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Sanjay Manjrekar on the fiasco down under
Hurt Australia on the field, not off it - Sanjay Manjrekar
January 8, 2008
Time to move on and India should focus on giving it back to Australia on the field and not off it
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ICC set a dangerous precedent by sacking Steve Bucknor from the third Test in Perth © Getty Images
Well, here we go, another issue with Indian cricket. We have had a fair share in the last few years.

To start with, the Sydney Test was a really good match, a good game to watch. India batted superbly in the first innings, and Australia too, with some luck from the umpires and some decisions going their way, batted really well in the first innings. But, nobody is talking about the second innings as much.

Once Australia got over 400 with two good innings from [Michael] Hussey and [Matthew] Hayden, and the Indian spinners were not quite able to use the Sydney pitch, which is the surface that will suit the Indian spinners the most in Australia. Once they allowed Australia to score over 400, with it went India's chances of winning the Test. If India would have curtailed Australia to around 200, if the two world-class spinners really bowled well on that pitch, then I think what happened later on wouldn't have come into the limelight so much. I thought India missed an opportunity there when they allowed Australia to score over 400, in their second innings.

Coming to the final innings, after a couple of early wickets, India were trying to save the game. Two decisions going against them certainly hurt India, and there is no doubt the result could have been different if the umpiring decisions would have gone in India's favour. But who are we to say whether India would have won the match, drawn the match, or lost the match - nobody can predict such things in cricket. Had some umpiring decisions gone in favour, then this would have happened or that would have happened.

But, India's anger and frustration is understandable. I think Anil Kumble made a very good statement where he said that there was only one team who was playing the game in the right spirit. He spoke out of sheer frustration at the time, when emotions were riding high. I think he held himself with a lot of dignity there. It was clearly [based on] the events that had happened during the Test, and it was for everyone to see which team was showing better spirit.

Having said that, Australia have won the Test match and that is something that Indians have to look at. They are 2-0 down in the series, and whether they should be attaching so much importance to the discrimination that they feel that has happened in the Test match. Harbhajan Singh's ban has also come at the worst possible time and has hurt India even more.

I think the focus has got to be cricket, and India have to realise if they've got to hurt Australia, it has to be on the cricket field. They have got a couple of opportunities to come back at Australia. So getting a few of their players banned, or winning a few hearings, and giving the Australians back by sledging or even matching their aggression by aggression, is fine, but it comes to nothing when you lose matches.

So I don't support this stand India took that if couple of their demands were not met they would want to come back. India have gone there to play cricket, and if they come back after the second Test then Australia will win the series 2-0, and India will have to face a lot of pressure from the international cricket community for abandoning the series. I wish better sense prevails, and I have a feeling that India will stay back and continue playing. India should use all the emotions they have at the moment positively and produce better cricket in the remainder of the series.

Regarding Harbhajan, at the moment he carries the stamp of somebody who has made a racist remark. Although I believe that the representation from the Indian side wasn't strong enough because Mike Procter said there was one party, who he felt, was speaking the truth. Which meant the Indians weren't speaking the truth, and if Indians believed that Harbhajan said nothing which could be termed as racist remark, then he wasn't represented strongly and adequately enough. I have been in match referee's hearings before, and I have seen the benefits of communicating properly and speaking strongly and firmly on the matter to get the verdict on your side. So maybe, in this initial hearing, Harbhajan wasn't represented strongly enough by BCCI and India. But I see the appeal now coming into play and this time around, of course, I think India will have more strength in the way they back Harbhajan Singh.

Steve Bucknor clearly had an off day along with Mark Benson - two umpires who had perhaps their lowest points of their careers - which hurt one team badly. The kind of following and the coverage that Indian cricket gets puts even more pressure on umpires and they receive more than ususal and backlash for their mistakes.

I don't support this stand India took that if couple of their demands were not met they would want to come back. India have gone there to play cricket, and if they come back after the second Test then Australia will win the series 2-0
India and BCCI were aware that Bucknor was going to be umpiring in this series a good two months before the Australia series. With the track record that Bucknor has had, especially against India, if India felt or they had some kind of grievance against Bucknor, then I want to know whether BCCI raised that issue with ICC when that appointment was made. Whether they wrote a letter or sent a line through saying 'we are concerned about this appointment because there is certain amount of prejudice as far as Bucknor's umpiring is concerned in the minds of Indian fans and the Indian cricket team, and it may not be a very smart idea to have him officiate such a high profile series'. If it wasn't done then maybe BCCI missed a trick there - if they had addressed the issue at that time then this could all have been avoided.

By removing Bucknor from the Test, ICC may have set a dangerous precedent. I can understand this is a delicate situation. Maybe with time the decision could have been easier to take. Whether there could have been a little more of diplomacy used with the Indian team, and this extreme step of removing an umpire mid-way through this series after he has been appointed might just set a dangerous precedent. I can see a lot of teams now, if they are hard done by an umpire on a given day and they lose the match, make the same demand. What is the ICC going to do when that happens? I think it might just open up a few more problems for them, but I also understand these are extraordinary circumstances and a lot of us were taken by surprise as to how big this issue has become.

As far as my predictions go, I think India will stay back in Australia. They will play the remainder of the matches. I see the better spirit now shown by both the teams after the experiences of the Sydney Test. The umpires will be back to their best, whatever the name. I think there are a few good umpires in the elite panel. Let's hope that cricket takes centrestage once again.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. @sanjaymanjrekar

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Posted by CHRISTOS on (January 11, 2008, 8:12 GMT)

In the name of Jesus & Lord Krishna!!!

I think , ICC should pardon both players wih a warning and counselling , learning from the previous backlash, they should not fuel further racism and hate in both countries. It is prudent to let go in this present storm. And the judges and refrees should ask the question "did they ever snap, become abusive?'--They have no right to impose punishments when they themselves can't control this natural urge to become abusive under pressure. I do , you do, then why should we expect the players not to do? The lack of foresight so far has caused international disaster. To remove the demon of racism , enforcement by law cannot work. It can only be gradually overcome by education and promoting goodwill....peace peace peace to all the cricketing world!!!

Posted by SANDEEP on (January 11, 2008, 2:29 GMT)

It is surprising to hear Sanjay Manjrekar say that India should hurt the Aussies on the field and not off it. I want to ask Sanjay, weren't the Indian's hurting the Aussies on the field in Sydney? They had them on the mat at 134 for 6. If not for wrong umpiring decisions, Australia would have made less than 200-250. And then India batted magnificently to reach 532. Look at the lead they would have got instead of the skimpy 69!! And that is what rattled the Aussies, which resulted in that boorish behaviour in India's 2nd innings. Thank God India didn't get bad decisions during their 1st innings. It's all very well to say that we cannot predict that India would have won or drawn the match if the umpires had got their decisions right. But one thing is certain - the result would have been totally different if the umpiring was spot on. That is one thing that Sanjay cannot prevent Indian fans from feeling and thinking.

Posted by Prasad on (January 10, 2008, 12:46 GMT)

Cricket fraternity would recall- it was the Indian skipper Gundappa Vishwanath - who very sportively recalled England's Bob Taylor after being given out in the Golden Jubilee test at Calcutta - and as a result of which India lost!!! India has always produced sportspersons like Vijay Amritraj, Vishy, Chandra, Prakash Padukone, Kumble, Dravid, Sachin etc who have displayed great maturity and sportsmanship - and have possibly been victims of many a poor decison! Chandra was once so fed up with umpiring in a country that he had to appeal even for a clean bowled!! It is high time Indian sports and cricket in particular stood up against gamesmanship and protest against very poor umpiring. The decision of Andrew Symonds being ruled not out at 30 certainly was a distinct turning point of the game and the nail was driven into the coffin by half a dozen other decisions against India. It is shocking to read an unfair and unjust analysis of the Indian team's performance by Sanjay Manjrekar!!!

Posted by Prince on (January 10, 2008, 9:39 GMT)

Hello Sanjay.A good article but such were the umpiring standards in Sydney that,justificably,it is impossible for Indian team to focus only on cricket when you have every right to feel you have been robbed off a test AUSTRALIA !!! The 1 image which stands out is Benson asking Ponting whether Sourav was out or not instead of the other umpire or the 3rd umpire...This image says everything of the umpiring standards in Sydney.In fact,I'm a little surprised that India did not appeal against Benson,just because of the incident mentioned above... About Harbhajan,if there is sufficient evidence that he used racist remarks,he should be banned for 5-8 test matches-no 2 ways about it.....

Posted by sridhar on (January 10, 2008, 8:14 GMT)

i find it pretty amusing that the decisions were 6-3.and tendulkar was out lbw,etc. surely lbw decisions can swing either way depending upon the mood of the umpire. but refusing to hear the clear edge of the bat and not referring to the third umpire of stumping are clearly atrocious. one more thing rp singhs wicket,the first ball of phil jacques second innings,etc are also dubious decisions.but they r not included in the 6 as they are lbw. what indians are enraged at is the glaring decisions and the infuriating reply of punter and clarke when they had clearly the heat of the game they may claim whatever but when things settle down they need to accept like symonds.and procters decisions based on these two persons words against tendulkar(i do not say that tendulkar is 100% honest but he can be relied more than these two) is not a clear minded logical one.

Posted by rajesh on (January 10, 2008, 7:59 GMT)

As an ardent fan of cricket, i am sorry to see that cricket has degraded to what it had in the Sydney test. As Kumble put it with dignity, only one team played cricket with the spirit of the game and that was India. Ponting and his men have disgraced the game, and thier country. A victory at the cost of morale. There was no sportsmanship in thier game. Symmonds remarking at the end of the game that he was aware that he had nicked but did not walf off because the umpire had ruled him not out clearly was the most unsportsmanship behaviour and that alone would justify sacking him from cricket. I am surprised that no action has been taken against this so far. I presume because the laws are flawed. This test also raises the question whether Australia have been playing thier cricket this way silently for the last few years and perhaps that is why they are winning. Maybe only now it has been brought to limelight because of this match

Posted by subir on (January 10, 2008, 7:59 GMT)

Dear Sanjay, Why don't you admit that though the Aussies are the World Champion but they have fulfilled their desire to break the record of 16 consecutive win by hook or crook (obviously having both the umpires in their favour). One has already proved to be anti-Indian if we track down the umpiring decision in the recent past while the other one is a white guy who cannot be expected to be fair when India is playing a team other than from Asian sub-continent. There is no doubt that the Aussies would win the series but they should have done it in flying colour without any bad patch. It was obvious that the umpires played their biased role in that game. Yuvraj did not even bother to wait for umpire's decision in his second innings though in both the innings he has clearly demonstrated his reluctance to play for the team which is a shame to his potential. It is absolutely clear that a few players in the Indian team don't care about the feelings of the NRI who adores the Indian players

Posted by rajesh on (January 10, 2008, 7:43 GMT)

Hi Sanjay,I agree with a part of your comment. The removal of Bucknor has set a dangerous precedent with the BCCI flexing the muscles. However, India has every reason to be upset with the umpiring. I think there should be laws in ICC to allow them to interfere if they think umpiring is substandard, before the respective teams could complain to avoid this situation in future. Also there should be more laws to allow greater freedom for the television umpire to interfere if a wrong decision is taken on the field. The controversy this match has generated is going to escalate if laws are not amended.

Posted by Saket on (January 10, 2008, 7:20 GMT)

I think Manjrekar you have just taken one view. It is very hard to beat Australia and you donot get many such chances. I was very sad to tell you that Australia came so close to loosing test matches but in both time they were victorious, one last sydney test and the other second test versus srilanka. How did Australia came out from these situations -- Bad Umpiring. In the case of India you know what happened and wrt to Srilanka the decision against Sangakara. In short, these errors count and that add value. I donot know why these kind of coincidences happen far too often and the only team which gets benifit of doubt is Australia. I am just AMAZED.

Posted by ravi on (January 10, 2008, 7:04 GMT)

Hi Sanjay,nice article. But one thing as an Indian I feel that for an Indian being banned may not be a critical issue but being labeled as a racist is an issue of utter concern and shame. I hope that Harbhajan comes out of this issue with a clean chit. It is also not easy for me to understand that why do BCCI and ICC always take reactive measures rather than being proactive.Any cricket fan can easily tell u how much "Respected Bucknor Sir" loves the team INDIA. So hope that next time both BCCI and ICC sets the appropriate examples to avoid such incidents.

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