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!