Sydney 2008

A team that is as successful as this Australian cricket team will face envy and indignation just like the New England Patriots or even the heavily bankrolled New York Yankees. There is no doubt that these are all exceptional sports teams, their desire to win is an all encompassing fire that burns within. That is why Michael Clarke is able to come on in the last 10 minutes of the game and bowl 11 deliveries right on the money. While the indomitable Anil Kumble, who has the same spirit coursing through his veins, was able to play out Clarke’s first over with aplomb and even execute a perfect back foot drive to the boundary, the second over proved to be too much for Harbhajan, RP Singh and the nervous Ishant Sharma. Poor Ishant even came out to bat with the wrong glove, and had a bewildered look on his face after he edged the ball to first slip. Any which way you look at it, three wickets in one over to close out a Test match in the last six minutes of the fifth day is just incredible.

Yet, the Test match left a sour taste in the mouth that will linger for a long time. On the first day, Steve Bucknor showed that his hearing is on the wane when he didn’t hear Andrew Symonds edge the ball to the wicketkeeper, and on the fifth day he showed that his eyesight is following suit when he gave Dravid out caught behind off his pad, when the bat was tucked away miles behind the pad. It was an atrocious decision and prompted the Indian team manager, Chetan Chauhan, to term the umpires as “incompetent”; as well he might. WG Grace was right, people don’t come to watch the umpires, they come to watch the players, therefore technology should and must be used to make sure that umpires do not become the centerpiece of a cricket match. But, the sourness in the mouth wasn’t just because of the umpires, in their quest to equal the world record for consecutive Test wins, the Australian team seems to have forgotten why we play this wonderful game of Cricket, how sport has the power to bring nations closer, to bring different cultures together as they watch the game and appreciate it for the athleticism and skill on display. With their boorish appealing and righteous claiming of bump balls they have chosen to alienate a generation of cricket watchers and to cause people to not just envy them, but to even hate them. They have some mighty fine cricketers amongst them who don’t deserve that.

But, let us not lose perspective, in his infinite wisdom; Anil Kumble did say “It is only a game.” There is definitely no need to create a diplomatic row over a game of cricket.

Yet, what could do just that, is the Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds incident, which has become an issue of national honor for India. Symonds accused Harbhajan of calling him a “monkey”, which if he did is unforgivable considering the controversy that occurred while Australia were in India. It appears to be one man’s word against another, but the match referee Mike Proctor heard the witnesses and decided that there is sufficient evidence to ban Harbhajan for 3 Test matches. It is a staggering outcome, and one is immediately reminded of the Oval Test match between Pakistan and England; a ball tampering fiasco which led to the first ever forfeiture of a Test match. If Bhajji didn’t say those words he should fight the charge and clear his name. The Indian team appears to have rallied around their man and in a tit for tat have accused Brad Hogg of calling an Indian player a “bastard.” That hearing will probably be on Monday. The situation is fraught and is at a tipping point, India may pull out of the tour.

The Sydney Test of 2008 will live on in infamy.



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