There’s a point at which political correctness and politeness of phrase have to be jettisoned in favor of brutal directness — of calling a spade a spade and a cheat a cheat.
So all you people talking about the abysmal umpiring from Bucknor and Benson in the second Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, get it straight. What we saw at Sydney was not incompetence but openly biased decision-making with Australia universally benefiting from almost all the wrong decisions (except when Ponting was given leg before wicket of an inside edge but many runs after he had already enjoyed grandpa Benson’s indulgent eye when his huge snick behind of Ganguly had been overlooked), with even the third umpire getting into the Cricket Australia act by his sparing of Symonds from a stumping decision.
Have you no shame sirs?
Of course you don’t.
When Hussey and Symonds snick the ball (off R P Singh and off Ishant Sharma respectively) or when Hussey is struck absolutely plumb on the crease by a Kumble special, Benson and Bucknor keep playing “pocket-billiards”with their index fingers, too wrapped up in the pleasure of the moment to bring them out. On the other hand, when the ball brushes off the pad of Rahul Dravid and goes behind, Bucknor’s finger is up like a teenager in front of a girl in a bikini—yes it is caught behind. When another close appeal of stumping against Symonds is made, Bucknor refuses to refer it to the third umpire. When Harbhajan makes his crease and the ball breaks the stumps many seconds after Bhajji’s bat is safely in, the decision is however referred to the third umpire —needless to say if there is some conceivable way in which he may be judged out, it should be looked into.
When Clarke take a catch, which can at best be called questionable and at worst be called illegal (I am positive that the ball hits the ground first and then hits the ground again when he is rolling over and when he is not in control of the ball [Video here]), Mr. Benson looks at his master Ponting (
Harish Gautam Bhimani calls Ponting the “fifth umpire”) for affirmation, Ponting raises his finger in a “Bulli kahaan hain teri ungli moment” and satisfied Mr. Benson wags his tail—sorry finger–upward. No consulting the third umpire here. The mind goes back to when Kevin Pietersen was given out caught behind by Simon Taufel and the-then other umpire, Steve Bucknor insisted on referring the decision to the third umpire (while Pietersen was walking off) who, in turn, returned a verdict of “not out”.
Of course, the agency I blame for this state of affairs and our loss in Sydney (a game we would, in all probability have won had the umpiring not been so biased) is the congregation of clowns that goes by the name of BCCI and its okaying the appointment of Steve Bucknor. This man, has over the years, shown an almost Musharaff-like love for Indians —whether it be handing one horrible decision against Sachin after another or his blatantly biased umpiring in the 2003 Australia series which had led to Sourav Ganguly, the then-captain, speaking very poorly of Bucknor in his assessment report. Not just in his decisions, Bucknor betrayed his hatred of Indian players when he mocked Dravid as he came into bat, after he was accused of ball-tampering.
In his defense, Steve Bucknor has said that he was not mocking Dravid, but smelling the ball.
I just smell the ball’’, he told The Indian Express today. ‘‘It is the easiest way to check if someone has tampered with the ball. If one side smells different from the other you can tell that someone has worked on it. You can tell that someone has applied something on it.
Yes there’s an association just waiting to be made here between Bucknor’s penchant for ball-smelling and his appeasing of Australia, but I shall let it pass for now. What I shall not let pass is that given Bucknor’s history with India, why the Board did not raise the red flag when his name came on the umpire roster for this series—in the same way the Sri Lankans raised the red flag on Hair. I hear now that Bucknor has been removed from the Perth Test but the horse has already bolted and the series decided. Who cares any more?
Which now brings us to the real shocker—yes there can be things even more shocking than the umpiring—Harbhajan Singh being suspended for three Tests on charges of racism for calling Symonds a “monkey”. I will not get into the practice of Aussies running to mamma at the slightest provocation when they themselves unleash the worst kind of vitriol on their opponents, commenting on the character of their wives and (allegedly) shouting choo-choo to Chris Cairns after his sister died in a train accident, and then dub opponents sissies for taking it “outside” when they complain.
Instead, I would like to concentrate on the unfairness of the whole judgment ,which was, in more ways than one, the kind of verdict a kangaroo court would come up with.
It is a well documented fact that ICC match referees have been known to have a bias against “non-white” teams (yes we are now entering actual race territory here) where when an Indian player and a white player get into a verbal scuffle, the white man is let go and the Indian penalized. But this time, Mike Procter (a South African player who represented South Africa during apartheid) set a new low even by ICC standards. First, on camera in an interview to Healy, he himself accepted that there was no “evidence” against Harbhajan (like stump-microphone records) and that it was very much a case of one person’s word against the others.
And then at 2 am (Australia time) he comes up with the following verdict:
I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Harbhajan Singh directed that word at Andrew Symonds and also that he meant it to offend on the basis of Symonds’ race or ethnic origin,” said Procter.
So what happened? Well five Australian players supported Symond’s contention (two of whom claimed they heard it) and that was it. The testimony of the Australians , even though they may be in the same team and have a definite interest in getting Harbhajan banned, counts more than those of Harbhajan and Sachin, the only two Indian players on the ground.(in this report, it is said that the Indians felt the whole hearing was a farce with the decision having been taken already) Is this the ICC version of Pakistan’s Qanun-e-Shahadat where a man’s testimony is equal to two women’s and the woman’s testimony is of no importance when she has been raped (Hudood)?
That Bhajji was a target for the Aussies was known to all—whether it be because of his uncanny ability of picking up Ricky Ponting or his publicly calling Australians “vulgar” or his refusal to let Aussie abuses go unanswered. With that background, we should not be surprised that on a day that Australia was well and truly under the whip, this incident very conveniently “happened”, which now with the help of Mr. Procter, has become an enormous advantage for the Australians and particularly Ricky Ponting.
While India-Australia battles have never been friendly (Sunil Gavaskar once walking off in protest against the umpiring and Lillee’s sportsmanship), it has taken a downturn in the last few years—ever since the Australian tour of 2001. The reason for that, I believe, is because around that time the Indians started answering the Australian barbs and taunts without turning their eyes downwards and slinking away.
Here are two extracts from former Australian player Justin Langer’s Rediff diary from 2001.
At the toss of the coin, VVS Laxman (captian of India A) won the toss but rather than deciding to bat or bowl he politely asked Steve Waugh what he would like to do first. Without hesitation, ‘Tugga’ said he would like to bat first and they shook hands and walked away.
This above was the behavior they “expected” from Indians.
Now, read this.
Listening to the great importance the Indian people place upon respecting their elders and people in authority, I was quite surprised to see the reaction of the young India ‘A’ leg spinner when he dismissed Steve Waugh today. His performance was perplexing, as one would have thought the captain of the Australian cricket team would command a little more respect than he was granted.
This is a slight variation of a sentiment I have heard repeated ad nauseam, almost always from Australian experts—verbal abuse and expletives are ingrained in the hard way Australia plays the game while bridely “laaj” (demureness) is what characterizes the Indian ethos. Ergo when Aussies abuse Indians, they should not try to beat them at their own game but instead stay within their comfort zone (i.e. submissiveness).
Which is why I suppose when an Indian pressman asked Ponting an uncomfortable question (which was not “respectful” perhaps), he reacted with the same good grace and respect for Indians that he displayed while shoving Sharad Pawar.
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting on Sunday lost his cool when questioned about a catch he claimed during the final day of the ill-tempered second Test against India here.
Ponting, fielding at silly point, turned back and dived for a looping catch offered by Mahendra Singh Dhoni but grounded the ball in his effort.
However, he didn’t bat an eyelid before making an appeal, which was turned down.
When asked during the post-match press-conference about whether he caught the ball cleanly, an incensed Ponting took offence to the question.
“I claimed the catch and there was no way I grounded it (the ball).”
“If you are questioning my integrity, then probably you shouldn’t be sitting here,” retorted a furious Australian captain.
Right. If you question Punter’s integrity as a sportsman, you should not be in Australia. Similarly if the same Ponting questions our integrity and disrespects us , then by his own logic, he should also not be playing in India for the India Professional League and making money off us. Just as Greg Chappell, who accused the BCCI of being racist towards him, should not be in India taking money from the very same agency, that is if he has an iota of self-respect.
Which is, admittedly, a big “if”.
And now coming to the Aussie press, which has historically been merely a PR extension of Team Australia.I clicked on a link I got from Nitin Pai, which was a link sent by Amit Varma and came to a piece by Andrew Stevenson that was pretty amazing. In it, it is conjectured that caste plays a role in India’s team selection. In order to support this hypothesis, Stevenson pastes in extracts from some Bramhin-hating Dalit activist who for the first time, explains why Dada fields badly and Laxman can never make that second run.
Siriyavan Anand, a Dalit (the caste formerly called untouchables), has written provocatively and critically of the Brahmin domination, suggesting it was easy to “infer that cricket is a game that best suits Brahmanical tastes and bodies, and that there has been a preponderance of Brahman cricket players at the national level”.
Anand’s argument that cricket is an idle and indolent game – at least when played by higher-caste Indians – is readily accepted by commentators and even Australian crowds, who know next to nothing of caste in India.
“Why do their fielders not chase the ball to the boundary? Why do Indian batsmen rarely run for singles, apparently preferring to hit the ball to the fence or amble through for two runs in no obvious haste?” Anand wrote. “Having too many Brahmans means that you play the game a little too softly, and mostly for yourself.”
Further support for the hypothesis of pervasive casteism in the Indian team is provided by that great player of yester-year, Vinod Kambli who tells us that he was booed at Indian grounds because of his caste with the article further going on to suggest that he was not persisted in the Indian team because he was not Bramhin. While Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri and Harsha Bhogle oppose the article’s thesis, support comes from other quarters.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, assistant editor of cricinfo.com, believes caste is relevant within the Indian team at a subconscious level, “in terms of the groups that are formed, in terms of the people who feel wanted, in terms of the people who don’t feel wanted”. “It’s also because people from the lower castes have this tendency to not feel wanted, people have to make an extra effort,” he says.
“But people from the top castes have a tendency to be stand-offish, so I think exaggerates it a bit more and the gap increases.”
Siddhartha can see caste as a possible explanation for the Brahmin dominance, particularly in batting. “Traditionally, cricket has been an elitist sport, and in terms of the physique and what you need as a batsman, it’s more skill, wrist and angles than what you need as a fast bowler or fielder,” he says. “That probably explains it in a way. If you look at the body structure of the higher castes, you would find they aren’t as athletic as they are deft.”
The article further goes on to provide us with a table where each player is put under a caste heading.
Brilliant. [An excellent retort to the article here]
Now I know that being from the land of Gandhi, I am supposed to take this with respect and perhaps even accept it as the truth. I am however from the land of another “G”.
Which is why I exhort the Indian press to please write an article on the Australian team, by digging up their family trees and finding out what kind of convicts they descended from and putting it next to their names—rapist, armed robber, murderer etc. And then analyze how the descendants of one class of criminals have dominated over the other without forgetting to get some disgruntled Australian cricketer to give a quote saying that he was given the cold-shoulder because his ancestor’s crime was not considered “cool” enough.
Detestable? Absolutely. But then so is the original article.
Finally, here is my message to team India and Anil Kumble. You guys have made us proud. Forget the cricket match, as far as I am concerned you guys won it—look at the number of decisions they had to rig in order to get you to finally lose. What was at stake was something greater. Your identity as sportsmen. When Sachin and other players came out of the dressing room to handshake the Australians Ricky Ponting, the great-man-whose-words-may-not-be-questioned and Symonds, the man produced by Intelligent Design, in the post-match interview to Mark Taylor, showed their sporting spirit by not even saying a word of appreciation for India’s superhuman efforts (only Michael Clarke made a passing remark) . Through your gesture of appreciation for your opponents even after all that had transpired, you showed, in a way that can be no clearer, the difference between the two sides.
And dear Anil Kumble, thanks for that fighting innings on the last day—it was nothing but sensational. It is tough to keep competing when you have no faith in the umpires and when you know that there is no trick that is too low for the opposition to pull. But you did compete and that too brilliantly.
Finally please do remember one thing.
There is a reason why cleaning sewage pipes, wiping one’s rectal orifice and playing cricket in Australia can all be referred to as “attending to things down under”.
Update 1: Bucknor decides to wear his heart on his sleeve. Or rather his uniform. Finally some honesty. [Link courtesy the Telegraph]