Tag Archives: Sledging

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!

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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

Cultural misunderstandings…

It now transpires that Harbhajan Singh said, in his native Hindi/Punjabi, “abey teri maan ki ”.

At least, that’s what he and his team are saying.

And, as reader 10YearsLate says in the comments section of this Blogsite, for the uninitiated and the linguistically unaware, the Hindi/Punjabi swear phrase above roughly translates to: “ Hey, your mother’s …”.

“maan ki” is commonly (and unfortunately) heard in India — particularly North India — and sounds like “monkey”. Symmonds, no doubt, drew the monkey conclusion.

Well, that’s the case of the Indians anyway!

As 10YearsLate says, “Given that demeaning references to mothers, sisters and wives are kosher in the Australian sledging lexicon, this may be considered legit.”

I think it is worse than that.

[Tongue-in-cheek mode ON]

I actually think that Harbhajan Singh may have wanted to get closer to the Australians! His pre-tour cultural-briefings may have told him that there are three sure-fire ways to achieve this objective:
(a) tap someone’s bottom — a sure sign of mateship,
(b) say something nasty about someone’s mother or sister — only mates have sledge-rights on mothers and sisters,
(c) wait for the post-day drink-frenzy to make friends over glasses of beer.

Such sharing of beer and war-stories, visiting teams are told, are to be compulsorily had after the “what’s said on the field is left on the field” type “hard but fair” Australian way of playing!

He was a bit tired of all the beer that had been consumed in the tour up until then. Every word that was said up until then on the field had been drowned with these glasses of beer that just had to be consumed as war-stories were exchanged. Moreover, the drunken haze left him with not much money, a lot of friends — that he actually did not want — and not much memory of what was actually said the previous day! It was working well, in one sense, but for someone with not that much money and for someone not used to consuming as much beer as he was now forced to consume, it was all getting a bit too much!

So, he wanted to try another tack… He was batting well at this stage and had pulled his team out of trouble. He was willing to risk option (a) of patting someone’s backside. After surveying the field, his eyes focussed on Brett Lee’s well-appointed hind!

Rather than wait for the post-match drink-frenzy, he proceeded to tap Brett Lee on the bowlers’ well-appointed bottom. He may have chosen the right bottom to pat, but did not realise that Andrew Symonds had his eyes on that piece of real estate!

When Andrew Symonds saw this, he saw red! He proceeded to claim exclusive, perpetual and royalty-free rights for performing said task on Brett Lee’s bottom! He threw a sledge in Harbhajan Singh’s direction. Quite miffed at being reprimanded for his bum-tap and quite annoyed at having to now wait for the post-day what’s-said-on-the-field-is-left-on-the-field-drink-frenzy to make friends with this hard-but-fair bunch of muscular Australians, he proceeded to hurl the words “abey tere maan ki …” towards Andrew Symonds.

His pre-tour cultural briefings may have told him that if a bottom-pat didn’t work, an abuse would. After all, play “hard but fair” is the national way of playing!

So, it is likely that Harbhajan Singh may have wanted to start proceedings early in an anxious bid to not wait for the post-day “what’s said on the field is left on the field” drunken stupor!

Unfortunately, Andrew Symonds heard “maan ki” as “monkey” and, the rest, as we say is history.

It was Harbhajan Singh’s fault. He should have chosen Brad Hogg’s bum to pat. I doubt anyone in the Australian team would have been as protective of his backside real estate as they would be of Brett Lee’s.

[Tongue-in-cheek mode OFF]

Meanwhile, it also transpires that the two teams exchanged lists of offensive words prior to the series. And “bast**d” did not make the cut! So, Australia’s case will be that, it was perfectly kosher for Brad Hogg to utter that word in any statement flung in the direction of the Indians!

Section 3.3 of the ICC Code of Conduct says:

Players and teams are barred from Using language or gestures that offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, gender, colour, descent, or national or ethic origin.

The Indians will argue that the term “bast**d” is insulting because “it questions a person’s descent and is highly sensitive in the Indian cultural context”. Hence, they will argue that 3.3 is an appropriate level of offence to slap on Brad Hogg. This may not wash with the Australians. Read this, for example! Moreover, the Australians will say, if it was as big as the Indians are now making it out to be, it ought to have been on the pre-tour banned-words-list!

There is only one way out of all of this.

“The teams should tear up that catch agreement and should plonk the entire Oxford English dictionary, Cappeller’s Digital Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Websters Online Hindi Dictionary, etc into such pre-tour off-limits words-lists!”

That way, nothing will be said out there and the umpire will make alll calls on catches!

— Mohan

Bucknor removed from the Perth Test

Steve Bucknor has been removed by the ICC from officiating in the Perth Test. Billy Bowden will, instead, officiate.

Malcolm Speed said, “I expect that Steve [Bucknor] will continue as an ICC Elite panel umpire but what we’re seeking to do here is to take some tension out of the situation.

The key word there, I suspect is “expect”. I suspect that that means we have seen the last of Bucknor?

So after flexing its financial muscle the BCCI has won round-one of two-round battle. It now wants its second claim to be settled prior to the Perth Test: that of Harbhajan Singh’s appeal being heard prior to the Perth Test and that the “guilty of racism” tag overturned against its player.

Once again, the ICC has buckled under pressure and has come down on one of its own. Yes, we all agree that Steve Bucknor had an ordinary game in Sydney and perhaps it was right for the ICC to bid goodbye to him. But why did they not do so prior to the Sydney Test? Why did it have to come to this?

Once again, the ICC has shown that it is a United-Nations-type organisation that just listens to the might of the powerful or (in this case) the rich.

— Mohan

Deadlocked Australia v India (2007-2008) :: Where does it all go now?

Will Anil Kumble, a proud, fiercely competitive and honest cricketer — his record speaks for himself — want to shake hands with an opposing Captain who, he feels, has played the game wrongly in a desperate bid to win? Is there a point, then, of playing on in Perth and Adelaide?

RIP :: Cricket as we know it…

The Australia v India tour is a mess right now. The players are stuck in their hotel in Sydney. Ironically, they cancelled a tour to the Bradman Museum in Bowral, enroute Canberra and stayed in their Sydney Hotel instead. The great Don may be turning in his grave in anguish at the sorry state of the game here in Australia. The game, as we know it, is in the Intensive Care Unit of an unknown hospital somewhere.

Who is to blame for this sorry mess? The Indian team alone? The ICC? Cricket Australia? Harbhajan Singh? Anil Kumble? Ricky Ponting? Mike Proctor? Umpires Benson and Bucknor? I believe each of these actors in this sordid play have to stand up and take some responsibility.

My feeling, though, is that if Proctor had not banned Harbhajan Singh — or if he had imposed a suspended sentence due to lack of complete and irrefutable evidence — things would not have come to this. Then again, if Ricky Ponting had not “dobbed in” — let us remember, when Australia were in danger of the game running away from them — things would not have come to this.

The Indians would have cried on a bit about the umpiring and disappeared to the Bradman Museum and then, Canberra.

But then, Ricky Ponting, we are told, had to report Harbhajan Singh. And Mike Proctor had to do his duties as Match Referee.

Within the Indian player group there is much anger and disappointment.

India, with the backing of its financial muscle power (over 70% of the games’ revenues come from India) has dug its heels and stuck to its guns, despite the danger of a $2.3m fine for pulling out midway from a tour for reasons other than security-risk. Cricket Australia indicated that the tour was certainly on, with CEO James Sutherland suggesting (as one would to one’s angry child, perhaps) that once Anil Kumble was a bit more sober, everything would be ok! His view was that Anil Kumble’s “outburst” was understandable for he had just lost a game and tensions were running high. Strong empathy there. Well done. Patronising perhaps? No way.

The BCCI has held emergency meetings and postured angrily and at times, with some confusion. Former Indian players were angry and scathing in their views over the goings-on. This had now become an issue of national pride; not just one man’s 3-Test ban.

How appropriate that the Test series itself is called the 3 Test Series!

Arun Jaitley, the BCCI’s lawyer as well as a BCCI Senior Vice President, has already filed an appeal against the Harbhajan Singh ban.

The BCCI has taken this on as an insult, not merely to the player in question, but to Indians as a whole around the globe. This issue has been politicised and yet again in cricket, a sense of proportion has been lost. In a terse and angry statement, the BCCI said, “The Indian board realises the game of cricket is paramount but so, too, is the honour of the Indian team and for that matter every Indian. To vindicate its position the board will fight the blatantly false and unfair slur on an Indian player”.

I think Mike Proctor has acted in a manner that, in my opinion, has not been either consistent or great for the game.

He was incorrect, in my view, for not banning Yuvraj Singh for dissent after the 1st Test, for if he had banned Yuvraj Singh, it would have provided India with a better batsman in the Sydney Test!

But jokes apart, Mike Proctor has not, in my view, been entirely consistent.

How he could let Ricky Ponting get away with three acts of misdemeanour in the Sydney Test is way beyond me: (a) Ponting’s dissent on being given out in the 1st Innings of the SCG Test, (b) The Australian teams’ appalling over rate in the Indian second Innings, (c) Claiming a catch off M. S. Dhoni when he must have known that he had grounded the catch.

For (c) above I provide below a picture that reader H. L. Cadambi refers to in the comments of an earlier posting. [Thanks Cad]

I also refer the reader to an articulate posting by Prem Panicker, a well-known and well-respected journalist for Rediff.com.

pontng-grounded-catch.jpg

Ponting must have known that he grounded the catch. Look at direction his eyes are appearing to look at in the picture!

Now, a cricketer has been banned in the past for claiming a catch when it was not out. Pakistan player, Rashid Latif was banned for five matches for claiming a “grounded” catch in a Test against Bangladesh.

The Match Referee in that precedent? Mike Proctor. Hello! Hello!

And what has Mike Proctor done in this game? He banned Harbhajan Singh. He hasn’t even questioned the integrity of Ricky Ponting. If Ricky Ponting could claim the catch against M. S. Dhoni, should he have the power to be a 4th umpire in the catch against Sourav Ganguly that Michael Clarke claimed to take cleanly?

I personally do not think so.

For a start, on the basis of this evidence, I feel that the pre-tour agreement on claiming catches between Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting will be thrown out of the window. If the tour does go ahead, I do not believe the Indian team will (or indeed, should) have any faith in the integrity of the Australian captain or the Australian team.

If the tour goes on, in my view, all catches have to be referred to the 3rd umpire.

The hypothesis at play here is that in times of extreme duress, distress and anguish, integrity is the first thing that suffers in Australian cricket.

The backdrop against which this observation is made is important here.

Ricky Ponting was desperate to prove that the timing of his declaration was apt. A fact that made him interrupt Channel-9 interviews (at the end of the days’ play) with other players to scream out against Tony Greig’s criticism of the timing of the declaration. Adam Gilchrist was similarly under the pump too. He too was reported to have interrupted interviews to scream out (perhaps in jubiliation and perhaps in relief) at Tony Greig’s criticism of the declaration-timing. The criticism meant a lot to this team. Pontings’ timing was based on shutting India out first, winning next. He had achieved the former. He wanted the latter desperately. Evidence, albeit ancedotal, supports that. It was obvious that the win meant so much to Ricky Ponting. Apart from having things to prove to Tony Greig and the rest of the commentary team, and despite his public denials, the consecutive-win record would have meant much to this proud and fiesty cricketer.

Would he do anything he could to snatch that victory? Make up your own minds. But here was a captain that was, in my view, very very desperate to win… at any cost too, perhaps.

When questioned repeatedly on this facet of his (perhaps desperate) attempts ot win at all costs, Ricky Ponting reacted angrily and testily to G. Rajaraman, the Outlook India correspondent, who records the events in his blog. The question clearly rankled Ponting.

Only one team played in the spirit of the game“, said Anil Kumble at the conclusion of the game. You wonder why?

In a scathing attack, Peter Roebuck certainly thinks that Ricky Ponting brought the game into disrepute and should be stood down as captain of the Australian team.

But then Australians will point to the fact that Anil Kumble may have meant that it was perhaps Australia that was the one team that had played in the spirit of the game — and not Kumble’s own team. After all, Harbhajan Singh was the only one to be slapped on his wrists at the end of the game! History would perhaps record Anil Kumble’s comments as a salutation to Australia’s immense sportsmanship?

But I seriously wonder if Mike Proctor had enough evidence to ban Harbhajan Singh for 3 games? Or was this yet another gaffe from the Match Referee, who did not pull up Ricky Ponting as he had, Rashid Latif? Only time will tell. The lawyers will make money out of this.

However, history will record that, in a game where people from the Indian sub-continent and black South Africans have withstood decades of discrimination and villification, an Indian is the first to be booked for racism under the ICC’s new code. There is a strange irony to this. I have always maintained that, despite the baggage of past history (and provocation), if anyone could be proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, they should do the time. So, time will tell if Harbhajan Singh was a victim or indeed, the person that dished out an abuse.

I do believe that this is a horrible deadlock; one from which either party will find it hard to back down from.

The ICC has indicated that it will not allow Steve Bucknor to be stood down in the Perth Test. They have their backs up and will not let one of their own suffer an inglorious exit from the game. And fair enough, in my view. After all, the ICC has already been through a nightmare scenario once after the Darryl Hair issue! They would not want yet another umpire to go the same way! In all probability, Perth will be Bucknor’s last Test match. If he does not retire, he must be asked to do so. So, whether the Indians like it or not, I feel that Bucknor will officiate in Perth.

Cricket Australia and Ricky Ponting have their backs up, claiming that they have done nothing wrong and, if anything, it is the Indians who are to blame for all of this mess. Having said that, Cricket Australia has imposed a gag order on Andrew Symonds. Meanwhile, Cricket Australia has to come to terms with that fact that almost every Poll in the land has delivered bad news for the national cricket team; almost all of them have indicated that Australian cricketers are bad sportsmen (an example, here).

Meanwhile, Sachin Tendulkar has come out openly to state, “Harbhajan is innocent. I assure you of this.

So, is Proctor saying that Sachin Tendulkar is a cheat?

I feel that cricket has to go on, but I do believe that this entire episode has tarred relations — perhaps beyond repair — between these two cricket nations; each with a proud history. I somehow cannot see Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble shake hands prior to the Perth Test. Sources close to the team say that Anil Kumble, a proud, fiercely competitive and honest crickter — his record speaks for himself — will not shake hands with a cricketer who, he feels, has played the game wrongly in a desperate bid to win.

If the Indians play on, in this tour, I doubt it will be because they want to play the game; it would be because they were forced to and not because they want to. Is this good for the game? For a bunch of XI players to rock up to Perth and Adelaide and for the game to be over in a day or two?

Who is to blame for all of this sadness?

Have your say…

— Mohan

Must read article from the mX

I saw this great piece of journalism when I picked up the mX today. For readers not living in Australia, the mX is a free evening newspaper that is usually available around train stations in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

MxReport

(Click on the image to see the whole mX article)

Thanks for the article Russell. I fully agree with what you have said. The Indian newspapers are all biased and have tunnel vision. I am glad that the mX isn’t. The umpires had nothing to do with the actual result of the match – it was pure Australian brilliance. I find it appalling that they even blame the umpire for letting Andrew Symonds off in the first innings several times. It is a good thing you did not mention it.

About the Aussie skipper, Ponting reacting to an Indian journa asking why he claimed a catch which clearly wasn’t, I have this to say to the journalist (Raj) – “How dare you question the integrity of the Australian cricket captain?” Sheesh! Doesn’t he know that journalists can even question the integrity of the Australian prime minister, but questioning the integrity of the much revered Australian cricket captain is clearly out of bounds – I am glad Ricky told him to get lost in a nice way.

Just can’t seem to understand why the  mX is free. People should be charged to read great articles like these…

-Mahesh-