five-part video on i3j3cricket, but somehow never got around to doing it. Most of you will have seen this already; it was recorded and aired after India’s tour of England in 2007. But here it is for completeness, more than anything else.

Harsha Unplugged — Part 1

Harsha Unplugged — Part 2

Harsha Unplugged — Part 3

Harsha Unplugged — Part 4

Harsha Unplugged — Part 5

And for good measure here is what most people believe is Sachin Tendulkar’s first video-interview.

If I am not mistaken, his first media interview was to the Mid-Day newspaper by Sunil Warrier in December 1986. Sunil Warrier is reported to have later said, “I made Sachin famous and then he made me famous.”

— Mohan

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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

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 Prem Panicker (Part I)

Last week, we carried Part-1 of an interview with Peter Lalor, writer in The Australian newspaper. Peter Lalor is a passionate supporter of the Australian cricket team and is fervent enthusiast for the way Australia plays its cricket. Our aim was to understand Australian aggression, racism in cricket crowds in India and a bevy of other issues by seeking the views of a respected Australian journalist. The further parts of this candid, no-holds-barred interview will appear later this week.

We thought we would try and achieve some balance in the debate by seeking the opinions of a respected Indian journalist too. And in the respect-stakes, they do not come higher than Prem Panicker. We asked more or less the same set of questions of Prem Panicker. Most cricket fans in India and elsewhere will have heard of Prem Panicker.

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.

Prem Panicker has been writing about cricket for a long time. He was one of a handful of journalists who helped found Rediff.com (Nasdaq: REDF). He was based in New York, as editor of India Abroad, the largest Indian-American newspaper, after that paper was purchased by Rediff. He is currently editor of Rediff. He blogs insatiably on cricket and other things at http://www.prempanicker.com

We thought we would take the opportunity to talk to Prem Panicker — 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 racism, understand cricket in India and sledging from an Indian perspective.

We asked Prem Panicker the same questions we asked Peter Lalor to achieve a sense of balance in the debate.

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

Prem Panicker: I’d rather, if it is all the same to you, leave me the person out of this. I’ve long felt an aversion to media personalities who become larger than the stories they cover, to the detriment of their journalism, and I have no wish to become one of those myself.

Very briefly, I studied in Christian College, Chennai first and then Calicut, in Kerala; I currently live in Mumbai, where I work for Rediff.com, and though I used to play all sorts of games and sports (athletics, cricket, soccer, badminton chiefly) in school, college and beyond, those days are long over and, in this present, too irrelevant to waste the time of your readers on.

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

PP: I dropped out of college in my third year of the degree course, because I increasingly felt that what I was being taught and, more importantly, the way I was taught those subjects were devoid of any practical application whatsoever.

The only thing I took away from my college education was a liking for the English language. I liked to read, I liked to write. I spent the better part of eight years, post-college, bumming around, unsure of what I wanted to do. A friend who was then editing the youth section of a national newspaper kept sending assignments my way.

I dabbled with these assignments, in a desultory fashion at first, liked the process that goes into reportage, and realized this is what I wanted to do for a living. So I joined a newspaper and over time, evolved into doing profiles, investigative stories, and such.

Rediff was founded in 1996. At the time, the Internet was unknown in India -– and the World Cup was a fortnight away. We couldn’t get any cricket correspondent worth his byline to join us, because who knew what this strange medium was? So my editor looked around the newsroom, saw me lounging around doing nothing in particular, and told me I had to cover the Cup – which is how the whole cricket-writing thing began – an unavoidable accident, like a car smash.

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

PP: That one is easy: I love cricket, I love writing – give me a chance to club the two, and pay me for doing it, and what’s not to be passionate about?

Admittedly, I am – if not actually a “fan” of Indian cricket in all its particulars – attached emotionally and mentally to India, to the idea of this country. I would like to see it do the best it can in all fields; cricket is no exception.

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

PP: To reiterate a point made earlier, I am passionate about the game, and hence can get worked up watching two well matched teams play it to the best of their abilities. If your question is, do I unquestioningly follow a particular team, no – not even India.

i3j3: How did you feel at the end of the India-Australia ODI tour to learn that writers such as Peter Lalor (cricket writer in The Australian newspaper) were being branded as a racist in the Indian media and on Indian blogs?

PP: It is an unfortunate corollary of the increasing trend towards sound-byte journalism that we prefer name calling to considered critiques. I noticed that certain sections of the media were being labelled racist, with Peter in particular copping it, yes — but I don’t recall reading anything that substantiated that particular case.

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

PP: What does it do? It leaves me cold – and mildly contemptuous of whoever it is who will not take the trouble to understand another human being but presumes himself fit to judge that other person anyway.

Take the incident with Peter for instance. He wrote a column questioning the official reason/excuse given for the crowd behaviour in Nagpur. Among other things, that column suggested that no crowd would pray in the middle of an ODI. I thought that comment was somewhat ill-informed – we pray all the time, for all sorts of ridiculous reasons. And I said as much on my blog. Was the comment racist? No – at best, it applied a different standard of cultural behaviour to judge the Nagpur incident.

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

PP: Not en masse, no – but yes, it has happened. We have long since forgotten how to treat opinion as just that – the thoughts of the person concerned, nothing more. Accept it if you think fit, debate it if you disagree, but I don’t see where you get off slinging epithets around. Such name-calling tells me nothing about the target; it does tell me, though, that the person doing the blanket name-calling is somewhat intellectually challenged.

i3j3: How do you think the Australian media should go about correcting that image that they seem to have acquired?

PP: Why should the “Australian media”, assuming there is any such animal, bother? (I am not much of a fan of clubbing an assorted bunch of journalists – Australian, Indian, whoever – of widely different talents, abilities, and personalities into one homogenous unit.) It is not part of a journalist’s brief to shape his image and his writing to confirm to someone else’s perception – in fact, it is fatal. His job is to report, to analyse, to critique and comment, to the best of his ability, integrity, and belief. As long as he is doing that in all honesty, I don’t see why he should worry about how readers, or some other segment of the media, see him.

i3j3: What is your view of the Austrlian cricket media? How do they come across to you as (a) a reader, (b) a fan of Indian cricket?

PP: As I pointed out above, there really is no such thing as the “Australian cricket media” – or the “Indian cricket media” for that matter. There are journalists of varying calibre covering Australian cricket, the same applies to India and everyone else.

I read, as often as I can, the major Australian newspapers and have come across articles that range the spectrum from outstanding to ordinary.

What is sometimes not taken into account is that even the best of writers have their off days – if you consider the amount of words churned out worldwide on this game we all follow, you will appreciate how impossible it is to be consistently insightful, to constantly come up with new things – ergo, the off days. Who was it who once said “Only mediocrity can be always at its best”?

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?

PP: Um. I can’t off the top recall the name of the US Supreme Court judge who once was asked to define obscenity, and who responded with “I can’t define it, but by golly, I know it when I see it.” Same difference, I would think, with racism.

Racism is far too serious, and too convoluted, an issue to be disposed off in a few sentences; to even attempt that is counter-productive.

For all that human beings pretend to homogeneity, we happen to be divisive by nature; we dissect ourselves into groups and sub-groups and our allegiance is bottom up, not top down. That is to say, to our sub group first, and so on up to the national level.

For instance, sometimes I comment about a particular player, and I am promptly abused as a “bloody South Indian”. I’m sorry, what has the place of my birth got to do with anything – and why is characterising, condemning me in that fashion not racist? I don’t presume to speak with expertise on how it is in Australia – I am curious, though, to know what language Sydneysiders use to refer to Melburnians, say, in the heat of battle, and how you would characterise that.

About Symonds specifically, I honestly don’t know just what the crowds in Nagpur said – I’ve heard a dozen different versions and, to quote Harry Belafonte, “It was clear as mud, but it covered the ground, and the confusion made me brain go round.”

I don’t intend to suggest that Symonds was lying; nor do I intend to buy into the official explanation wholesale. I cannot however entirely discount the possibility that he did not understand what was said, and took offense where none – at least, not on racist lines – was intended.

That said, what a section of the Mumbai crowd did was downright unacceptable. It had already been made clear that Symonds was upset by the “monkey” references. From that point on, all debate about intentions and such needed to end. The Mumbai crowd was not petitioning the gods; it was perpetuating behavior that had already been denounced as demeaning, and that is unacceptable. The idiots responsible deserved far more by way of punishment than the slap on the wrist they ended up getting.

i3j3: Several Australian crowds would often “send off” a departing Indian batsman with a “You drive a taxi” comment or a “You’re going home on the back of an elephant” chant. In your view, is this a racist slur?

PP: Sure, it uses a national stereotype to abuse an individual. It also can prompt a digression into stereotypes themselves. For instance, to suggest that you have a Roman nose is not racist, or to suggest that you have an aquiline proboscis is not to insult you with bestial comparisons; both are descriptors, even complimentary adjectives. Halle Berry however recently got into trouble on a chat show, with an off hand remark about Jewish noses that crossed that line and descended into racist stereotype, and had to apologize.

It is a damnably thin, often ill-defined line, and the sensibilities of the person at the receiving end are the best, often only, yardstick we have. That most times the practitioners of such abuse use it instinctively, even unthinkingly, and would be startled to know that the recipient felt hurt compounds the problem – that racism is an almost unconscious reflex in our minds.

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

PP: That would take a book – and by the time you were done you would have enough material for a sequel. I suppose when confronted with specific instances I will likely write on them, but I am not sure I have the bandwidth to examine the issue of racism as a pervasive societal malaise.

[to be continued…]

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…]