January 24, 2008

The thin line between hard and fair

You don't need to give lip to play tough. After the ructions of Sydney, Australia got it just right in Perth
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Everything, but not the kitchen sink: Brett Lee gave the Indians no quarter at Perth, but his behaviour was not objectionable in the least © Getty Images

What a difference a Test can make. In the first week of the new year, cricket was left wounded and dishonoured. Now, after a hard-fought and enthralling game in Perth, the sport seems to have reclaimed not only its dignity but also its health.

The events in Sydney tested loyalties. The mood of the moment demanded that positions be taken, and no one was immune to the pressure. But Perth has perhaps made it easy for all of us to view Sydney in the right perspective. Cricket, like any other sport, is a fiercely competitive activity worth getting passionate about; but there is a line beyond which lies ugliness and chauvinism. That line was breached in Sydney.

"Spirit of cricket" is a much used, much misunderstood term. But it can be said that spirit was glimpsed and felt in Perth. There was grace in defeat and humility in victory. Australians have rarely made excuses for defeats, and Ricky Ponting, who was baffled and wounded by accusations that he was arrogant and lacked comprehension about what the fuss in Sydney was really about, conducted himself marvellously at the post-match press conference. He was relaxed and forthright, gave his opponents fulsome credit, accepted his team's failure, and made not a mention about umpiring errors.

While Australia were being put under the cosh on the first day, a senior Australian journalist wondered aloud if the burden of having to watch their behaviour had had an effect on their game. Certainly, some appeals ended abruptly, and Shaun Tait even did the unthinkable by apologising to Sachin Tendulkar for having appealed for a caught-behind after the ball had brushed the elbow guard. And on the second day, an English journalist worried if the loss of the Perth Test would put pressure on Australia to go back to their snarling ways.

But sometimes a point is missed. Australia were no less formidable or tough a team under Mark Taylor, who didn't need to be profane in order to be aggressive. It was he who took a bunch of rookie bowlers to the West Indies and beat the champions in their den. And it was he who fashioned the idea of scoring four runs an over in Test cricket. The credit for turning the Australians ugly will go to Steve Waugh: mental disintegration is his unfortunate legacy.

A word or two has always been exchanged in the heat of battle and it will continue to remain so. No one wants a hard game to become antiseptic, but no cricket match is won by swearing at the opponents. Australia lost in Perth not because their attitude was soft. It was their skills that let them down.

Perth has possibly been an interesting learning experience for the Australians, for they were forced to conform to the code of conduct even when they were cornered. There has been a perception that the natural instincts of the Australian players fits oddly with the image Cricket Australia has been desperate to project, and in Sydney the wall simply collapsed when it got tight. The balance between "hard" and "fair" is difficult to maintain at the best of times; it's far tougher when your idea of fairness contrasts with that of the rest of the world.

 
 
India is a nation bursting with energy and bristling with confidence. But it also faces the risk of losing its humility, which some confuse as weakness. There is a fine line between assertiveness and arrogance, between firmness and being rigid, and between standing up for what is right and bulldozing
 

In Perth, Australia managed to walk the line without losing their footing. Brett Lee was the embodiment of the kind of aggression that should be seen on the cricket field. He steamed in over after over and whistled balls past retreating heads; he got Tendulkar by attacking his stumps, and exchanged glares and words with Irfan Pathan, who had let Lee have a few on the first day. It was the perfect example of hostility without nastiness. Tait talked the talk before the match, but couldn't walk the walk when it mattered. By the end of the match even tailenders were lining him up.

There is a lesson in this for misguided Indian players who seem to think that to challenge Australia it is necessary to match them with words. Not being adept in these matters - Australia have practised and mastered the art over years - they end up looking far more crude. It's a fake and shallow aggression that is merely a distraction. Sreesanth, a talented but temperamental swing bowler, once bowled a bouncer to Sachin Tendulkar in a domestic match and charged down the pitch to glare the batsman down. The next ball disappeared over his head as Tendulkar let him know where he stood.

If the young Indian players ever needed a lesson in playing it tough, they needn't look beyond their own dressing room. In Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, India have had three of the toughest ever cricketers, who haven't ever needed to lose their manners to compete. Does Harbhajan Singh ever wonder why even the worst sledgers keep their thoughts to themselves when Tendulkar or Dravid is batting? Those who are easily provoked merely reveal a weakness of character. In any case, there are far worthier things to learn from the Australians.

India at the moment is a nation bursting with energy and bristling with confidence. But it is also faces the risk of losing its humility, which some confuse as weakness. In the words of a perceptive colleague, India is a nation that has found its voice after years of being told to shut up. But there is a fine line between assertiveness and arrogance, between firmness and being rigid, and between standing up for what is right and bulldozing. There is no doubt about India's financial might in cricket. And that the mightiest rules is as much the law of the jungle as it is of civil society. But some leaders are respected while some are feared and loathed. It is up to India to choose where to stand.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nihontone on January 25, 2008, 3:30 GMT

    Excellent article! I thought it put things into perspective nicely. Well written Sambit! Again you've demonstrated you intelligence and reason in the face of some pretty over the top hysteria. It's a shame others haven't done the same in their posts on this forum. Especially when it comes to the sportsman ship of the West Indian teams of the 80's and 90's. Viv Richards most certainly was not above sledging and if you asked NZ about the West Indian tour there in 1980. I'm sure that people well remember Michael Holding kicking down the stumps after having a decision go against him, not mention Colin Croft clipping an umpire in the back of the head with the ball as he can in to bowl. I'd also like to point out an incident when Harbarjan Singh stood his ground in a recent ODI against England. AFter being bowled!! Let's get a grip>

  • WhatstheFuss on January 25, 2008, 1:50 GMT

    How can this article be well balanced? All I can see are accusations that the Australians brought the game into disrepute and showed arrogance at every turn in Sydney. Come on whatever happened to accepting the umpire's decision taking the good with the bad and being tough skinned. OK there is a line that was overstepped and there is no excuse for that, personal attacks need to be taken out of the game. Sledging as it was originally intended is a part of every sport ever played. Psychology is a major part of the game. Get a player thinking of something other than the task at hand is as valid a skill as any other. How were the Australians being arrogant? Just because they won the series in an amazing fashion and celebrated accordingly? OK someone should have commiserated the batsmen as they walked off. A lesson in humility in loss was given in Perth. No mention of poor decisions. No threats of pulling out of the series. No excuses! The Perth test was candy coated in my opinion.

  • Roofus on January 25, 2008, 0:34 GMT

    I think you need to take a more balanced and neutral look at cricket in general before describing Aus cricket as ugly and mental disintegration as an unfortunate legacy of Steve Waugh. The mistake Waugh made was to publicly label the psychological part of the Australian game as mental disintegration a term open to misinterpretation by the media and anyone who wants to run down the Aus cricket team. So I find it absolutely baffling to hear comments such as these condemning Aus cricket when their is not a test playing nation who is not equally as guilty if not more so of every thing Aus has been accused of in recent times. This includes an Indian team who were involved in any number of controversial incidents during recent tours of England and South Africa. Was the spirit of cricket of these great cricketing nations called into question? This leads me to my point that if Aus were not the such a dominant force in the game would we even be talking about this at all?

  • Mike-Ambrose on January 24, 2008, 22:28 GMT

    Great, well-balanced article, Sambit. Parth-pala and satishgn seem to be reading this like they did the Sydney test, through rose-tinted glasses! I didn't feel that the Aussies were any worse (or any better!) than the Indians in terms of sportsmanship, but the Indians were very swift to protest their innocence regarding the Harbajhan debacle. I also felt saddened by the Aussies' apparent inconsistencies regarding sportsmanship, but find it hard to hear India fans preaching their innocence so soon after watching the over-enthusiastic appealing and ludicrously exaggerated celebrations of Singh and Pathan. Behaviour lapses at times with all teams, poor decisions go against everyone, I reckon the Aussies are no angels, but they're rarely whingers.

  • pseudoKu on January 24, 2008, 21:23 GMT

    Sambit,

    That was an excellent article - well written and balanced. I always have the highest expectations from Cricinfo writers and I am rarely disappointed.

    @irememberthebaddays India's "whinging" gets blown totally out of proportion because of the amount of media attention it receives. The Indians were perfectly within their rights to protest the pathetic umpiring. They were also within their rights to feel aggrieved about the Bhajji ruling, especially since they had not even filed a complaint against Hogg for using the B-word.

    All said and done, the Sydney test was a match that we ought to have drawn if not won. Agreed umpires cost us the game, but we could still have battled it out and made a statement. That would have been much louder than all the post match whinging combined.

  • mateenfaisal on January 24, 2008, 20:40 GMT

    I find the view expressed in this article as one-sided. While I do think that Australians have been allowed to sledge free by the game-authorities for quite long: its the hue and cry of Indians that surprises me!!

    That particular test was won in a wonderful fashion by Australians despite a few umpiring decisions that went against Indians. Kumble agreed to this catching agreement before this test, so why the fuss ??

  • m.salmanali on January 24, 2008, 19:40 GMT

    I dont know why you didnt post my comments....but again that shows that even indian writers are hypocrates.....no surprise there

  • chaksshef on January 24, 2008, 19:21 GMT

    No team can be equalled to a great team till it can take the "spirit of cricket" to its correct levels. When India pumped in front of Autralians, it was aggression with the spirit of cricket. The allegations do not go to the words exchanged, they go to the out-off ground complains that are lead over by Ponting. The relentless ideas to claim on incorrect grounds need to be questioned on. Words exchange between Symonds or Harbhajan, between symonds or Sreesanth should not affect anybody. To learn something from Sachin,Kumble,Laxman in terms of temperamanet is not completely true. A show of passion in throwing your T-shirt when you win a series is a passion that India should live up in! Our youngsters should show the courage if they want to rise the way they have in the past few years. Only if India resorts to tricks like the Australians outside the groud, only then can the cricket in India be questioned. Lastly, Steve Waugh was a great captain in all ways!

  • Shantan on January 24, 2008, 19:12 GMT

    I like the comments about humility and weakness. Yes, Indians definitely feel that if they're humble, it will be construed as weakness. It takes a rare courage to show humility but our youngsters don't seem to understand that. You only have to look at Sachin, Rahul and Anil to understand how to behave on a cricket field. All these antics - of Sreesanth and Bhajji are being watched by millions of kids in India and they will think that it is necessary to show those antics to be a successful cricketer. That's why it's very important for these cricketers to behave properly.

    There are lots of things to learn from Australia without having to learn their bad qualities. We can learn to be professional like them, play for each other like they do and not give up until the last ball of the match. Instead we learn their sledging and become even worse than them. Since we're not brought up in this way, we end up making a fool of ourselves and our country. Grow up boys!

  • bogieman on January 24, 2008, 17:48 GMT

    The Australians on this board seem to be arguing that personal abuse is ok while racial abuse is not. Personally I feel both are equally bad. Ban both and get on with the game. And by the way there are other all conquering personalities in other sports like Roger Federer, Tiger Woods nobody seems to hate them. The fact is present australian cricket team is arrogant.

  • Nihontone on January 25, 2008, 3:30 GMT

    Excellent article! I thought it put things into perspective nicely. Well written Sambit! Again you've demonstrated you intelligence and reason in the face of some pretty over the top hysteria. It's a shame others haven't done the same in their posts on this forum. Especially when it comes to the sportsman ship of the West Indian teams of the 80's and 90's. Viv Richards most certainly was not above sledging and if you asked NZ about the West Indian tour there in 1980. I'm sure that people well remember Michael Holding kicking down the stumps after having a decision go against him, not mention Colin Croft clipping an umpire in the back of the head with the ball as he can in to bowl. I'd also like to point out an incident when Harbarjan Singh stood his ground in a recent ODI against England. AFter being bowled!! Let's get a grip>

  • WhatstheFuss on January 25, 2008, 1:50 GMT

    How can this article be well balanced? All I can see are accusations that the Australians brought the game into disrepute and showed arrogance at every turn in Sydney. Come on whatever happened to accepting the umpire's decision taking the good with the bad and being tough skinned. OK there is a line that was overstepped and there is no excuse for that, personal attacks need to be taken out of the game. Sledging as it was originally intended is a part of every sport ever played. Psychology is a major part of the game. Get a player thinking of something other than the task at hand is as valid a skill as any other. How were the Australians being arrogant? Just because they won the series in an amazing fashion and celebrated accordingly? OK someone should have commiserated the batsmen as they walked off. A lesson in humility in loss was given in Perth. No mention of poor decisions. No threats of pulling out of the series. No excuses! The Perth test was candy coated in my opinion.

  • Roofus on January 25, 2008, 0:34 GMT

    I think you need to take a more balanced and neutral look at cricket in general before describing Aus cricket as ugly and mental disintegration as an unfortunate legacy of Steve Waugh. The mistake Waugh made was to publicly label the psychological part of the Australian game as mental disintegration a term open to misinterpretation by the media and anyone who wants to run down the Aus cricket team. So I find it absolutely baffling to hear comments such as these condemning Aus cricket when their is not a test playing nation who is not equally as guilty if not more so of every thing Aus has been accused of in recent times. This includes an Indian team who were involved in any number of controversial incidents during recent tours of England and South Africa. Was the spirit of cricket of these great cricketing nations called into question? This leads me to my point that if Aus were not the such a dominant force in the game would we even be talking about this at all?

  • Mike-Ambrose on January 24, 2008, 22:28 GMT

    Great, well-balanced article, Sambit. Parth-pala and satishgn seem to be reading this like they did the Sydney test, through rose-tinted glasses! I didn't feel that the Aussies were any worse (or any better!) than the Indians in terms of sportsmanship, but the Indians were very swift to protest their innocence regarding the Harbajhan debacle. I also felt saddened by the Aussies' apparent inconsistencies regarding sportsmanship, but find it hard to hear India fans preaching their innocence so soon after watching the over-enthusiastic appealing and ludicrously exaggerated celebrations of Singh and Pathan. Behaviour lapses at times with all teams, poor decisions go against everyone, I reckon the Aussies are no angels, but they're rarely whingers.

  • pseudoKu on January 24, 2008, 21:23 GMT

    Sambit,

    That was an excellent article - well written and balanced. I always have the highest expectations from Cricinfo writers and I am rarely disappointed.

    @irememberthebaddays India's "whinging" gets blown totally out of proportion because of the amount of media attention it receives. The Indians were perfectly within their rights to protest the pathetic umpiring. They were also within their rights to feel aggrieved about the Bhajji ruling, especially since they had not even filed a complaint against Hogg for using the B-word.

    All said and done, the Sydney test was a match that we ought to have drawn if not won. Agreed umpires cost us the game, but we could still have battled it out and made a statement. That would have been much louder than all the post match whinging combined.

  • mateenfaisal on January 24, 2008, 20:40 GMT

    I find the view expressed in this article as one-sided. While I do think that Australians have been allowed to sledge free by the game-authorities for quite long: its the hue and cry of Indians that surprises me!!

    That particular test was won in a wonderful fashion by Australians despite a few umpiring decisions that went against Indians. Kumble agreed to this catching agreement before this test, so why the fuss ??

  • m.salmanali on January 24, 2008, 19:40 GMT

    I dont know why you didnt post my comments....but again that shows that even indian writers are hypocrates.....no surprise there

  • chaksshef on January 24, 2008, 19:21 GMT

    No team can be equalled to a great team till it can take the "spirit of cricket" to its correct levels. When India pumped in front of Autralians, it was aggression with the spirit of cricket. The allegations do not go to the words exchanged, they go to the out-off ground complains that are lead over by Ponting. The relentless ideas to claim on incorrect grounds need to be questioned on. Words exchange between Symonds or Harbhajan, between symonds or Sreesanth should not affect anybody. To learn something from Sachin,Kumble,Laxman in terms of temperamanet is not completely true. A show of passion in throwing your T-shirt when you win a series is a passion that India should live up in! Our youngsters should show the courage if they want to rise the way they have in the past few years. Only if India resorts to tricks like the Australians outside the groud, only then can the cricket in India be questioned. Lastly, Steve Waugh was a great captain in all ways!

  • Shantan on January 24, 2008, 19:12 GMT

    I like the comments about humility and weakness. Yes, Indians definitely feel that if they're humble, it will be construed as weakness. It takes a rare courage to show humility but our youngsters don't seem to understand that. You only have to look at Sachin, Rahul and Anil to understand how to behave on a cricket field. All these antics - of Sreesanth and Bhajji are being watched by millions of kids in India and they will think that it is necessary to show those antics to be a successful cricketer. That's why it's very important for these cricketers to behave properly.

    There are lots of things to learn from Australia without having to learn their bad qualities. We can learn to be professional like them, play for each other like they do and not give up until the last ball of the match. Instead we learn their sledging and become even worse than them. Since we're not brought up in this way, we end up making a fool of ourselves and our country. Grow up boys!

  • bogieman on January 24, 2008, 17:48 GMT

    The Australians on this board seem to be arguing that personal abuse is ok while racial abuse is not. Personally I feel both are equally bad. Ban both and get on with the game. And by the way there are other all conquering personalities in other sports like Roger Federer, Tiger Woods nobody seems to hate them. The fact is present australian cricket team is arrogant.

  • samosachat on January 24, 2008, 17:37 GMT

    The Author is spot on. Every cricket organization needs a revamp to deal with current day problems in the game. cricket today is a a big business and lot more than a sport and played only to win. The term "spirit of the game" etc are too vague and old fashioned. There has to be a rule and followed by every one.Eg Batsman is not required to walk if the umpire does not declare him out. Indian cricketrs should learn to reply trash talk with trash talk and not curse words or abuse. If they dont know English just shut up and act dumb. Younger cricketers should follow the example of the seniors like VVS Dravid and Sachin. They can not think that they can set right the "sledging kings" ( Aussies) with a curse word in their local lingo. Only the Indian side will get burned by such a behaviour like what happened in Sydney. Sreesanth's behaviour was such an embarassment to Indians.

  • wmathew on January 24, 2008, 17:10 GMT

    That is a good article - sambit. Play good & hard cricket rest should not be practiced because miscommunication & misinterpretation will occur and then it turns ugly. I feel Australia is still the team to beat in world cricket minus their crap-shooting mouth. They can talk and haggle outside the game but the game should be played respecting the rules and the abilities of the players should come out. We see baseball here which is so civil but hard-fought. The great west indian teams were great champions and the sledging is making cricket look ugly now. Instead of "well played" , "MAKI" & others are making the rounds. It's high time Good cricket wins.

  • Nampally on January 24, 2008, 17:03 GMT

    An excellent well balanced article reflecting Indian philosophy to life. Our life is like a game of cricket. Aggressive attitude has become a way of winning in all walks of life in the west. An anology of Sun and wind is ideal here. Sun shines "silently" and is critical for human survival. On the other hand typhoon blows "Noisily" and causes havoc in a non productive way. Sledging is similar to noisy wind. You command respect by your skill and mastery of the game. Sachin is respected every where in Australia because he is a great batsmen by his performance & record. Sydney test was also marred by attrocious one sided Umpiring which won the test for Aussies.That was the major reason for the ill feeling. Anil Kumble showed the Indian way of overcoming adversity in the Perth test. Perth test with balanced Umpiring showed the better side. Australia were out played in all aspects in Perth. Ponting was gracious in defeat and Kumble humble in victory. This is the true spirit of cricket.

  • aphenomenon on January 24, 2008, 16:50 GMT

    On the outset Sambit's article has more or less summed the situation up. I for one think that the test match at Sydney turned out to what it was purely due to the umpiring. Off course it is understood that Ponting claiming Clarkes catch to be legitimate was the tunring point...but under no circumstance must Ponting have been given that choice!!

    As for sledging or perhaps on field aggression, it is more a cultural attitude. If it is used to get under the skin of a player to force an error so be it...but it is not mandatory to verbally react. We all have reacted on school playgrounds...but is this not an entirely different ball game?

    To conclude, it seems that all the focus was directed towards the "spirit of the game" to take it away from the abyssmal decisions from a veteran umpire (it hurts to refer to Bucknor thus). Ponting will know well that he did lie(or made a mistake) but he wishes not to retreat on his word...for his team may not hold him in good light...do they now?

  • sxbah on January 24, 2008, 14:42 GMT

    The problem is that Aussies see Sydney test in isolation, as if the world judges their team on basis of that one test itself. The irony is that they judge Bhajji on basis of his past sins: he called Symonds monkey once, so he must have done it again. Aussies have used sledging tactics for past 20 years and now everyone in the world has tried to duplicate it. You have the Sreesanth's of the world who learnt watching McGrath etc. Now Aussies have tried to clean their image and are perplexed the world doesn't see them as just hard nosed cricketers who play fair. And Dravid not being sledged... watch the youtube video of Slater v Dravid. Tendulkar not being sledged.. I remember otherwise when he played Australia.

    Now its laughable when Aussies seem to imply that their poor team lost at Perth because their fighting instincts were somehow restrained by a biased ICC. I guess Tait cannot bowl fast unless he is shouting expletives a la McGrath.

  • Lagerkhan on January 24, 2008, 14:31 GMT

    Bulldog, I think you're looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses. Sure the WI were a great side but just have a read of Rchards' autobiography under the chapter 'Sledging Can be Fun' and you'll see exactly what he was prepared to do to win a game of cricket. Don't you remember the disgraceful appeal against Rob Bailey in 1990 where he effectively pressurised the umpire into getting the decision. The spirit cricket is played in was effectively changed during the 70's and to single out the latest Aus team as the worst culprits is not right, in many ways they are a lot better because technology means their behaviour can be far closely scrutinised.

  • whits106 on January 24, 2008, 14:29 GMT

    Why is it, that everywhere I go.. I seem to be the only Australian who doesn't defend them? They were in the wrong! They've been in the wrong for years as Mr Bal says... since Steve Waugh's reign.

    Everyone claims it's the "Australian way" to be hard and fair, not just in sport, but everything. And that's true.

    So far, all I have seen from my fellow countrymen is the "hard" part of it. Please grow up everyone and start displaying the fairness, open you eyes and look at the bigger picture.

    Mr Bal, another FANTASTIC piece!

  • gg76 on January 24, 2008, 14:21 GMT

    Otwen: It is one thing to be given out LBW incorrectly and another when the nick was heard a few miles away... and when you are out stumped but the third umpire refuses to give that out.. Infact Sachin too was given LBW incorrectly in the first innings at Perth. No Indian complained about that. Bucknor's had to be removed because he was making blatant blunders and not just errors in judgement.

  • m.salmanali on January 24, 2008, 14:20 GMT

    I am not Australian....but even I think they don't over do the sledging......everybody does it.....Indian team is no angel....in fact they are the shrewdest.....they always do sledging then play innocent........Ghambir sledging afridi in recent one day series was another example.....he started cursing afridi and after that when afridi shoved him shoulder he became innocent.......it all bunch of BS......grow up sore looser

  • JesusOnaHarley on January 24, 2008, 13:58 GMT

    The only way to get there, if you have to get there, is to have the same kind of a rope. We cannot have the same kind of 'deep' aggression in our players if we keep rapping their knuckles everytime they try their hand at it. Yes, it will look funny in the beginning, even foolish; but a child will not learn how to walk if you keep it in a pram all the while.

    Comments by readers and critics have been interesting with a bit of a jingoistic trend. As has been rightly pointed out by fountainhead, the 'spriti of cricket' controversy had to do more with the pre-series agreement between the two captains than the umpires and the threat to withdraw from the series is more to do with the improper handling of the racism issue than the ouster of one or more umpires.

  • JesusOnaHarley on January 24, 2008, 13:57 GMT

    Great article (like the posting guidelines suggested i shouldn't use, but i guess i'm incorrigible). i've been regular reader of cricinfo, however, today was the first time i was compelled to comment. Taking a little different view, i'd like to say that while it is all nice to talk about being dignified and yet tough, we should also realise that sometimes this can be taken as being weak. For instance, Dravid's decision of declaring when Lara threw a tantrum over a Dhoni six or his innumerable other 'safety first' decisions which ensured a draw in the face of a victory or the fact that even today Sachin Tendulkar is considered a weak captain because he cannot have his way with either the board or the players (it is only in the Mumbai team that he ever had a free rein). Australia, are today considered the master's of the 'mental disintegration' not because they did it overnight, but because they have had the time to do the 'trial and error' run followed by the perfectionist approach.

  • Parth_Pala on January 24, 2008, 13:46 GMT

    I find the incapability of the Australians to accept their self righteous cricket they play. It is sad to see a bunch these people vilify a team which cannot act in form of basic civil decency. Swearing, degrading people's families, and threatening have all been part of the Australian culture. To use a incident i.e the racial remarks as a excuse, which one might add was accepted on the word of cheater. Acting like animals seems to be revered by Australians, often followed by far outcry when almost every other cricketing nation tells you how it is. You must wonder why everyone nations looks down on while they respected the great West Indian teams. Why everyone calls Tendulkar and Dravid gentlmen, while Ponting is known as local juvenile. Your teams behavior is juvenile and it is the black stain which cricket has to live with.

  • shankargg on January 24, 2008, 13:00 GMT

    Regarding the line where you said "in the words of a perceptive colleague, India is a nation that has found its voice after years of being told to shut up." That's still not the full story. India was a world force in every field. In science, in astronomy, in mathematics-we discovered the zero, in medical science and had the intelligence to live harmoniously with nature. We were very very prosperous and the world knew it, that's why we were invaded so many times in history and that's why Columbus left in search of India, even as late as 300 or 400 years ago. It's only in the last couple of hundred years or so that we have been at the bottom of the barrel. The words of your perceptive colleague needs to be seen in that context. We are a people who not suddenly becoming rich but are regaining our lost wealth. There's a difference. We are not finding our voice, we are regaining it. India is a noble country. But this time around, circumstances or karma is playing a hand in our resurgence.

  • spinion on January 24, 2008, 12:41 GMT

    Well at last someone came out and said it. Thank you. The ignorance put on show by some of the Indian cricketers is an embarrassment to all of us. A few individuals are dragging down the reputation of the whole team and the country itself by their foolish antics. Unfortunately it seems that these members look likely to inherit the team in due time. I hate to think what will happen then.

  • thebrownie on January 24, 2008, 12:10 GMT

    The complaint was not abt umpiring in particular, but rather the one sided nature of it and the total incomptence of Bucknor. It is one thing missing out on close LBWs, but if you are not able to spot a thick edge with the bat not even close to the body/pads it is time to go. Added to it, his refusal to refer to the third umpire for the stumping.

    For those saying that there were no complaints after the wrong decision against Hussey and Symonds, I am sure no one would have complained even if India lost the match, since the wrong ones were fairly spread out: Tendulkar and Dhoni were both given out, incorrectly.

    What was Ricky Ponting appealing for after grounding the catch, especially with the "agreement" on? Instead of apologizing, he goes on and defends it! What was Clark waiting for after edging to first slip? And his word should be taken, for a close catch??

  • andrewm on January 24, 2008, 11:12 GMT

    Sambit, I'm not sure of you saw footage on youtube recently of Anil Kumble sledging Mohammad Yousef out in the recent India Pakistan test. But that couldn't be right - it's only the nasty Australians who do that!

  • Unifex on January 24, 2008, 10:35 GMT

    Frankly, Sambit, I've had enough of the Indian attitude that they are angels and the Australians sinners. They both are sinners, and for Kumble to state that his team was the only one playing within the spirit of the game is laughable. Did he recall Ponting after the Australian captain was given out off a very clear inside edge? No. The whole Indian team appealed, and Harbhajan celebrated like he'd got the world record for Test dismissals. This is what happens in normal Test cricket - teams appeal for anything that might possibly be given. If Kumble wants to claim righteousness, he probably should refrain from that kind of thing. The Indians lost and threw the toys out of the pram. Bad decisions, yeah, but one team perfect and the other destroying the game? Come on.

  • stuartlittle on January 24, 2008, 10:19 GMT

    Brilliant article Sambit. The Perth test was a treat to watch. It was keenly fought not an inch was asked for nor one was given. Yet no one sledged or abused. Yes, it's possible to have an enthralling test without them!

  • janardan on January 24, 2008, 10:08 GMT

    Over last few days the Australians have started to defend their actions posing as good samaritans and have begun to blame Indians for not being able to discover beauty of of their great victory at Sydney..Couple of comments above points to their singularly jundiced views. The whole world saw clarke's illegitmate catch which was caught on the bounce (picture no so clear) and ball again the baal touching the ground before completion of the catch(crystal clear).One Aussie argues that they did not complain against two LBWs at Perth.If one retains Any sense of proportion he should realise that 2 and 11 are not same. The whole world know about aussies behaviour and if they show statistically that indians /Asians have been penalised maximum times it only points to a biased system of justice vindicating the views of Gavaskar.

  • irememberthebaddays on January 24, 2008, 10:03 GMT

    Australia have never been so chummy with the opposition since...oh....the mid 1980s when we were hammered by all comers. Hey presto, this is what we did in Perth and not surprisingly we lost! I recall well Border hugging guys like Botham and Gower, who then proceeded to give us a thrashing. But obviously these are the goals we should be aiming for. Meanwhile India have pulled the "whinge about the opposition, get everyone sympathetic" card twice in six months (England and Australia).

  • horus_a on January 24, 2008, 10:01 GMT

    A brilliant article showcasing the middle line of the supposed to be "spirit of cricket". This slpgan is very subjective and is being and will be interpreted by different teams in their own manner, due to the wide cultural differences. I think ICC should re-phrase the wordings to something more definate and meaningful which can be clearly identified. Also it is sad to see some guys still in that accoustic Sydney Test mood, where all boundaries were broken. Whether Harbhajan was made a scapegoat by the Aussies will never be known but the rut was started by Bucknor and thankfully it ended with him being asked to stand down. Like all Corporate companies their shld be a viable age limit for Umpires and they should regularly submit the medicals to assert that they are match fit.

    Enjoy Cricket guys it is only a game and not a war that some if you are so strongly opiniated.

  • Archisman on January 24, 2008, 10:00 GMT

    It was pleasing to read about Brett Lee being praised. As an India, much as I grudgingly admire his fiery bowling spells, there is no doubt that he is one of the most mature (mentally) players in the game today, striking the right balance between gentlemanliness & aggression.

  • thisnameistaken on January 24, 2008, 9:46 GMT

    The point is missed by most of the people who read this article. It is not about honesty or cheating... it is about sportsmanship. The rules of engagement between the two teams had to be redrawn . Anybody ever wondered why ? If this was not done, it would have been interesting to see Aussie behavior. If their behavior changed when all of them believed it was fine, they should ask themselves as why did they have to change, if umpiring and racial slurring were the only issues. All excuses were taken away after Sydney, both from India and Australia. Rules of engagement had to be stated. Stupid rules proposed by Ponting had to be scrapped. Kumble had to introspect and re-evaluate as what kind of goodwill he would want to show.

    Aussie fans, ask yourselves one question... why did your cricketers ever have to change their behaviour or instincts, if all was well ?

  • asoke on January 24, 2008, 9:45 GMT

    It is really funny that Aussies/Mr. Otwen cite burning effigies in their comments. That's how Indian protest it very silly but it is not hurting anybody, so get over it. As for not protesting two dodgy decisions in Perth, big deal, I wonder what would his reaction be if Australian team was consistently on the receiving end of bad decisions. Indians started protesting only after being on the wrong end consistently and not to forget that rediculous racist charge on Harbhajan, very conviniently overlooking abuse of Kumble and Dhoni. Get real mate.

  • Praveen.Vasudevan on January 24, 2008, 9:31 GMT

    I have followed cricket for quite some time now and respected Mark Taylor's Aussies a lot. Whatever is written about that team under Mark and his style of aggression is so true. The Aussies won, even then, and were respected by the cricket loving community all over the world. Thats the sort of leader you want. Cricket needs leaders like Mark Taylor and Anil Kumble and not Ricky Ponting or Saurav Ganguly. I am not saying they are not good or even great leaders. They are/were excellent. But no one would deny that Cricket would have been different if Mark Taylor was the captain and the feeling of animosity between the players would not have existed. Whats making matters worse is the partisan presentation which the Indian viewers are subjected to. Harsha, Sunny, Ravi and Gautam Bhimani are just adding fuel to the fire when they should have done everything to provide a fair analysis. They didnt lie, but definitely didnt project the unfair decisions that the Aussies got in the same way.

  • FairPoint on January 24, 2008, 9:23 GMT

    Ask Australians about their defeat in the Perth test and most of them end up whining about Hussey's and Symonds' decisions. As if, hitting 400 in the last innings is like a regular affair and if not for these decisions the Aussies would have walked home with a victory....such arrogance!!!

    How many Aussies count the dismissal of Tendulkar in the first innings (playing very well at 71) and Dhoni (his dismissal trigger a mini collapse). The reason for them not being out was the same as that of Hussey's the ball was too high. If they had not been given out India would probably have scored in excess of 450 and the 1st innings lead would have been 250.

    As for Symonds' dismissal here is his quote during the Sydney test ""I was very lucky.I was out on 30 and given not out. That's cricket. I could sit here and tell you about some bad decisions as well, but I won't. People make mistakes, umpires do too." ...Aussies would not have won at Sydney if Symonds had departed at 30. Stop whining.

  • SammyV on January 24, 2008, 9:21 GMT

    Very good article, being Indian i at times questioned indian's attitude after the game, cause after all things have to be sacrifised so cricket survives. I am always up for good cricket, weather or not the team i support wins, yes i do get dissapointed when they loose, but its no excuse to go burn stuff down and cause chaos, after all its just a game, When it comes to sports there is always next time. I sometimes get criticized for being a huge fan of Shane Warne, Steve Waugh and Brett Lee, people at tiems question my passion for India. I believe a good player deserves the support, look at the support Sachin Tendulkar gets from the Aussies. At the end of the day yes i am passionate about my contry, but at the same time i am passionate about Cricket. As a athlete i take sledging lightly, its a part and parcel of every sport. I would never question Australia's victory. I do question the incident with Bajji, i beleive those kind of incidents should stay on the field.

  • Praveen.Vasudevan on January 24, 2008, 9:21 GMT

    Like I said, the Aussie cricketers can reduce the amount of banter they shell out at the opposition batsman and there are a couple of Indian bowlers - Bhajji and Sreesanth - who can celebrate any which way they want without mocking at the batsman, like showing them directions to the dressing room or running right into them laughing at their faces. If Symonds got so worked up for Bhajji running into Lee while taking a run, I would like to know what his advice to Tait would be for pushing Rahul Dravid out of his way to get to the ball. It was because the player involved was Dravid and the captain is Kumble that this matter never even made it to the next ball. The umps would have done the correct thing if they had reported that to atleast Ponting and ask to keep his team within limits. Bhajji should be punished if he had made such a remark on any player no doubt. But with such little proof, the BCCI did the correct thing by backing him and not take the ban lying down.

  • JM__ on January 24, 2008, 8:37 GMT

    Sledging is wrong and overrated in every way. Aussies can win without sledging and by sledging they are disrespecting their own talent.

    Characters like Sreesanth are just stupid and want to emulate Aussies in sledging instead of trying to emulate them in commitment, preparation and agression. Aggression in the classic-Aussie sense (not Ponting's team's sense) is stopping every run possible, taking every catch that comes in the way and not giving an inch to the opposition. This is what Sreesanth should be trying to do rather than open his motor-mouth.

  • Sergio on January 24, 2008, 8:36 GMT

    Dear Bulldog you must have a different memory of the West Indian cricket team than I do. I remember Colin Croft purposely running into a Kiwi Umpire, I remember Michael Holding kicking down the stumps when he received a poor decision. The West Indians had the most over the top celebrations when they took a wicket or won a match, if Australia celebrated in the same manner there would be calls for the Captain to be sacked.

    Perhaps you could read this article on your gentlemanly West Indian Cricketers

    http://content-usa.cricinfo.com/columns/content/story/237606.html

  • JFAB on January 24, 2008, 8:33 GMT

    Thansk for an interesting article. Can you please clearly state what was not 'fair' about the Australian players' behaviour in Sydney, particularly ina way that makes them different from the Indians or any other Test teams? *They are entitled to appeal *Very few Test batsmen from any country 'walk' consistently and reliably *Claiming catches and the captain indicating so to the umnpire was agreed before the series (or are you saying that Clarke and Ponting were deliberately lying?) *Reporting racially directed comments was expected and instructed prior to the series *Celebrating a very close victory would be expected with all sporting teams You may not like some of these things but they are in no way unfair, nor unique to Australians. 'Grace in defeat' was not a feature of Kumble's post-Sydney press conference. Umpiring errors somehow got twisted to unfair Australian players. Bullying & threats before Harbhajan's appeal is held with only 1 outcome allowed? That's NOT 'fair'

  • Otwen on January 24, 2008, 7:24 GMT

    The reaction in the media to the Australians after the Sydney test made me wonder whether I had watched a different match. Completely over the top, fired up by the not unexpected reactions in passionate India.

    Contrast the reaction of the Indians (and the media) in the 2nd test to the reaction of Australia after the 3rd. Australia received two very dodgy calls on the fourth day (Hussey & Symonds), which could ultimately have cost them the match.

    What was the reaction? There was none, because that is the swing and round-abouts of cricket. No effigys burnt in the streets, no deeply upset/offended Australian captain, no call for the umpire's head from the ACB - just praise for the opposition and disappointment with the performance...we move on to Adelaide and get on with it.

    This to me says much more about the spirit in which Australia plays the game than any non-objective journo or commentator could ever hope to describe.

  • MohanB on January 24, 2008, 7:22 GMT

    Terrific article, one that I hope would be read by cricketers from both India and Australia, as well as the other countries. The key issue is that any words that could potentially disturb the concentration of the opponent player have to be construed as unfair play. That would include racist remarks, abuse, profanity and insults. At the highest level, cricket is as much a mental game as chess. The stakes are high enough that it is time to stop fudging with this issue.

  • fountainhead on January 24, 2008, 7:21 GMT

    I think some of the readers as well as the critics are leaving out the point that it was agreed by the two captains that contentious decisions could be settled onfield by consultation with the respective captains. Thats where the integrity of the australian team and their professionalism is being questioned. If u were going to lie or if you are not sure of the catches you have taken it shld be said so or referred to the third umpire. I had also read an article where symmonds told that other than gilli no other batsman in the team would walk out unless the umpire gives them out. This again goes to show that Kumble was conned into beleiving that the sportsmanship part of the game will be upheald.Unfortunately none of the players held to the bargain of keeping up to the promise made by their captain. this coupled with the faulty decisions by the umpires left behind the sour taste of the sydney Fiasco.

  • scotthendo on January 24, 2008, 7:18 GMT

    BULLDOG it is interesting that you call the Australian team cheats when it is the Indian team that has multiple players that have been reprimanded for ball tampering. I also can not fathom how you can say that some catches were claimed but not held when everyone else seems to be in agreement that the video replays were inconclusive.

  • DMPK on January 24, 2008, 6:34 GMT

    When Ganguly and Dravid were given out in Sydney, Gavaskar and Harsha Bhoslay were livid with Australian players, questioning their integrity. Harsha said why Gilchirst appealed!!! But he did not say why at Perth Symonds was given out when it was a case of edge on to pads, and all Indians around the wicket appealed! And we all know how ready Gavaskar to walk when he knew he was out. He never did. And if he had, the number of his centuries would have been much less.

  • zapper22 on January 24, 2008, 6:14 GMT

    Well, mr bulldog..you still seems to have a huge chip on your shoulder...it seems allright to appeal for a LBW decision inspite of the ball hiiting the inside edge of the bat(symonds decision at perth)..i guess that because the indians are appealing and yes they never cheat hence, their appealing cannot be tantamount to cheating!!!...but if a fielder says that he has caught the catch cleanly and the video evidence shows that the catch looks fair from a certain angle..then its cheating !!!..And yes if a player appeals for a catch (the rahul dravid case at sydney) then again its cheating !!!..surprising how we have different yardstick for cheating !!!And all those who say that in a level playing field india can match and beat the aussies, well, just have a look at the Melbourne test videos or the videos of the tests last played in India ...and i am sure they will come to a simple conclusion that while india is a good side they are still way behind the aussies in both skill and talent.

  • Shaitaan on January 24, 2008, 6:06 GMT

    @ Paulie: "It might even be true"? Want details, mate, here goes: NKP SALVE CHALLENGER, OCT 10, 2006. Here's a quote from a news report:

    "After he was hit by Sehwag for a four, he went up to him and asked him why he can't bat like that in international matches. Sehwag, obviously lost his cool and pointed that out to the umpires.

    Later, Sreesanth tried to stare down Tendulkar in his follow through after getting one past him. The next ball saw Tendulkar jumping out of his crease to smash a six, tennis style, over the bowler's head. He reportedly said, "Don't you come that close to me ever again."

    Sreesanth went wicketless on the night conceding 58 runs in nine overs."

    Good enough for you mate? Perhaps the fact that the editor of Cricinfo had written it should've been. We do have journalistic probity in the third world too, massa.

  • Ryan_Donnelly on January 24, 2008, 6:00 GMT

    The seige mentality adopted by the Australian team after their only black player was called a monkey by a bloke who has a history of such remarks is perfectly understandable. The Indians went into denial when they should have been seeking forgiveness. There is so much chat about Australian sportsmanship that the matter of racial vilification has fallen off the radar. There is an elephant in the lounge room folks. When the match referee's findings are upheld, maybe the core issue behind the ill feeling in Sydney will receive the attention it deserves. Indians burning effigies in the streets and the BCCI dictating to the ICC was a disgrace. Australia may have upped the ante on their desire for victory in the circumstances but India have a lot to answer to also.

  • Perthite on January 24, 2008, 5:50 GMT

    The uproar about the Sydney test has been blown so far out of proportion that it has ceased to be funny. Except for the unfortunate celebration by Singh and Michael Clarke's stupid refusal to leave the crease when caught at first slip, there was little to complain about other than some poor umpiring decisions. The Australian cricketers have been made to be villains in what was a great game of cricket. The uproar was caused by the reaction to the umpiring by the BCCI (which had nothing to do with the Australians). The only disgrace to come from the Sydney Test was the blackmailing and continued bleating by the BCCI about the threat to go home over the state of the umpiring.

  • bulldog on January 24, 2008, 5:49 GMT

    I think the Australians have pushed the envelope and gotten away with it for years. They have sledged and occasionally cheated their way to dominance. They also harbor delusions of grandeur - which is why Ponting just doesn't get it. The West Indians under Clive Lioyd and Richards were far superior to the current Australian teams in talent and also exhibited true sportsman spirit, which is why they were universally admired.

    The level of incompetence that was displayed by the umpires at Sydney was the worst in any sport. And Australia clearly cheated by claiming catches, which were not cleanly held. If India had not raised a stink, it would have been business as usual. It is refreshing to see India stand up for something and actually have a backbone.

    The Indians by their success in Perth have proved that in a level playing field, they are capable of competing and winning against Australia. IT is time to be aggressive and give Australians a taste of their own medicine.

  • NitinRajNigam on January 24, 2008, 5:34 GMT

    Every player has its own strengths and weekness as well as temperament. While there are players like sachin dravid and kumble who dont show aggression, there are likes of Yuvraj singh, and Sreesanth who reply with glares and at the same time lift their game simultaneously. Have you forgot the 6 sixes Yuvi gave to England when Flintoff tried to disturb him? Similarly the kind of treatment Sreesanth gave to Nel was also the testimony that indians are no more sheeps and cows on the field who can be bullied. At the same time there are players like Sourav ganguly who can play the mind games which was the sole property of Aussies till yesteryears.

    I also appreciate what Kumble did in Sydney. He played with dignity and spirit. Fought hard till the last moment. And when time came to speak his one statement made mockery of whole Aus team and their brat captain(http://myjotting.blogspot.com/2008/01/spirit-of-cricket-riped-courtesy-rip.html)

  • docdoherty on January 24, 2008, 5:21 GMT

    Hmmm - written like a true Indian journalist - I guess they don't teach impartiality at Indian writing colleges. You didn't study with Peter Roebuck at all? Whilst the Indian media, duly led by the ex-pat english snob, Peter Roebuck, tried to make out that all Aussies hated the way they behaved in Sydney, not one person I know (and I know a lot of people) felt they way Roebuck said. Another case of the noisy minority vs the silent majority. By the way, why is Singh playing in this match, hasn't he been rubbed out for 3 matches - or doesn't the Umpire's decision stand in caste society.

  • BapiDas on January 24, 2008, 5:07 GMT

    Great article, Sambit. You have hit the nail on the head! Cricket is fiercely competitive and in modern times an awful lot is at stake in every match. But playing hard does not have to be with impudence, arrogance or sledging. I sincerely hope that during the certainly limited period of time that the magnificent Sachin and the other stalwarts like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman grace the dressing room with their presence, the younger players will learn how to play hard and competitive cricket without breaching civility that makes cricket the wonderful 'gentle men's game' that it is!

  • hellsagent on January 24, 2008, 5:04 GMT

    would like to add the name of vvs laxman along with sachin dravid n kumble. he doesnt get the due which he deserves

  • fando on January 24, 2008, 4:55 GMT

    A really good article. Unfortunately, even now some people are still focussing (with some bitterness) on the umpiring errors and their effect on India, which seems to be missing an important point of the article; everyone on the field in Perth was over it, so fans all over the world ought to be as well. Anyone older than 10 has been watching enough cricket to see games turned by fortune - whether it's an unlucky dismissal, poor umpiring calls, fortunes with weather or light, a nasty spot on the wicket, etc. It's all part of the game, and it's been happening for over 100 years. If you don't like it, you don't like cricket. It's ok to voice discontent at perceived 'incompetence' in the proper way, but neither players, officials, nor fans ought to be threatening withdrawl, burning effigies, hounding or publicly disparaging players, umpires or their families. I hope all such vocal cricket FANS, WRITERS and OFFICIALS will have a good think about the spirit of cricket after this article.

  • Night-Watchman on January 24, 2008, 4:25 GMT

    It does seem a little orchestrated that before the last test, the Sydney bogey is being raised again. Enough said about Sydney test. Let us move on. While India raises their icons to cult status, it is only fair to point out that only Anil Kumble; out of the fab four, has never faced any disciplinary hearing. Sachin, Dravid were both found guilty of ball tampering and with video evidence.

    Indian trait of gentle cricket has been the norm over the years that perhaps the match referees (who are all ex-cricketeers) find it difficult to come to terms with the new aggresive behaviour. One may well cry foul and question the integrity/impartiality of the match referees, but the numbers remain indisputable. It is a sign of a nation in flux, but the nation has received Lays chips and rejected it; now the best selling flavour is Indian Masala, received KFC and rejected it; now curry chicken is the best seller. I hope the nation receives the new found aggression and turn it into Gandhigiri!!

  • narhars2004 on January 24, 2008, 4:16 GMT

    This is a good article , but I want to bring out some points which I don't agree with . I had seen lot of coverage from both parties ( to and for ) in the last few weeks in Media . And I see the talk that the richest Cricketing body is changing the ICC rules or getting their way in . This is completly wrong. I am not sure how one can say this . Its clearley shown live what was happening inthe field . You can't deny the blunders of umpiring in the game . And how a captain was reacting . A game which had result coming out , and u have umpiring which is hostile and captain of one team is acting like a third umpire , thats ridiculous . Media can't deny this .

    This is nothing to do with India or anyone , if you let this attitudeslide by , then who is tainting the cricket ? is it the BCCI or ICC or Autralian cricket ? One cannot have one set of rules for one country and other for others .. If ICC had the guts to stand up and do something do it for all .And get their own standards up .

  • Mahesh_AV on January 24, 2008, 4:15 GMT

    I do not agree with Samit Bal on the "misguided Indian players" bit. All of them have spoken about "matching them with words" in the same breath as "playing well" and cricket against the Aussies being a "challenge". It only goes to show that our so called "misguided" players are referring to an additional aspect of the Aussie game that needs to be dealt with. If Samit thinks our players feel that the only way to beat the Aussies is by "matching them with words", I suggest he keep looking at the replays of the Perth test, and all our victories against them, again and again, till he understands that our team plays good cricket too, to beat the Aussies.

  • mehulmatrix on January 24, 2008, 3:24 GMT

    Good article, Example about Lee was to the pt,he was also seen in smiles & chit chat with the batsmen...hes really matured. Guess Sreesanth should not do something funny this time round. Cricket was meant to be a gentlemen's game & so the humility factor is really imp.Agression while playing is fine, but not through slangs & sledges. If you are good enough you wont need to do all that! Been the good series so far...covered almost all aspects of game i guess! Lets enjoy the cricket!

  • Rooboy on January 24, 2008, 3:14 GMT

    'Hard' and 'fair' are not mutually exclusive.

    Regarding the comment 'It was their (Australia's) skills that let them down' ... no doubt India won in Perth because they were the superior team in that Test and executed their skills better than Australia at the right times. But as we know, sport, much like life itself, is such a mental game. I believe it to be disingenuous to state that mental approach and attitude have no affect on a player's execution of their skills.

  • __PK on January 24, 2008, 3:13 GMT

    On what planet is the cricket Sambit Bal is watching being played?

    Steve Waugh was the one who taught the Test world the value of scoring at four runs per over. Mark Taylor couldn't score at four per over even if the bowlers bowled him three wides.

    Cute story about Tendulkar hitting Sreesanth for six after a glare. It might even be true (Sambit was conveniently vague about the details). Cricket has several famous similar stories, but you rarely hear about the more common occurrence of a bowler who glares and then dismisses the rattled batsmen with the next delivery. Or where the batsman attempts to teach the young bowler a lesson, only to be completely deceived with a slower ball.

    I prefer the real-life events on the recent Indian tour of South Africa, when Andre Nel carried on like a baby when bowling to Sreesanth. Sreesanth then smacked the next ball for six and behaved just as badly in response. And the cricket world loved it. Go figure.

  • ermalai on January 24, 2008, 2:47 GMT

    Sydney 2008 will go down in the annals as the Test match when cricket bled. Never has such a compelling, edge-of-the-seat game left a bitter aftertaste. Indian fans have spilled into the streets, outraged at the travesty of justice.

    For four days long, Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor parlayed their ineptitude, reserving their worst for India on the final day.

    Bucknor first sentenced poor Rahul Dravid, seemingly for an edge to the keeper. It was clear that Bucknor had been deceived by the gravity of appeal. Television replays confirmed that at least three columns of light could have passed through the space between Dravid's bat and pad.

    It's amazing that Bucknor could actually hear a faint edge given that a thick snick off Andrew Symonds on Day One didn't flinch him one bit.

    If ever this India side craved one afternoon of long tedium, it was at Sydney. India desperately wanted Dravid to consume time as only he can. Dravid's wicket was just that little tonic Australia

  • redbacks67 on January 24, 2008, 1:42 GMT

    Dear Sambit, as usual, you make a lot of considered sense in your article. I think you've addressed the issue of Australia's sledging very thoughtfully, accurately & succinctly. However you did miss one very important point - when you stated that the line was breached in Sydney, you singularly failed to mention that the BCCI throwing its weight around like a spoilt brat by demanding action such as the removal of Bucknor, the retaliatory reporting of Hogg, the dummy spit about refusing to continue the tour because things didn't go the Indians' way was in excess of what the Australians did. Don't get me wrong, the Australians' behaviour, as far as sledging and Clarke's failure to walk, was very poor and deserved to slated but CA, the Australian XI and Australian cricket supporters cannot be held responsible for the (neutral) umpires' errors. There is no doubt India got the rough end of the stick but their own board's (and some of their players') behaviour was also reprehensible.

  • Jasoos on January 24, 2008, 1:27 GMT

    Right on the money.

    Perth test was good change in Aus behavior. I believe Ponting realized that he can not hide from himself. Sydeney is archived in audio, video and print for the next generations to judge.

    Humility is so very under-estimed, I hope every Indian realizes the strength it takes to show it. We are are fast becoming pseudo immitators of so called aggressors lacking in depth and substance.

    Cheers

  • rkdeexit on January 24, 2008, 1:27 GMT

    Well said Sambit! There is a lot we could learn from each other. Sidney let the worst of both sides come out. I hope we would see the best in more abundance. We dont need some other-worldly reverence for the opposite team. That would be comical. So respect for each other on a human level will go a great way. Indians should remember that it is australia that brought the 5 day game to such an interesting mode with their style of the game. As much as I hate seeing players thumped down by trash talk, I would hate to see them pressured by financial might either.

  • Banks_Boy on January 24, 2008, 1:23 GMT

    What a load of rubbish - i am sick of hearing about Australia's agression and Transgressions and favourable unpiring. Nobody has transgressed further than Harbijan - bur his not Australian so he gets away with it. the most amount of lucky decisions have gone the way of Rahul Dravid. Andrew Symonds got a lucky one in Sydney - of which hysteria went overboard - then he got a disgraceful one in Perth - Strange, nothing said. Harsha the indian commentator, claimed India to be a more subtle culture. Is this the same culture who racially abuse people, hold up signs and nothing is done about it - not even by there so called classy!!captain? Is this the same culture who burn effigies of Ricky Ponting? - DISGUSTING Is this the same culture who are littered with match fixing? Is this the same culture who's players abuse Australians as they walk of? Is this the same culture who whinge about decisions even though they recieved many good ones (count the LBW's that haven't been given)

  • Benchman on January 24, 2008, 1:21 GMT

    A very well written article.

    Hope Harbhajan will learn to reduce his fist pumping and brashness.

    If we recall the world cup final in South Africa , few years ago, when Zaheer Khan started the aggro affair with Gilchrist in the first over adfter bowling the second ball of the match. He was promptly despatched and hammered so badly that Sourav had to take him off after 3 overs. He was in prime form at that time and we banked a lot on him and Nehra. That seemed to be the end of Zaheer for a long time and only during the last series with England he did eshtablish himself as a test class bowler once again. Same with the exhorbitant fist pumping aggro mannerism of Harbahjan in the same match. He was thorotaken apart and Ponting hammered him for so many sixes that one lost count of it. After that, he has never the same bowler in the cricketing fraternity.As a plyear he also ahs less credibility now. This only shows that you must have your game right before anything else.

  • MickP on January 24, 2008, 1:06 GMT

    All that Australia have done is do what they have always done - remove every blemish, real or perceived from their game. They have polished away their match errors down to the tiniest flaw, and when new cracks are found (or brought in by new players) they are worked away with methodical diligence. While other sides seem to chop and change lineups trying to find the "dream team" Australia tries to find a good lineup and refine it, and while other teams' onfield demeanor will fluctuate wildly with the changing personalities (even at their best, shrinking violets - India most certainly are not!) Australia will hone theirs, as with every other onfield skill. They may win or they may lose but they will seldom have a match taken from them by undisciplined performances. Likewise dont expect them to ever again allow a match to be taken away from them by "wounded puppy" gamesmanship and media frenzy.

  • Skywalker1977 on January 24, 2008, 0:16 GMT

    Excellent write up! More than the opinions of the players, its a frenzy created by media and some effigy-burning jingoists-an infection from Indian politics. We need to respect rules. Rule of the law is paramount. A mob mentality is not what the BCCI should adhere to. Run by politicians, it can hardly help it. The new breed of Indian cricketers should set their priorities right in view of the fact that some of them look foolish try to match the Aussie sledge machine!

  • rastus_odinga_esquire on January 24, 2008, 0:03 GMT

    It seems to me that this "spirit of the game" nonsense is wheeled out when Australia wins - but little is said when they lose. If Australia were not playing in the spirit of the game then it must work on both sides - meaning that they would be the poorest losers in the game as well. But they are not poor losers. They accept that losing is all part of the game. They also accept that bad umpiring decisions are part of the game, too. Yet, how do India react to losing? By attempting to hold the ICC and the cricket world to ransom, making personal remarks in the media, blaming the Aussies for "not being nice guys" - expecting them to walk when none of the Indian walk. If the worst that can be said of the Aussies are that, "They are not nice." Fine with me. I would prefer that they not be nice, than try, say, ball tempering ala Tendulkar. Kumble is right. One of the teams is not playing in the spirit of the game, and it's his team with their belligerence and appalling sense of entitlement

  • ccrjd on January 23, 2008, 23:46 GMT

    I think the game in Perth was about as interesting as the page of P.C. writing above.

    The only thing to surface from Perth was that the umpires who were constantly scouring the field for anyone who forgot to say "excuse me" when they stopped a shot from reaching the boundary.

    I assume that both teams were on severe cautions to behave impeccably and this resulted in one of the worst tests to watch in a long time. Possibly just behind some of those toothless runfests that proliferate on the subcontinent. In the final wash up it was simply India's bowlers ability to bowl to the conditions that made the difference.

    With the powers that be rolling over in the Harbhajan and the umpire scandals, we can only hope that this "hush wash" was only for one test and everyone can get on with it again in Adelaide.

  • Ells on January 23, 2008, 23:45 GMT

    I find it interesting that the Australians were accused of 'over-celebrating' after the Sydney test and yet no one has accused the Indian team of doing the same in Perth. The Indian celebration was no less extravagent than the Aussies and both teams were rightfully ecstatic to win the respective tests.

    Do we even dare mention Harbhajan's celebration after dismissing Ponting and that was just one wicket.

    I have no problem with teams excitedly celebrating victories but at least apply criticism equally. If the Australians were over the top then so were the Indians.

    International sport should be played hard and competitively and as in most top level team sport some amount or verbal banter / abuse / sledging is present, racial abuse is not acceptable anywhere though and that is where the clear line needs to be drawn.

  • jamrith on January 23, 2008, 23:45 GMT

    Good article and the younger Indian players would do well to emulate their seniors by keeping their cool. It is unfortunate that Sreesanth's motor-mouth is in operation again. However, while the egregious umpiring errors in Sydney as well as the Aussies' over-the-top gamesmanship can be forgotten and forgiven, what is unpardonable is the kangaroo-court justice meted out to Harbhajan by the match referee. The proceedings of the initial hearing as well as the appeal must be revealed in full if we are to believe that the judgement was fair and not racially motivated.

  • ExCric on January 23, 2008, 23:26 GMT

    One of the best articles I have read so far. No finger wagging at any team, just good old fashioned facts about what cricket really needs to be about. This should also be made compulsory reading for the fans on BOTH sides as they have the tendency to get quite anal at times.

  • ccrjd on January 23, 2008, 23:24 GMT

    I think the game in Perth was about as interesting as the page of P.C. writing above.

    The only thing to surface from Perth was that the umpires who were constantly scouring the field for anyone who forgot to say "excuse me" when they stopped a shot from reaching the boundary.

    I assume that both teams were on severe cautions to behave impeccably and this resulted in one of the worst tests to watch in a long time. Possibly just behind some of those toothless runfests that proliferate on the subcontinent. In the final wash up it was simply India's bowlers ability to bowl to the conditions that made the difference.

    With the powers that be rolling over in the Harbhajan and the umpire scandals, we can only hope that this "hush wash" was only for one test and everyone can get on with it again in Adelaide.

  • Kamakshi on January 23, 2008, 23:20 GMT

    Absolutely right when you say that there are far worthier things to admire and learn from the Aussies. Their never-say-die attitude whether its a no 10 and 11 batting to get another 150 runs or bowling in the last ten minutes with about four wickets left to get. Their commitment to saving every run, to hunt as packs and sacrifice everything for the greater good of the team. If the Indians want to match the Aussies there are far better ways in which we should endevour to do so, rather than matching them, in perhaps their worst quality. Brett Lee is the perfect example of hard, yet fair. A fiery bowler whose in-your-face every over, every delivery, and yet doesnt't stir up rancour or obsess after personal vendetta's. Hope its a cracking test match and that all the talk and articles post Adelaide is about the high quality of cricket rather than high quality sledges.

  • aditya87 on January 23, 2008, 23:18 GMT

    You are right in saying that you can be tough without too much lip on the field. I can't speak for the Australians, but I'm a young Indian fan and don't particularly like the way Sreesanth has been behaving recently. Someone needs to seriously tell him to shut up and concentrate on his bowling. In general, that's where the younger players should learn when to draw the line: they must remember how Saurav Ganguly played when he was a young captain and never took a backward step and was never afraid to say a few things on the field, but also never really crossed the line like Sreesanth. A bit of sledging and aggression is fine as long as it's not personal, but the stuff that people like Sreesanth and Nel indulge in is made for Bollywood and crap movies like Salaam India, and not for playing cricket.

  • Sujay_Dallas on January 23, 2008, 23:10 GMT

    Sambit, excellent article. I would like to take a different perspective here and provide you an analogy: In a house of 2 or more kids, you would find one as the naughty one and others not. And that changes when the kids grow up. It is the naughty kids who make the house interesting & fun to live in. Also, any team needs to have diversity...we can not have all of them as Tendulkars or Dravids or Kumbles. Each member brings in their own positives. What did Sreesanth do wrong in charging to Tendulkar and glaring at him? He is doing so in his best effort to rattle the batsman. Whether he is successful in that or not is another matter. I believe Sreesanths & Harbhajans should be there in any team provided they are well controlled and leveraged as assets by the team leaders like Kumbles & Dravids. Hope you would appreciate this perspective.

    Sujay Dutta is a avid reader of Cricinfo.

  • m_prathap on January 23, 2008, 23:07 GMT

    "Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, India have had three of the toughest ever cricketers, who haven't ever needed to lose their manners to compete" - How true. Well said Sambit. There is definitely a lesson to learn for the Indian youngsters from these legends, not only about the game, but the mannerisms. These three make me proud not only because they are the best in the game but becasue they bring so much dignity to the game and respect to their country.

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  • m_prathap on January 23, 2008, 23:07 GMT

    "Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, India have had three of the toughest ever cricketers, who haven't ever needed to lose their manners to compete" - How true. Well said Sambit. There is definitely a lesson to learn for the Indian youngsters from these legends, not only about the game, but the mannerisms. These three make me proud not only because they are the best in the game but becasue they bring so much dignity to the game and respect to their country.

  • Sujay_Dallas on January 23, 2008, 23:10 GMT

    Sambit, excellent article. I would like to take a different perspective here and provide you an analogy: In a house of 2 or more kids, you would find one as the naughty one and others not. And that changes when the kids grow up. It is the naughty kids who make the house interesting & fun to live in. Also, any team needs to have diversity...we can not have all of them as Tendulkars or Dravids or Kumbles. Each member brings in their own positives. What did Sreesanth do wrong in charging to Tendulkar and glaring at him? He is doing so in his best effort to rattle the batsman. Whether he is successful in that or not is another matter. I believe Sreesanths & Harbhajans should be there in any team provided they are well controlled and leveraged as assets by the team leaders like Kumbles & Dravids. Hope you would appreciate this perspective.

    Sujay Dutta is a avid reader of Cricinfo.

  • aditya87 on January 23, 2008, 23:18 GMT

    You are right in saying that you can be tough without too much lip on the field. I can't speak for the Australians, but I'm a young Indian fan and don't particularly like the way Sreesanth has been behaving recently. Someone needs to seriously tell him to shut up and concentrate on his bowling. In general, that's where the younger players should learn when to draw the line: they must remember how Saurav Ganguly played when he was a young captain and never took a backward step and was never afraid to say a few things on the field, but also never really crossed the line like Sreesanth. A bit of sledging and aggression is fine as long as it's not personal, but the stuff that people like Sreesanth and Nel indulge in is made for Bollywood and crap movies like Salaam India, and not for playing cricket.

  • Kamakshi on January 23, 2008, 23:20 GMT

    Absolutely right when you say that there are far worthier things to admire and learn from the Aussies. Their never-say-die attitude whether its a no 10 and 11 batting to get another 150 runs or bowling in the last ten minutes with about four wickets left to get. Their commitment to saving every run, to hunt as packs and sacrifice everything for the greater good of the team. If the Indians want to match the Aussies there are far better ways in which we should endevour to do so, rather than matching them, in perhaps their worst quality. Brett Lee is the perfect example of hard, yet fair. A fiery bowler whose in-your-face every over, every delivery, and yet doesnt't stir up rancour or obsess after personal vendetta's. Hope its a cracking test match and that all the talk and articles post Adelaide is about the high quality of cricket rather than high quality sledges.

  • ccrjd on January 23, 2008, 23:24 GMT

    I think the game in Perth was about as interesting as the page of P.C. writing above.

    The only thing to surface from Perth was that the umpires who were constantly scouring the field for anyone who forgot to say "excuse me" when they stopped a shot from reaching the boundary.

    I assume that both teams were on severe cautions to behave impeccably and this resulted in one of the worst tests to watch in a long time. Possibly just behind some of those toothless runfests that proliferate on the subcontinent. In the final wash up it was simply India's bowlers ability to bowl to the conditions that made the difference.

    With the powers that be rolling over in the Harbhajan and the umpire scandals, we can only hope that this "hush wash" was only for one test and everyone can get on with it again in Adelaide.

  • ExCric on January 23, 2008, 23:26 GMT

    One of the best articles I have read so far. No finger wagging at any team, just good old fashioned facts about what cricket really needs to be about. This should also be made compulsory reading for the fans on BOTH sides as they have the tendency to get quite anal at times.

  • jamrith on January 23, 2008, 23:45 GMT

    Good article and the younger Indian players would do well to emulate their seniors by keeping their cool. It is unfortunate that Sreesanth's motor-mouth is in operation again. However, while the egregious umpiring errors in Sydney as well as the Aussies' over-the-top gamesmanship can be forgotten and forgiven, what is unpardonable is the kangaroo-court justice meted out to Harbhajan by the match referee. The proceedings of the initial hearing as well as the appeal must be revealed in full if we are to believe that the judgement was fair and not racially motivated.

  • Ells on January 23, 2008, 23:45 GMT

    I find it interesting that the Australians were accused of 'over-celebrating' after the Sydney test and yet no one has accused the Indian team of doing the same in Perth. The Indian celebration was no less extravagent than the Aussies and both teams were rightfully ecstatic to win the respective tests.

    Do we even dare mention Harbhajan's celebration after dismissing Ponting and that was just one wicket.

    I have no problem with teams excitedly celebrating victories but at least apply criticism equally. If the Australians were over the top then so were the Indians.

    International sport should be played hard and competitively and as in most top level team sport some amount or verbal banter / abuse / sledging is present, racial abuse is not acceptable anywhere though and that is where the clear line needs to be drawn.

  • ccrjd on January 23, 2008, 23:46 GMT

    I think the game in Perth was about as interesting as the page of P.C. writing above.

    The only thing to surface from Perth was that the umpires who were constantly scouring the field for anyone who forgot to say "excuse me" when they stopped a shot from reaching the boundary.

    I assume that both teams were on severe cautions to behave impeccably and this resulted in one of the worst tests to watch in a long time. Possibly just behind some of those toothless runfests that proliferate on the subcontinent. In the final wash up it was simply India's bowlers ability to bowl to the conditions that made the difference.

    With the powers that be rolling over in the Harbhajan and the umpire scandals, we can only hope that this "hush wash" was only for one test and everyone can get on with it again in Adelaide.

  • rastus_odinga_esquire on January 24, 2008, 0:03 GMT

    It seems to me that this "spirit of the game" nonsense is wheeled out when Australia wins - but little is said when they lose. If Australia were not playing in the spirit of the game then it must work on both sides - meaning that they would be the poorest losers in the game as well. But they are not poor losers. They accept that losing is all part of the game. They also accept that bad umpiring decisions are part of the game, too. Yet, how do India react to losing? By attempting to hold the ICC and the cricket world to ransom, making personal remarks in the media, blaming the Aussies for "not being nice guys" - expecting them to walk when none of the Indian walk. If the worst that can be said of the Aussies are that, "They are not nice." Fine with me. I would prefer that they not be nice, than try, say, ball tempering ala Tendulkar. Kumble is right. One of the teams is not playing in the spirit of the game, and it's his team with their belligerence and appalling sense of entitlement