Samir Chopra July 4, 2008

India's Australian affair

Outside cricket, Indians still knew little about Australia

Reading Michael 'Fox' Jeh's post on 'Australia's Indian affair' has prompted me to type in a little excerpt from Mihir Bose's A History of Indian Cricket:

This [the 1959-60 tour] was the third visit by the Australians in nine years. On their two previous visits they had played eight tests, won four, and also won both series comfortably. But despite the batsmen and their bowlers proving vastly superior to the Indians they were always the most eagerly awaited of cricket visitors. Outside cricket, Indians still knew little about Australia. But when it came to cricket, India adored Australians....We feared their cricket but we respected them as cricketers. The Australians we felt took India and its cricket seriously. England always sent what looked like 'B' team. Before an English tour the Indian press would be full of stories of major players declining the tour. Australia never seemed to have that problem....England also often appointed a tyro captain to lead the side to India, as if it was a training ground....Whoever was the Australian captain always brought the team to meant more to the Indians to be playing Australia. It was a surer test of ability. Indians felt they were playing a country that did not treat them as an inferior cricket nation

The excerpt is interesting in so many ways: it speaks of a very different time, ordered in its power relations in very different ways; of a very different set of priorities on the part of the nations then playing cricket. Australian attitudes toward cricket, touring, its role in cricketing world affairs, were already interestingly different from the mother nation; it had already struck out a new path in forming its cricketing identity and not blindly imitating England had already been established as a solid guide to action. India looked for respect in the world; at that point in its cricketing history, just being taken seriously enough to play with was a significant gesture. Dreams of ruling the world's cricketing roost were surely distant ones.

Earlier this year as the India-Australia post Sydney fiasco brewed, and as chapter and verse was written about the misunderstandings between the two cricketing nations, I was reminded of this little excerpt from Bose's book. The oft-invoked vision of the realignment of the cricket world invariably points to its racial lines; the history of cricket suggests all sorts of interesting alliances are common. In the 1950s, both Australia and India might have wanted an identity for themselves that lay outside the ambit of England. Australia could do so by building a set of cricketing ties independent of its relationship with England; India by developing a healthy rivalry which acknowledged the sporting prowess of its adversary.

The growing relationship between India and Australia - a crucial one as this brand new world of cricket emerges - would do well to pay attention to all aspects of its history, including those that suggest their interests converged in the past.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on July 26, 2008, 18:22 GMT

    Johnathan: "And in regards to "their cheating ways, their lying and their hubris" I'd love to see your examples." .. Two words.. google it. And I stick to what I said.. aussie players cheat (maybe a cultural thing I dont know.. but I am not saying it is a racist thing)... but their boards, their media get together because of their race.. see.. cause => effect.. Now if you want to misconstrue everything I say and refuse to have a nuanced position on issues, Ignorance is bliss indeed...

  • testli5504537 on July 11, 2008, 6:35 GMT

    Don. When I saw Kumble talk about the spirit of the game as if his team alone possessed it, and then appealed and got an lbw off an inside edge the very next test, I lost all respect for him.

    As for Sachin I'd never thought I'd see such a great player belittle his own mighty reputation to provide a cover for a character like H. Singh.

    The Indians should stop pointing at Australia and acknowledge their own team possesses players who are hypocrites, prima donnas and boors who in fact have a far worse disciplinary record than Australia.

  • testli5504537 on July 10, 2008, 12:25 GMT

    I don't know many Indians, so I don't have a clue what the feeling is over there about Australians. The feeling here is that if you cheat to win then it isn't worth the effort. As far as there is an Australian "way" then that way is to play hard, always try to win, but if you lose to the better player - so be it. I play grade cricket, and it is as competetive as anything I've seen in England or SA. People arrange extra practice during their working week ahead of an important match. Remember - no money involved, just respect. The Australian cricket team in seen in the same way. Sledging is allowed. "Mental disintigration" is allowed. Bouncers at tailenders are allowed. Cheating is not. Some Indian players show this spirit and are highly respected by all - Kumble, Ganguly, Laxman, Tendulkar are examples. It doesn't matter how quiet or loud you are - it's how you play your game. Some are not respected at all, even though they may have talent.

  • testli5504537 on July 10, 2008, 5:45 GMT

    Bis. I would rate Lala a genuine all rounder. I'm not blowing smoke up anyone's behind saying that. His bowling skills were marveled at when they were 1st discovered just before the last test of the 33/34 series. He was brilliant in Eng too in 1936 before being sent home for disciplinary reasons. (How differently that would've been treated today!) When he played Eng and Aust after the war he was in his mid to late 30s and suffering lumbago. Yet look at his wkts. Some great players as scalps; and some more than once. He could bowl alright.

    As far as Ian Chappell is concerned I'll not disagree with your comments. Great player and skipper though he was he should at least have the decency to refrain from picking on anyone else's lack of manners.

  • testli5504537 on July 10, 2008, 4:35 GMT

    Good grief, alok1607. Still going on about a decision that was correct anyway! Australia faced far worse umpiring in the 2001 series, arguably costing them the series (much as umpiring cost India the recent test series in Aus), but there was no whining or carry on. There were certainly no Australian umpires celebrating with Australia after the game, as unmpire venkat did in 2001. I cannot believe it when indian fans still bring up that tendulkar lbw. As wizman states, check it out on you tube - hit in line, ball not above stump height and on the way down, ball hitting the stumps, THAT IS OUT! Even if you don't agree, it was nearly 10 years ago ... get over it and move on for crying out loud. And enticer, your 'prediction' that Australian umpires would try to ruin SL players careers isn't much of a prediction (it is laughably immature though). Hair called murali years before the 1996 World Cup, so if you want to make racist accusations, please at least know what you're talking about!

  • testli5504537 on July 10, 2008, 2:14 GMT

    Enticer, do you understand what racism is? Your comment "Sadly, I dont share the author's optimism as Aus and England will converge around people of their color and never play fairly" is intrinsically a racist comment. I am sure this is not representative of the views of the general Indian cricketing community. Separating people and assuming behaviour based only on the colour of their skin is what racism is all about, do you understand?

    And in regards to "their cheating ways, their lying and their hubris" I'd love to see your examples.

  • testli5504537 on July 9, 2008, 23:25 GMT

    JRod, that's a bit rich coming from a Collingwood supporter!

  • testli5504537 on July 8, 2008, 16:18 GMT

    Enticer: Some other comments didn't make it either (one by an Australian friend of mine, and another from a friend in Scotland). Not sure if there is a glitch or something else. No censorship going on!

    Irishfan: I think fan interaction on the Net has certainly gone downhill - in more personal face-to-face settings, theres still plenty to talk about and discuss in civilized fashion.

    JRod: Sometimes I suspect the Aussies ease up against the English :) But seriously, I know what you mean. I suspect its the reason the Shield comp works so well.

    Wizman: Oz certainly does bring out the best in India, and like you, I wonder where their inspiration goes in other series

  • testli5504537 on July 8, 2008, 11:10 GMT

    Growing up in Australia I loved watching any series played in India because of the obvious passion the fans and the players had for the game. Once the Internet arrived I was able to converse in a meaningful way with Indian fans about all aspects of the game. The problem with recent events has been that it brought out the worst in fans from both countries. It was impossible to have a reasonable discussion on any forum because inevitably vocal supporters would take entirely unreasonable positions - eg Australians are all racist cheats, or Indians are all crazy effigy-burning psychopaths - nationalism took over. So I just gave up. But I hope the time will come again when we all remember it's just a game of cricket, and fans from both sides can converse in a manner befitting the game.

  • testli5504537 on July 8, 2008, 2:06 GMT

    India are a lazy team. They do try their best against Australia, and the last decade has seen pulsating and remarkable test series. They just look like they care a lot less against other opponents much of the time.

    alok1607: look at the dismissal of Tendulkar LBW on youtube from the front and side, and I reckon it is most definitely a correct decision.

  • No featured comments at the moment.