In an effort to put all speculation to rest as to whether he can still keep it up as the captain of the team, Ricky Ponting has announced “I haven’t gone soft” (headline: “I haven’t gone soft, declares Ponting“). A certain man in India who once kissed Ricky Ponting because “he is a great captain and our culture is to kiss him” must be able to go to bed in peace after being thus reassured of Ponting’s ever-enduring rigidness.
If further evidence was needed for Punter’s hardness, it was provided by this alliterative headline from the Age which went: “Ponting lets Roebuck feel pointy end of his pen” in which we are told how Ponting struck back at criticism from Roebuck regarding his handling of the Sydney Test.
Now I don’t really care about Punter’s pointy pen or who is feeling it, but I do know what the general reaction would have been if a certain recently-retired ex-captain of the Indian cricket team had a), out of fear of getting banned for a Test, compromised severely his team’s chance to equalize the series (which is what Ponting did by letting his “slow bowlers” bowl at Dhoni and Harbhajan at a time when he could have finished off the Test) and b) lashed out at a critic who dared question his right to captaincy. The Australian press would have gone into a frenzy and our “Hum Kisi Se Kum Naheen” Indian sports press, led by the ever-reliable “you know whos” would be pillorying the said captain not for tactical ineptness but for his selfishness and his pettiness and how this kind of behavior comes about because in his warped mind, he considers his own interests to be synonymous with the nation’s.
I also know what the reaction would have been if a player from India was caught by the umpire vigorously “manipulating” the ball which was then followed up by the umpire calling up the captain (a fact that commentators pointed out at the time the incident happened) to inform him of the fact and right after that incident, the ball started reversing and opened up the opposing team’s batting order. Words like “cheats” and “India’s inordinate influence in word cricket which embolden them to do such things” would have come up and a visit to the match referee or penalty runs would have been assured.
However if the player pulling at the ball is from Australia and his name is “White” (which is delightfully ironic in itself), then expect there to be total silence– from the Australian and the Indian press.
I also speculate as to what would have happened if a player from the subcontinent had come out with a runner as Michael Clarke had and the excuse for that given as “he is generally unwell”, which I recalled was an euphemism used , during my junior high days, to explain to a group of clueless boys as to why so-and-so girl wont be playing hide-and-seek with them today. I presume an Australian player, like Healy would have said something on the lines of: “You don’t get a runner for being an overweight, unfit, fat c***” to the “generally unwell” player while the umpires and match referee would be collectively cleaning wax out of their ears right at that precise moment and so miss the exchange all together.
And that would be all right if an Australian had said that. Because we are used to it. We expect them to abuse their opponents, claim illegal catches and then shout like Michael Slater in 1998, cast aspersions on the character of their wives and mothers and anything and everything as long as it can be justified as ‘mental disintegration’ and with a “This is how Aussies play sport”. We also expect them to be scandalized when anyone says anything to them as when in a tour match in 2001, a bowler gave Waugh a verbal send-off which shocked Langer as he knew that respect for elders is ingrained in Indian culture. The fact that they would complain of tactics as being “negative” when they were being brilliantly outmaneuvered is also not surprising. And yes we also expect them, like “Tan Key Shakti, Mon Key Shakti” Symonds to cry and crib when given a taste of his own medicine, raise the bogey of racism when it suits them and to accuse their opponents of being liars (as Adam Gilchrist did) to stir up some trouble.
However we also expect Australia to win, play great cricket and crush their opposition.
Alas this side cannot even come close to doing that, getting trounced 2–0 with the sight of spearhead Brett Lee quarreling with Ponting on the playing field because the captain preferred Hussey to Lee summing up the depths to which the Aussies had plunged. No wonder then that after making such sanctimonious noises about how Cricket Australia tolerates no nonsense, just months after dropping Symonds as punishment leading to speculation that his career may be finished, they are so eager to have him back in their team.
In the light of this pathetic state of things, dear Australian cricket team and press, a bit of advice. Its not original—-it’s a sentence you guys like to say to us. Except now I am saying it to you.
“Stop complaining, stop the verbals, keep your head down and start performing.”
And to all Indians rejoicing and proclaiming our team to be the best in the world based on this series victory, keep it down dudes. Do realize that with the current state of the Australian team and most importantly on home soil, this victory should give us about as much a sense of achievement as winning an arm-wrestling match against A K Hangal.
Finally I thought I wouldn’t be saying this. But please oh please dear Symonds. Please restore Australia to the “ugly and nasty champion” position as before. Cause right now, your team is simply “ugly and nasty”.
And the cricket world is the poorer for it.