Tag Archives: Sledging

A good read while we take a ‘break’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Times

July 15, 2009

Ricky Ponting walking a thin line

Matthew Syed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Adjective Watch”: Alive and Kicking!

While we are on the topic of derision, here’s the latest offering from the “Adjective Watch” department of i3j3Cricket!

In his match report, Malcolm Conn of ‘The Australian’ has referred to Harbhajan Singh as “annoying tailender Harbhajan Singh“!

As we know already, several adjectives have been used by the Australian media (Ok! I use the term lightly here) in the last two series to describe players like Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir.

Fine English phrases/words/terms like ‘Serial Pest’, ‘recalcitrant’ and ‘serial offender’ have been used in the past to describe Indian players. And who can forget that pearl, “obnoxious weed”?

All because these Indian players, who are no more competitive than your average Australian player, just look different and eat different food perhaps?

But “Adjective Watch” confirms that “annoying” is a new one, hitherto unused.

Let us therefore applaud Conn’s efforts here. Given that this has been a long tour for him — on the last tour, he despatched Peter Lalor to do duties in faraway, dusty, dirty India — this hitherto unused adjective was a stunning effort from the great Conn.

And after harvesting a truckload of adjectives thrown at him by the Australian media, Harbhajan Singh must believe that he is like God Vishnu; a God of a 100,000 descriptive names! It just keeps getting better for this proud Indian Sikh!

Meanwhile, Steve Waugh wants 8-1 fields banned in Test cricket! The Foxsports report says:

Waugh wants to ban the brickwall tactic of 8-1 field placings after Test cricket was humiliated on the world stage in India.

“It should be outlawed,” said Waugh. It’s negative. It doesn’t entertain and it won’t bring people back to Test cricket.”

Is this the same Steve Waugh who had a 9-0 field for Sourav Ganguly in Kolkata in 2001 in a bid to either humiliate the then Indian captain or deny Ganguly runs (or both)? That’s right. Not 8-1, but a 9-0 field! At that time, Australian media commentators applauded Steve Waugh as a ruthless man with single-minded determination. I wish I could find a YouTube video of that one to slam in front of Steve Waugh!

This series ought to have been titled “Karma Revisited” or “Karma Redefined”!

— Mohan

Strategists fail at their own strategy

“I think we can create an intensity in the field which at certain stages might make their old blokes look like they’re past their use-by date.”

That was what Ricky Ponting said at the start of the series!

At the start of the series, the visitors made public their blueprint for success in their series in India. The visitors had even coined a phrase that captured this strategy: “New Age Cricket” they called it. This strategy was based on a fundamental hypothesis that the Indians were “fat, lazy, aging, weak and slow”.

At one level this was an arrogant strategy. But it was also a bold admission at another level. Since the Australians were also admitting through this strategy that they could not get the Indians out with the bowling resources that it had and so, had to resort to a defensive ‘choking’ mindset.

The strategy consisted of bowling to choking fields which would deny the “fat, lazy, aging, weak and slow Indians” (FLAWSIs) boundary hits. The FLAWSIs would, therefore, need to either run hard for singles — and thereby tire their weak and unconditioned bones out. Either that or the FLAWSIs would need to invent rash strokes in a bid to remove the hand that was attempting to choke them for runs. While batting, this strategy consisted of pushing hard for singles so that the FLAWSIs would be energy sapped on the field.

All good. But so far in this series, this strategy had failed the Australians… Miserably.

Interestingly, the only time that India adopted the strategy on day-3 of the ongoing Test at Nagpur, the Australians failed at overcoming their own strategy. Indeed, they even ably assisted the hand that was attempting to choke them!

The strategists had failed at the strategy that they had penned.

Karma can sometimes be a cruel script-writer, as the Australians had already found out in this Test match!

Australia was completely throttled by India’s 8-1 off-side plan on day-3 of the Nagpur Test. This was necessary because India had played overly aggressive — bordering on arrogant cricket — for 2 days of this Test match. Almost all the batsmen had played aggressive cricket at some stage in their innings. Many of them had been felled by somewhat rash strokes. When bowling, India had thrown the kitchen sink in a bid to over-attack. India opened the bowling with Harbhajan Singh! Runs leaked. Something needed to be done.

Dhoni, the captain had authored — nay, borrowed — the strategy overnight and communicated it to all his players. Each player had a role. As I said in the match report as it evolved, the strategy required the players to swallow their collective egos and be bloody-minded about it. India played like Australia would have, in the past.

It is one thing devising a plan. It is another to execute it to perfection. The pace bowlers had to bowl long (very long) spells. Harbhajan Singh had to bide his time. Amit Mishra was hardly to be seen. If it didn’t work, the team would be lampooned by everyone. Indeed, the team was besieged by the commentators even as the game was in progress.

It was a bold statement from a team that was hungry for success. Success at any cost? Yes, as long as it was within the rules of the game. It was within the rules. It wasn’t attractive, but effective.

It was effective because the architects stuck to their plan. It also worked because Australia, the original authors of this strategy had no answers.

John Eales, Australian rugby union footballer and arguably the most successful captain in the history of Australian Rugby, said once that his mantra was to maintain courage under fire and to never lose commitment to the goal. The Indians played in a manner that may have made John Eales proud. The team stuck to its goal of playing mean-minded cricket.

The Australian’s did not try a leg-side stroke till the 12th over — it didn’t come off. The team tapped a ball on the leg-side only in the 18th over. The first run on the leg-side came in the 21st over of the day! This was more than mean-minded bowling from the Indians. It was breath-sucking stuff. Highly impressive. As I have said, it is one thing to construct a strategy. It needs to be overseen by men who have shed their egos and it needs to be implemented.

But in reality, the authors who had penned the strategy against the FLAWSIs were found wanting. Australia did not make any efforts to combat this strategy. There was no attempt to reduce the angles that the pace bowlers were bowling at. It was strange cricket from the Australians indeed. In a rather empty and hollow manner, Australia had played directly into the hands of the very team that they decreed was fat, lazy, aging, weak and slow!

Peter Roebuck criticises this tactic in todays’ The Age. And perhaps with reason. It wasn’t attractive and it never will be. Ian Chappell has also criticised India’s tactics. He also wants law-makers to step in and change the law on 8-1 fields!

However, before law makers change anything, these two teams need to sit down and work things out.

In my view, Sydney changed everything between these two teams.

As Roebuck writes, “Unfortunately the mood changed in the last series, with bile and recrimination taking hold. Although the conduct of the teams has improved the bitterness persuaded both parties to go to any legitimate length to stop their opponent gaining ground.”

I agree. I do feel that both teams will go to any legitimate length to gain the ascension. India has acquired a steely edge to its game; an edge that was hitherto absent, but certainly an edge that one could see the foundations of even from a distance. It is my feeling that India does not have this bloody-minded edge when it plays England or South Africa or even Pakistan. After Sydney, there is a teeth-gritting determination to its game when it faces Australia. And this feeling is mutual between these two teams. Sydney had triggered two resignation-thoughts (Gilchrist and Kumble), had already claimed one talented individual (Symonds) and now, it was the basis for cut-throat competition between these two top teams in world cricket.

Interestingly, I did not see Roebuck criticise Australian tactics which were roughly the same at Mohali and Delhi. He has though, today! India implemented the tactics more clinically and in a more bloody-minded manner at Nagpur. Moreover, at Delhi, Gautam Gambhir often walked down the track to reduce the angles and Laxman routinely used his wrists to play balls from outside off to leg! The Australians just could not do so here at Nagpur.

More importantly, I did not see Roebuck and Ian Chappell jump up and down and criticise Nasser Hussain for asking Ashley Giles to bowl a foot outside leg-stump to Sachin Tendulkar and other Indian batsmen. The Indians took it on the chin and moved on.

Finally, I did not read Roebuck and Ian Chappell writing about the sheer arrogance that lay behind this pre-series statement from Ponting (Ironically, the article by Malcolm Conn is titled: “Insults will backfire” in yet another Karma-defined headline!):

“I think we can take them on when they’re in the field and play a new-age type of Test cricket that is going to make some of their older guys look a bit old and a bit slow,” Ponting said.

“This includes running between the wickets and our fielding if a couple of their batsmen like VVS Laxman and the retiring Sourav Ganguly happen to be in together.

“I think we can create an intensity in the field which at certain stages might make their old blokes look like they’re past their use-by date.”

Although Roebuck has criticised the new-age tactic in later articles, he did not call the arrogance that lay behind the FLAWSIs theory at the time it was expounded. Indeed, commentators commended the mean mindedness and the hard edge of the Australians. Wasn’t day-3 just that? A mean-minded and hard-edged Indian team?

So what has changed now for Roebuck and Ian Chappell to chastise it? Is it because they are not used to mean-minded and hard-edged stuff coming from the Indians?

At Sydney, Australia adopted a win-at-all costs attitude. I did not see Nagpur as anything other than that. I do believe that Sydney changed everything between these two teams with a proud history and tradition. It will require something quite extraordinary to repair the damage of Sydney.

— Mohan

Now Gambhir is on the “hate-list”

Question: What do Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sree Santh, Robin Uthappa and now, Gautam Gambhir have in common? (And let us not forget Manoj Prabhakar).

Answer: Local Australian media use adjectives such as “controversial”, “offensive”, “serial offender”, “street-fighter”, “combative” or such normally-pejorative descriptions as a prefix to their names in media reports!

Meanwhile, Merv Hughes (he who spat), Glen McGrath (he who wanted to slit an opposition players’ throat), Steve Waugh (he who coined the term “mental disintegration”), Ricky Ponting (he who had a black eye in a bar brawl), Matthew Hayden (he of “obnoxious weed” fame), et al are prefixed with words such as “saint”, “great”, “former great”, “competitive”, “battler” or “legend”!

One might think that there is something amiss here.

But no! I think the real answer lies in a fear that these new-age Indians have mimicked what the Australians have been doing for 10 years or more. What’s more? Unlike the Fab Five and others before them, this new lot are giving it back as good as they get and are doing it just that little bit better by getting completely under the collective skins of the Australians! No wonder the media lot in Australia are so irked.

The day is not far off, I feel, when the likes of Malcolm Conn will start moving the ICC to stamp out the scourge of sledging from the game!

I do feel that these new-age Indians have a fair bit to go in their studies though! They need to learn (a) to get under the radar, (b) the art of cheap theatrics. They have to learn the art of sledging surreptitiously so that they fall under the radar of the Match Referee. They also need to go to a third-grade Bollywood acting school (or talk to any soccer player) so that the moment they are touched or sledged, they roll about on the floor, flail their arms and go into seizures as though they have been felled by a tornado. They just need to look at a replay of Shane Watson in Delhi or Matthew Hayden at Mohali!

Soon, the Match Referee will start using placative phrases like “you do not want to curb natural aggression in the game” when the Indians sledge too.

But more seriously, I do believe that the Australians can’t stomach the fact that these new-age Indians are giving it back. Nick McCardle and Mark Waugh, the Foxtel TV anchors, asked Alan Border and Brendan Julian, with a fair bit of incredulousness at the post-match interview about the niggle on the field in a manner that suggested that Australia had to have sole ownership of that property!

I do believe that Australian media struggles to accept that the Indians can give back — and even initiate it. More power to the Indians. I personally would like sledging to be stamped out of the game completely — and have written on this before, lest someone accuses me of a “Conn Job”! However, I also believe that a person who throws a stone in an open drain must expect his clothes to get soiled. There are no rules here. I do not believe in either ‘lines’ or ‘sand’ in this game. If you belong to the mafia expect the head of a horse on your doorstep! Simple! You make a choice.

It is time for the Australian media to accept players like Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sree Santh, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, et al (the new India players) as nothing other than good old “Aussie Battlers”. Not that these players are the first “Aussie Battlers” either! Players like Arjuna Ranatunga and Javed Miandad come to mind immediately! If these guys played for Australia, they would be celebrated as players who fought for their country with pride and didn’t give an inch on the field. Instead, what we have is this constant denigration through banal sequence of inflammatory adjectives by the media!

Having said all of this, I fully expect Gautam Gambhir to be hauled before the match referee. I expect him to even receive a hefty fine or a suspended sentence. However, if he does get docked, it would not be because of his folly, but because he wasn’t clever enough in his retort to Shane Watson!

Surely, that statement is a travesty in itself and makes a mockery of the game and its proud traditions!

— Mohan

Tendulkar rubbishes Gilchrist’s “loose statements”

In an interview with a TV Channel, Sachin Tendulkar put Adam Gilchrist’s comments comments in the pale and said he had made “loose statements”, thereby implying that this was nothing more than a ploy by Gilchrist to peddle his upcoming book!

To be perfectly honest, I personally would have expected better from Gilchrist!

Not surprisingly, while Adam Gilchrist’s comments surrounding his soon-to-be-released biography were immediately picked up by the Malcolm Conns of the world, as is to be expected by such objective journalists, Tendulkar’s response has not rated on their Richter scale yet! They will, in all probability, be ignored — after all, that is what objective and balanced journalists do!

Last night, the greatest cricketer in India spoke quietly about his reactions to the Gilchrist allegations.

He said, “I was surprised. I didn’t know how to react. (What he alleged) is something that I can’t even think of in my wildest dreams. I love the game so much and those remarks came from someone who doesn’t know me enough. I think he made loose statements”

Tendulkar said he reminded Gilchrist in no uncertain terms of the spirit and manner in which the Indians took even the hard defeat in Sydney. He said, “So many times he mentioned that you and Harbhajan (Singh) are not traceable to shake hands. I reminded him that I was the first person to shake hands after the Sydney defeat. It was a tough game that we lost and it was difficult for us. But we all in the team would shake hands. We have that sportsman spirit. We won’t shy away from challenges.”

When asked about Gilchrist’s opinion on his honesty during the Harbhajan Singh Monkeygate trial, Tendulkar said, “That’s his opinion but as far as I am concerned the chapter is closed.”

And finally, he said, “I am the kind of person who would leave things behind.”

Gosh! Everyone is into leaving things behind these days. This must be the new leave-behind that’s the rage! Gilchrist left it behind too, apparently!

And for those that didn’t see this yet, wind to about 2.31 mins into this video to see Sachin Tendulkar standing in a queue of Indians after the Sydney loss.

— Mohan

ICC Match Referee system needs a serious investigation…

[I started typing this in the comments section of the thread on the Indian Victory at Mohali in response to a comment made by regular visitor, Sampath Kumar. When it grew too large, I thought I’d post it here as an blog post!]


In that comments thread, I said: “Have you not seen Merv Hughes or McDermott or Mike Whitney or Brad Williams give Indian players send offs? They haven’t been fined. The cliche often used by the Match Referee in those instances has been, ‘You don’t want to curb aggression in the game.’ One example is enough to prove this point, ‘McGrath-Sarawan’.”

My question then is this: “Why is it only necessary to curb Asian aggression?”

My conclusion is that Match Referees are not used to aggressive Asians in the past. This phenomenon, which found voice mainly through the likes of Arjuna Ranatunga and Sourav Ganguly, is now expressing itself routinely.

Which is probably why a journalist like Malcolm Conn rarely writes an article these days wherein he does not use the words “serial offender” or “provocative” or “aggressive” when referring to Harbhajan Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan or other new-age India players. Meanwhile, he does not deem Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden (he of “obnoxious weed” fame), et al, worthy of such lofty adjectives!

I personally do not see the antics of a Sourav Ganguly or Harbhajan Singh or a Zaheer Khan as anything different to the antics of Ricky Ponting or Matthew Hayden or Michael Clarke or any number of Australian cricketers.

In the comments section of the previous thread, I added, in reference to the Zaheer Khan fine, “Now the shoe is on the other foot. And everyone has woken up around the developed world!”

Yes. It is true that Team India, like India herself, has found a voice. Gone are the days of servility and Gandhian turn-the-other-cheek. The new India talks back, stares back and meets fire with fire. Suddenly, the sledging genie appears to be out of the bottle. India is aping the Australians and then some. Suddenly Malcolm Conn finds it revolting, unacceptable and uncomfortable.

Read this article by Malcolm Conn, our good friend from The Australian, for example. It makes no reference to the antics of Ricky Ponting nor does it paint Brad Haddin as the provoker in Bengaluru. One would think that the Indians are cheats and the Australians are good, honest, Christian saints with halos around their heads.

But that is the media. And irresponsible media persons, like our recent friends, will write anything to sell papers! Objectivity is not really the issue here.

And Malcolm Conn, like a few other Australian cricketers and journalists are rushing to claim the moral higher ground!

India’s gentle players are on their way out. Sourav Ganguly will soon considered “gentle” in comparison to the new-India that is coming through the ranks. Players like Uthappa and Sree Santh will take no prisoners! And they will be emboldened by the in-your-face approach of players like Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh! All of them want to win, and win well. They learned from the Australians and are repeating what they have been inflicted with in their formative years. Even M. S. Dhoni, one of the most decent cricketers I have seen for a long time, is being seen as a “cheat” by the Malcolm Conn’s of the world! And unless the ICC cleans up its act, I predict that there will be more Sydney-like trouble before things really settle down.

I have, for long claimed that the ICC has a major responsibility here; one that it is abusing; one that it is certainly abrogating.

Sunil Gavaskar claims that the ICC Match Referees are biased. In the comments section of the previous thread, I agreed with Gavaskar’s claims. In the same match we had Zaheer Khan and Ricky Ponting carrying on like pork chops. One was fined. The other wasn’t even mentioned in the Match Referees post-match missives! And I haven’t even mentioned the phrase “over rates” here! Why was that not even in consideration? I am not merely talking about over-rates in this match just concluded at Mohali. I am talking about Australian over-rates through the whole of last summer and these two recent matches.

You just cannot have a situation where Zaheer Khan is the only one that has his ears pinned!

In response to the comments that I made on the ICC Match Referees being biased, Sampath Kumar argued: “Finally, you have argued by comparing legal system in recent times — If an Aussie was not charged last time, then an Indian shouldn’t be charged as a balancing act. It is like saying: If my sister was raped by John, I should be allowed to rape John’s sister–no questions asked.”

Firstly, the above comment begs the question: What “legal system”?

The ICC seems to currently operate in a legal-free zone, in my view.

Try comparing the proper tribunal hearings — conducted by trained QC’s — that the AFL conducts to the manner in which the ICC operates its “picnic for the boys” routine.

Secondly, Sampath Kumar’s rape-analogy is too simplistic, apart from being a totally incorrect representation of my position.

While a sporting tribunal does not necessarily need to follow any specific legal formalities or processes, the ICC needs to get serious on this if it is to be taken seriously in the world.

Sports is competitive by nature and all sports people will look to get ahead! Some of them will adopt fair means and some will adopt other means outside the box of what is considered the “norm”. The “norm” is established by rules and regulations. The “norm” is also established by precedent! And here, therefore, precedent is important. You can’t have the carry ons of Brad Williams or Glen McGrath or Andre Nel, when taking a wicket being described as “good, strong, honest, aggressive cricket” and, simultaneously, describe Zaheer Khan’s carry ons as “unbecoming of the game”. The only difference is that one cricketer comes from a naturally aggressive cricket culture; the other comes from a hitherto non-aggressive culture! Precedent is important in any legal setting.

Moreover, it is the responsibility of the organisation to ensure that there is fairness, equity and natural justice in all of its dealings.

Organisations like the ICC, therefore, have a legal responsibility in relation to fair-play, reputable-play, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, etc. The ICC also has moral obligations in relation to establishing (a) appropriate behaviour applicable across the board, (b) consistency in interpretation and application of the law and also (c) providing safe sporting environments.

An irrefutable necessary condition for any ICC Tribunal is that the very basic principles of natural justice must be followed to ensure that a totally fair and equitable process outcome is achieved, that is free of conflicts or bias (perceived or otherwise). The principles of natural justice include the following: (a) clear notification of the charge, (b) opportunity to respond, (c) perceived and actual unbiased decision making, that includes reliance on fact and the sourcing of irrefutable evidence when handing down decisions, (d) a clear, untainted and unquestioned opportunity to appeal a judgement that is handed down.

It is in the application of point (c), particularly, that I have most problems with the ICC. Even last year, we heard platitudes like “You don’t want to curb aggression in the game” or “It was all good humoured and good natured banter”, in cases involving Australian and English players. I refer to incidents like Mcgrath-Sarawan, or Ponting’s carry-ons after getting run out in 2005 by Gary Pratt, the substitute. I also point to the “jelly beans” episode in 2007.

I can go on and on. But incidents like these are sand-papered over with cliches and empty platitudes. This has to stop.

Perceived bias has to be eliminated. Otherwise, perceptions will become realities and who knows what will happen at that point in time.

— Mohan

Roy, Bhajji and the…

Loved this hilarious article in The Age, about Roy Bhajii and the non-stop argy-bargy 🙂


Public Enemies #1

In the comments section of an earlier post, I postulated a hypothesis around why players like Harbhajan Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Arjuna Ranatunga, et al, are hated in Australia.

What wrong did Sourav Ganguly do? He was in the face of the Australians constantly when he was Team India captain. He made Steve Waugh wait for the toss repeatedly! He slowly, but surely, “mentally disintegrated” the Australians! Ganguly merely won that round in the Mental Disintegration Battle (MDB) match. What was wrong with that? Yet, he was labelled Public Enemy #1 in Australia!

What did Arjuna Ranatunga do? He was constantly in the face of the Australians. He was one of the first players in the world to say he wasn’t frightened of Shane Warne’s bowling! He constantly stretched the envelope and became a most hated player in the Australian team! Surely, all he did was to win several rounds of MDB! Nothing more. Nothing less.

What is Harbhajan Singh doing now? He is constantly under the skin of the Australians! He has stretched Matthew Hayden to the extent that the Australian opener loses the plot totally, goes to air in a radio show and jumps arms and legs flailing into the gutter. Is it not a mere instantiation of a round to Harbhajan Singh in the MDB stakes? Surely, this is allowed in the rules of MDB, a game invented by the Australians! Except that this game is now also being played on the other side of the “white line”.

What did Sree Santh do? He mouthed off at Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden after securing their wickets. Surely, these are accepted! After all, if Matthew Hayden can stand in the slips cordon applauding Brad Williams giving a send-off to Sourav Ganguly, all bets are off!

I see that Robert Craddock has already written about this issue. He has added to the list Douglas Jardine, John Snow and Richard Hadlee.

So, the question then is: Why is it that Australia’s “most hated players” are Douglas Jardine, John Snow, Richard Hadlee, Arjuna Ranatunga, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, and Sree Santh?

My hypothesis is that all of them employed an in-your-face approach to get under the skin of the Australians. They are as good at MDB as any Australian is. They play the game as hard and competitively as any Aussie that entered the field. Why is it that the Australians find it hard to digest?

Why is Sree Santh labelled (by Andrew Symonds no less) as “Public Enemy #1”? Interestingly, in this article, supposedly written while Symonds was perched on a tall pedestal at about 35,000 ft above sea-level, Symonds says: “It is fair to say there is not a lot of love between us and (Shanthakumaran) Sreesanth. His carry-on in this series has been way over the top. We don’t mind blokes having a go and standing up for themselves, but he has gone above and beyond what’s acceptable.”

Acceptable, to whom?

Why is it hard for Australians to stomach that there are a bunch of players who will stare the Australians in the face and give it back? My hypothesis is that if guys like Sree Santh, Harbhajan Singh, Sourav Ganguly and Ranatunga played for Australia, Australians would be celebrating them!

Hayden asks a wet-behind-the-ears Ishant Sharma to concentrate on his cricket and welcomes him to a boxing ring for a bout. Yet when Brad Williams indulged in a series of foul-mouthed send-offs, Hayden stood at first slip and celebrated. The whole of Australia celebrated. It is time to accept that there are other players in the world watching and aping (sorry for the marginal Darwininan pun to a taboo word in cricket circles) the Australians too! Time to be more accepting I think.

Time for a debate at least!

Australian cricket… an interesting read

Read this article in The Mid Day by Michael Jeh, a coloured player who has played club cricket for Mathew Hayden’s Valley Cricket Club in Brisbane. It might be of interest to you and adds more colour (pardon the pun) to recent goings on.

— Mohan

On Sledging

In the Monkeygate debate, the need for sledging on the cricket field has been called into question.

Was there a need for Andrew Symonds to pin Harbhajan Singhs’ ear when the Indian said “well bowled” to Australian bowler Brett Lee? Was that an Australian thing to do? Should a player really indulge in sledging at all? These are questions that do need to be asked.

I called in on Jon Faine’s talkback segment on ABC Radio yesterday and repeated my view that all sledging has to be banned. Faine wished me good luck. I added that while mild banter was perhaps ok, ABC’s own contracted commentator, Harsha Bhogle, had said that some of the words that were said on the cricket field would not be heard at his dinner table! Jon Faine reminded me and everyone else that the players weren’t at Harsha Bhogle’s dinner table! They were playing tough, professional, hard cricket!

Fair point.

But does that mean that they should indulge in ugly behaviour and sledge each other on the field?

The Australian Governor-General and the Australian Prime Minister weighed in on the debate yesterday.

Before yesterday’s Prime Minister’s XI match in Canberra against the visiting Sri Lankans, Major-General Michael Jeffery, Australia’s Governor General (someone who seldom gets involved in public controversies), commented that sledging was “totally un-Australian” and should be eradicated.

This is, unfortunately, not a view that is shared by Australian players and media personalities. All of them talk about “lines in the sand”. Who defines the sand? Who writes the rules for appropriate sledges? Where is this “line in the sand”?

Whose line is it anyway?

The Australian Governor-General said that Test players had a responsibility to set an example for juniors, and referred to players questioning umpires’ decisions and failing to walk.

“I think there’s also a need to really take care of the fundamental courtesies and good manners,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd echoed these sentiments and made a plea for “greater civility to permeate the veins of the game”.

Sane words, in my view, from two good men.

And on the topic of sane words, here is an excellent article by Harsha Bhogle in The Age (31 Jan 2008). I do wish the Peter Lalors of this world would read it.

In particular, I reproduce this last paragraph from the article:

So why is India so sensitive about what is happening in Australia? Since I was a child, my abiding memory is of visiting journalists and cricketers coming to India and making fun of us. We were a country finding our feet, we were not confident; we seethed within but we accepted. The new generation in India is not as accepting — it is prouder, more confident, more successful. Those bottled up feelings are bubbling through. This is the great dawn of acceptance. It is a phase both countries must understand. This is the storm before the lull. Let’s play cricket. We’re only a small family.

All I can say is that if Harsha Bhogle had read Peter Lalor mocking Harbhajan Singh’s mother and that squeaky-voiced TV reporter, Harsha Bhogle’s abiding memory will be further fuelled. And if this blatant mockery attempt comes from a knowledgeable, self-confessed Indophile — with a Ganesh idol on his mantle-piece, no less — that same God had better rush to Harsha Bhogle’s aid to erase those abiding memories.

Certainly the Lalors of this world are not going to do it; they will just augment it. And fires of mistrust, cultural misunderstandings and anger will continue to burn.

— Mohan