Reality And Sanity Must Prevail

10 01 2008

Wow… I must’ve missed something somewhere, because while I thought I was enjoying a tightly fought contest on the SCG turf, I was actually witnessing the beginning of one of the biggest incidents cricket’s ever witnessed.

As a few mates & I jumped up and down in front of the TV in elation when Australia won with a mere 8 minutes to go, the seeds of dissent were being sown.
Make no mistake: this was a test match with little love lost between the two competing sides. There’s a history there, and not all of it admirable.
Add to the mix two umpires who did do a rather appalling job of adjudicating the match… and clearly the balance of decisions favoured the Australian team – the Indians came off second-best there. So it comes as no surprise that not everyone would be happy post the finish.

Even so… the reaction to, and repercussions of this match are nothing short of astounding.

Anil KumblePost-match, Indian captain Anil Kumble declared that his Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting, and his team, did not play within the spirit of cricket.
The fuse was lit, and explosions imminent.
The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) demanded of the ICC (the sovereign body of cricket) that the suspension of Harbhajan Singh be lifted (Singh was suspended for 3 matches for ‘racial abuse’), and umpire Steve Bucknor be axed for the 3rd test (Perth).
In India, people burn effigies of Bucknor, Ponting and other Australian team members in the street. T-Shirt on sale in India…Media calls for an apology from Australia, another yells for test results to be nullified. T-Shirts decry Australia… and politicians beat their chests and shout,
“This is about national honour.” (Suresh Menon, Cricinfo)

In Australia, some writers proffer that the Australian cricket team is a blight upon sports. Reactionaries like Peter Roebuck (an Englishman living in Sydney) scream for Ponting’s sacking as captain, and the dismissal of several senior players. Ponting’s parent’s are threatened and abused. Some famous Australians have decried the national team, others have come out in support.
Another interestingly themed t-shirt on sale in IndiaOn the internet the Australian team is said to be at fault, colluding with the umpires to cheat India, a bunch of poor sports. Verily, Australian polls declare it so (tho’ interestingly enough, phone-polls & letters to the same Australian newspapers have given an opposite response – one of support for the Australian National Team).

What’s been the result?
Thus far, the ICC have kowtowed to the BCCI’s demand that Bucknor be axed.
In doing so, the ICC have started a dangerous precedent, and angered many in the process.
Australian bowling legend Glenn McGrath has slammed the ICC decision, calling it “ridiculous”…
“And if a couple of teams aren’t happy with umpires then all of a sudden you have got one to choose from.”
Former West Indies captain and batting great Clive Lloyd agrees,
“Does that mean when anybody says they don’t want a particular umpire we’re going to move them? The ICC is wrong … it’s a bad decision. What happens if a couple of other umpires make a mistake? Are they going to get rid of all of them? I find it very strange.”
South African coach Mickey Arthur echoed the sentiment,
“They have set a precedent and I don’t know if it’s a particularly good one. It looks a bit of a mess.” (all 3 quotes from The Age, 9th Jan ’08)

The West Indies (where Bucknor hails from) are furious. In a letter written to the International Cricket Council, the WICB’s president Julian Hunte wrote,
“On the surface, the ICC’s reaction in this particular instance seems to be extreme … a dangerous precedent may have been set by the ICC.” (The Australian, 10th Jan ’08)
In a letter to Bucknor that was made public today, Hunte wrote,
“We do not support the decision of the ICC to replace you as the umpire for the third Test as it sends the wrong signal to those countries that are awash with cash, power and influence that they can get what they want as a result of their status…” (The Australian, 10th Jan ’08)

On the dismissal of the suspension of 3 games for Harbhajan Singh, the ICC has appointed New Zealand judge John Hansen to oversee the appeal, which may happen before the Perth Test, due to start next week. Funnily enough, due to Harbharjan being a spinner, the Australian reports that he may not get selected afterall.

There is some sanity around. In his excellent article, Some Balance, Please Suresh Menon calls for some balance in the reporting in India surrounding the furor.
“Yes, we lost a Test. Yes, the umpiring was horrendous. Yes, the charges against Harbhajan Singh might not hold up in a court of law. But do we have to go overboard like this?”

At the Indian-based cricket blog Cricket Buzz, the question is asked,
“However, here the question is did we play up to standard?”
And asserts that,
“We can’t absolve our cricketers of the responsibilities they carry on their shoulders… what about Jaffer, Laxman, Tendulkar and Yuvraj? Didn’t they let millions of cricket fans down with their poor performance? They faltered when India needed them badly..”

Looking back over the game, I questioned myself as to what could have sparked this furor. I came up blank and pretty empty. Asking the same of a few friends (Australian, English, South African & Kiwi), they ended up with the same conclusion – not much in it.
Ricky Ponting in the Baggy Green…Exploring this, what caused the storm? The only things we (a few cricket-fan friends & I) could come up with was:
– Australians vociferously appeal…
– Ponting appealed for a catch that may/may not have been legitimate (but wasn’t given out)…
– Clarke appealed for a catch that may have appeared to have hit the ground (2 of 3 camera angles show that it was clearly out), and it was given out…
– some Australian players don’t walk when they are out…
– Australian players say bad things on the ground…
– Ponting and team were overly ebullient with the outcome of the match, so much so that they didn’t shake hands with the Indians, celebrating instead…
– Ponting got angry – overly so – with an Indian reporter at the post-match press conference…

Some of that is fair, and must be taken on board. Ponting and his team must be aware of perception, and the truth is that at times they do come across as arrogant. My general response to this is that whilst it’s so, I’m not sure that a team that lacks self-belief can win like this Australian team does. That’s not an excuse for the arrogance, just an acknowledgement of why it may exist.
Appealing is not ‘cheating’. There are times when a player may make a play that they think is legitimate, and umpires/opponents disagree. That’s simply a fact of the human condition. Pretty much every team in the world will have someone appeal at something some time or another that isn’t out. To point the finger at Australia and state that they’re not sporting because of this just isn’t reasonable.
Critics of the umpiring performance and of Symonds not walking when he should’ve when caught don’t acknowledge that the same happened to Tendulkar.
Suresh Menon again:
“No Indian writing or broadcasting from Sydney mentioned that replays showed Sachin Tendulkar was out leg-before when he was in the twenties. He added roughly the same number of runs that Symonds did after being reprieved when he was first out.” (Cricinfo, 9th Jan ’08)
Neither is not walking ‘cheating’. It’s unreasonable to expect a player to walk when an appeal goes up. Each and every batting team questions appeals, and so should they.
Celebrations should not be thought of as ‘poor sportsmanship’. Australia came under fire for this, but hell… do we really want our cricket to be a somber affair? And it’s not like we’re the only ones doing it, as these video clips attest…

Bad stuff gets said on the field of play, sledging exists… simply a fact. One that I think needs to be reappraised, but it’s not like it’s an act that only Australia participates in. I’m not sure what Harbhajan Singh has to say to Kevin Pietersen here, but he’s not asking after his welfare.

At the end of all of this, I just hope sanity prevails.
The ICC have opened up a dangerous precedent, and at the moment appear to be at the beck & call of the BCCI, something that Menon fears in his cricinfo article.
Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I do hope and think that better sense will, eventually, rule the day.

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17 responses

10 01 2008
daniel the cuban cricket fan

The thing is, Australia did not win because of these horrible decisions. Of course “one never knows”, but I feel confident Australia would have found a way to emerge victorious anyways. Now, the rest of the match has turned into a 3am pissing contest. Everyone is getting involved in the act, even the West Indies (Hunte’s letter). The behavior of the the players is just adding fuel to the fire. Ponting was always (in my opinion) a smug prick, and as leader I expected a different attitude so as not to fan the flames. Everyone needs to take a deep breath, relax, and get back to the task at hand, and just play cricket.

10 01 2008
Anja

I believe, reading the media (which could of course be dangerous) that the BCCI contributes the highest amount of revenue to the ICC. Cricket is hugely popular in India and rakes in the money.

This could be what is affecting the entire situation. Rather than any behaviour by cricketers or umpires. Money is dictating the shots.

Add to that team and individual player sponsorship and money could definitely be the main motivator. Big Business in India wants to see a winning side. It’s better for business.

11 01 2008
withmalice

It’d be sad if that is allowed to be the ‘rule of the day’ Anja…

And now apparently, Andrew Symonds is to blame.

Sigh…

11 01 2008
Matt

This is an interesting situation where two teams that are generally not popular are at loggerheads. The Indian team has no right to claim the moral high ground, in general, but in this case they are correct.

The biggest problems the Indian team have are:

The umpires only gave Clarke’s catch out only after Ponting gestured at them to do so.
Dravid was given out caught in a situation where the fielders could clearly see his bat was well behind his pad but appealed anyway.
Ponting got furiously angry about being incorrectly given out even though he was incorrectly given not out earlier in his innings.
The racial abuse incident comes down to Symonds’ word against Singh’s word and Symonds is the one who was believed.
The Australian team was not at all gracious in victory.

So the Indian cricket team is upset that the Australians are being believed while they are not and generally being given the benefit of the doubt while they are not.

As far as comparing the Symonds and Tendulkar dismissals there is a large difference between an LBW appeal being given not out and a clear caught behind being given not out but that is an argument for another day.

I don’t think there is a real solution to Australian arrogance asides from a decent losing streak but I can’t see that happening any tims soon as they have both the best side and the most depth of any nation.
The one upside to it is that when the Australian team really falls apart when things are not going their way (see: record setting loss in South Africa and Hussey captaining in New Zealand).

The even biggest problem, though, is India getting their way with regard to the Umpires. Pakistan set the ball rolling with the Darrell Hair incident.
I can see why the Indians are upset and some things do need changing but they way the ICC, in particular, has gone about things is very worrying.

11 01 2008
BGP

By far the best article i have read on the subject. Roebuck almost sent me into orbit with his call for Ricky Ponting being axed as captain. It was up there with TD calling for the Patriots Superbowls to have an asterix put next to them. Just ridiculous reactionary journalism.

The only poor sportsmanship that i saw was the fact that the Australians celebrated before going to shake the hand of Anil Kumble. Eveything else their accused of , like over apealing and not walking has been commonplace in cricket for years, and can you really blame the Aussies for appealing when batters are padding up for the entire last session. Lets not forget that the Indians did everything to waste time in the last hour with batters routinely having things brought out to them in the center.

If it is true that Harbhajan Singh called Symonds a “monkey” then he should be suspended for three matches. He knew after their last altercation that the Australians saw it as a racial taunt. Can you imagine the uproar if Michael Clarke had racially abused one of the Indians? Australian cricket fans have been dubbed racist for years and their are now warnings that any racial abuse by fans will be met with fines and bannishment from the ground. Why should we not expect the same from the players.

They have lambasted Ponting for not dealing with the “Harbhajan -Symonds” issue in house when he had every right to take his complaint to the ICC. Especially because the chats the teams had after the ODI’s in India didn’t seem to do the trick.

The Indians are acting like the spoiled whiney kid who takes his bat and ball home after the decision in a game of BYC dont go his way.

11 01 2008
withmalice

@ BGP… Thanks. Agreed, conveniently, much of what has historically done is being ignored. The fact that other teams do pretty much as Australia did in the 2nd test is different in only one facet: the Australian team is nigh-on unbeatable, thus it grates. The wringing of hands, gnashing of teeth, and beating of chests over this is wrong. Simply wrong.

@ Matt… yet another complaint against the Australian team couched in vague terms, and mistruths. Your assertion that

“The umpires only gave Clarke’s catch out only after Ponting gestured at them to do so.”

is ridiculous. Pretty much EVERY appeal has people gesturing with one finger raised, and many, many appeals have the umpires waiting a period of time (considering?) before making their decision.
That some wit in the media has juxtaposed the two together doesn’t make it so.
Or is your assertion that Ricky Ponting and the umpires were in collusion?
Pffft on that.

And taking Symonds’ word over that of Harbhajan? Symonds has an exemplary record in terms of behavior, and Harbhajan has had run in after run in, and is a known ‘firebrand’. Video footage clearly shows Symonds retorting to him stating “What? I’m a monkey am I???”
Is it really that much a stretch to believe that – shock! Horror! – Symonds is telling the truth?
Add to that – I find it poignant that now the Indian defense on the racial abuse issue is not that Harbhajan didn’t say it, but that he didn’t start it (The Australian, 11th Jan ’08).
Tantamount to acknowledging that yes, he did call Symonds a ‘monkey’.
I’ll submit that in the heat of it all, Harbhajan denied it, and has since reconsidered his position and informed the Indian officials as to what really happened.
Now, the posturing begins.

11 01 2008
Matt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xz1T9-x6eY at 0:30.

I don’t think you realise how bad the Clarke catch incident was, Ponting wasn’t appealing, it was a short time later after the umpires had a discussion together.
Is video of the incident specific and truthful enough?

As far as an exemplary record goes do you mean the same Andrew Symonds that turned up for an ODI drunk?

You need to have evidence to suspend a player rather than taking one player’s word over another, it’s really not that revolutionary a concept.

11 01 2008
withmalice

Matt… watched the test, pretty much in it’s entirety. Did you? Or are you relying on the stuff you’ve read from Roebuck and your youtube ‘evidence’?

Two of three camera angles showed that the Clarke catch was indeed out. The third is inconclusive, tho’ does appear to have the ball grounding…
Ponting’s celebrating… so? I still – as do many, many others – don’t see it the way you want me to.

Symonds has one minor blemish which has nothing to do with the way he treats other players. Harbhajan has countless incidents all to do with his ‘red mist’ anger. He has problems dealing with people, simply a fact.
Additionally, I guess you’ve conveniently ignored the change in India’s stance, nor did you click the link & read the article in the Australian pertaining to that.
I understand, it might make you reconsider your stance. And gee… Bhaji might indeed, be guilty.

Make no mistake “But-mummy!-He-started-it!” is not an adequate defense for racism.

11 01 2008
Matt

I watched days 2 through 5, so my coverage of the test started with the Channel 9 commentators going on about how terrible the Umpires were on Day 1.

If Ponting gesturing AWAY from the players behind him (If you don’t realise, the video of the Umpire from 0:15 to 0:20 occurred at the same time as the video of Ponting from 0:28 to 0:33) with the umpire acknowledging Ponting and subsequently giving the batsmen out appears as merely celebrating to you then I don’t see us ever agreeing on this.

I sincerely hope you don’t think turning up to work so drunk that you collapse is only a minor blemish. The tribunal’s decision was a straight he said – he said situation and to convict someone based on that is ridiculous, regardless of any evidence that comes later.
What has happened AFTER the tribunal has absolutley no bearing on the fact that AT THE TIME India had good reason to be upset that an Australian players word was taken over theirs.

11 01 2008
withmalice

So, and I’d like you to be clear on this, you’re accusing Ponting and the umpires of collusion?
Other than a few rampant-Indian-fan-based blogs, yet to read that anywhere. Gee, I wonder why that is…

Again interested to see that rather than address the issues on the behavior of the Indian team, you’d prefer to blindlyblithely… continue with your prior assertions.
Still haven’t read the Australian article, huh?
Not sure how Symonds’ one incident regarding him being drunk at an ODI (and you’d be foolish to think that it’s condoned, by anyone) has bearing on this matter… and clearly, the prior incidents regarding Harbhajan do.

“What has happened AFTER the tribunal has absolutley no bearing on the fact that AT THE TIME India had good reason to be upset that an Australian players word was taken over theirs.”

What “stuff” after the tribunal? Oh… you mean like ‘truth’?

11 01 2008
BGP

So i gather as long as you racially abuse a player where nobody but them can hear it, you will not be held accountable.

11 01 2008
Matt

Collusion is when two (or more) people work together to do something illegal. I think the Umpire took Ponting’s word when he shouldn’t have, something that would rightly upset the Indian team, this isn’t the NBA so I don’t think they were working together to make India lose.

Just out of curiosity where do you get the idea that I think there is some anti India conspiracy? The only person to bring up collusion here is you.

Also I was merely refuting your assertion that Symonds has an exemplary record, a little research showed that he indeed does not.

Also the Australian article only says that the Indians say that Symonds started the incident, nowhere do they admit Harbhajan used racial abuse, you have jumped to the conclusion that this is admitting guilt.

That is remarkably similar to how you jumped from my claim that the Umpire took Ponting’s word to the two of them working together to win the match for Australia.

So the truth as you call it is your reading more into an article than is actually there.

If we are only going to count incidents relating to racial abuse and no other misdemeanours then the only Singh incident you can count is the last spat with Symonds. That involved only these 2 players which still leaves us with Symonds’ word vs Singh’s word.

Singh being a ‘firebrand’, speaking of vague terms and mistruths, would therefore, have nothing to do with this.

11 01 2008
withmalice

“The umpires only gave Clarke’s catch out only after Ponting gestured at them to do so.”

“Ponting wasn’t appealing, it was a short time later after the umpires had a discussion together.”

“…with the umpire acknowledging Ponting…”

My bad. I thought you were saying something that you oh-so-obviously weren’t. A simple mistake, is all.

The Indians have point-blank stopped stating that the incident never occured, and are now stating that “Yes, it occured… but he started it.”
And in regards to telling the truth, and relations with other players/people, yes, Symonds’ record is untarnished.
And in regards to telling the truth, and relations with other players/people, yes, Harbhajan’s past record is indeed relevant.
It’s simply a fact, and one that the ICC recognises (thus, why they told all involved that this very situation we now find ourselves witnessing, was to be avoided).

You’re still yet to acknowledge or explain away the misdeeds of the opposition during the test, or their deplorable actions post-match. Your silence speaks louder than any apologist excuses could. 😉

11 01 2008
brumbygg9

Singh was found guilty of using a racial slur by an impartial, independent match referee. What was said at the hearing obviously left Mike Proctor firmly believing that Singh is guilty and deserving of a 3 match ban. So, it doesn’t really matter what you, I or anyone else with 2 cents worth to contribute believes is right/just or whatever. The rules of the game state that the umpires shall be the sole arbiter on the field of play (with the inclusion of the video umpire) and that the match referee shall adjudicate on matters of contention. Singh has the right of appeal on the decision which is absolutely fair and just. The way the Indian team has responded since the decision is appalling. I believe that both sides displayed negativity on the paddock and that a number of players are getting a little too close to the edge. However, I have a feeling that there would have been much less outcry and finger pointing if the match had been drawn as the pill might have been easier to swallow without defeat.

11 01 2008
BGP

Lets just reverse the roles and see how it looks

Australia loses the test to India in India.
Andrew Symonds is reported for racially abusing and Indian player
Symonds found guilty and Suspended by an impartial match referee
Australians angry that matter was not dealt with in house.
Australian team threatens to pull out of tour unless Symonds is allowed to play.

That scenario would probably end up with calls of Australia being banned as a test playing nation.

11 01 2008
bigredman

Also Matt, this isn’t a one off. Harbhajan called him a monkey on Australia’s recent ODI tour of India but they chose to resolve the issue man-to-man )but in a non-violent manner). Now some sort of agreement was made between the two that saw them amicably shake hands at the end of the last match of the series.

I think for Symonds to have made such an agreement, Singh must have, in some way, admitted to a certain amount of guilt otherwise he’d have just told him to rack off.

11 01 2008
withmalice

More laughable stuff from Roebuck…
Asserting that

“One player rose above it all. His name is Ishant Sharma.”

Ishant Sharma was the player whose gave the transparent fumblings of time-wasting, bringing out two right-hand gloves and having to wait for a left to be brought out to him.
Oh, the irony that he chose Sharma for the spotlight…

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