July 22, 2011

It's England v India, but not in a good way

One looks at the other in terms of tired clichés, the other insists on being an unaccommodating bully

"East is east and west is west and ne'er the twain shall meet" Rudyard Kipling wrote, and certainly the first half of the opening lines of his ballad still tend to ring true. For in spite of what Thomas Friedman may say about the world being flat, and in spite of world economies bringing nations closer, I can't help help get the feeling that England and India, two dominant cricketing nations with bonds that go much deeper than cricket alone, are standing arrayed against each other. I fear that neither particularly wants to understand the other, and that cannot be right for our game.

I sense that here in England that India is being looked at as an unprincipled bully. It need not be that way and it may not always be true either, but in the absence of an open dialogue that is how it is being represented in the media. And so it is on the DRS, on the issue of unhappy umpires - indeed on almost every aspect of the modern game. It doesn't help that India sometimes adopts this nouveau riche attitude of being loud and unaccommodating: my way or no other.

I believe India had a very valid point on the DRS: that ball-tracking with normal-speed cameras is not much good, and that - as even the opinion of the head of Virtual Eye bore out - we might be better off without it. But India is never very keen to explain its stand, preferring instead to make its point of view known to the world through terse statements.

England, for its part, often slips into tired clichés about India. To read some of the sports pages here would be to believe that an economic, and more appropriately a social, revolution never took place. To believe that India's emergence is largely because of western coaches, and that the toughness would never have come about without them, is to be lazy, and exposes an inability, or an unwillingness, to understand the new, globalised twenty-something Indian, and to understand that India's attitude on the field is but a direct illustration of the attitude of its young entrepreneurs and managers in industry.

India is still someone that needs to be withstood, someone who has newly come upon riches and has nothing else to offer. Why, in a debate on the future of Test cricket, even the Times, a fine newspaper if there was one, did not feel the need to get an Asian point of view.

And so there is far too much of this rather unpleasant us-and-them feeling. In some quarters in India we believe that it is our time to give it back to them, and that can be short-sighted and distinctly unfruitful. Having been treated rather rudely on my first tour here, I can understand that feeling, even if I can never accept it. While India bring substantial revenues to English cricket every four years, England showed their generosity by coming back to play Test matches in India after the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008. That was a great moment. It was one where bonds should have been strengthened, and indeed the Chennai Test is my favourite among the 99 the two sides have played so far, but I sense we have let it slip. England may seem unwilling to accept the present but India need to show a little more style and grace.

Now in the undisputed home of Test cricket (there isn't a ticket available for any day of this series), two teams stand arrayed against each other, but the two countries should not miss the chance to understand each other better. England provides more opportunities to cricketers through its leagues and counties than anyone else, and there is genuine love for the game here. India is the new market but needs to move from being the merchant to turning statesman, to looking at the world rather than at a region. Irrespective of which way the series goes, this is an opportunity we cannot miss.

For eventually we are bound together by a great game; it may no longer always be noble but it retains many great virtues. Maybe Kipling is right, for the ballad continues:

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
tho' they come from the ends of the earth!

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2011, 4:54 GMT

    I can understand when as an eminent journo,its imperative to be neutral,unbiased and objective in one's assessments, but i think becoming apologetic about your team becoming no.1 is quite unnecessary.Surely, its not a result of the BCCI's cash-power that the results of the present Indian team have been really good.Why discredit our own players in the face of hostile statements/lobbying from others?The tide is turning and whether you like it or not,there are certain economic realities that stare us in the face.Sulking and whining wont change the fact that the present century will not belong to the West.Coming back to the cricket,just because a team has a bad session/test, you dont need to start hopping on the band-wagon questioning their status as no. 1 test team.For God's sake, they've earned it and if they don't deserve it and somebody else does, they can very well earn it.Till such time though, lets accept that India's no.1 test side for the last one year.

  • Luke on July 24, 2011, 17:54 GMT

    DRS results in more correct decisions then without it. India are the only test nation to oppose it, yet they are accommodated - that is not right.

  • Senthil on July 24, 2011, 4:11 GMT

    Come on Harsha! India not having to explain its stand on anything can be interpreted in a hundred different ways, if not a billion something. I am reminded of the way India refused to open her markets to rampant liberalization not too long ago, and this cautious approach is now being hailed as the responsible thing to do. Just because the rest of the cricket world wants UDRS does not mean India cannot have its own reservations and judgment on this yet evolving technology. Before others find a way to give India its due credit, we as Indians should learn to cut our own people some slack. Wisdom does not have to explain itself. Knowledge might take on the pains of doing that. As for being perceived as a bully, perhaps those who perceive it are the ones wondering if karma has caught up with them? Either way, India did not invent the ranking system either. It irritates people who set the standards when someone else measures up, does it not? Enjoy it or suffer it, not our call.

  • Saad on July 24, 2011, 3:33 GMT

    Well Harsha all I can say is toughen up. It is your first away tour after india won the worldcup. Your still to tour to Australia later in the year and gonna take some stick here as well. It is not something that is due to BCCI's bullying nature. BCCI is bullying the world cricket from the beginning of the century. This (recent criticism) is something that comes with the world no 1 tag. Remember the time when the whole cricketing world criticised australia not so long ago. Come to think about it they didn't do nothing too bad. Sure there was their 'mind deterioration'. but they were bloody good at it. Good enough to provoke other players and somehow getting them to be penalized. It was because they were in complete control of what they did, never broke a law but provoked other to do it. Come to think about it england have always been harder sledgers then aus. Bottom line harsh, this something you will have to cope with.

  • amit on July 23, 2011, 23:47 GMT

    @mensan lol.... world knows SRT scored all his 99 100's against ZIM and BANG.... lets stop it here only......

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2011, 22:22 GMT

    good article Harsh. really admire your thoughts and the clarity in which you express them

  • Umar on July 23, 2011, 18:52 GMT

    UDRS is not perfect. That's why India won world cup. Because Tendulkar survived LBW in semi-final against Saeed Ajmal.

    BCCI must arrange a 5 test series against Zimbabwe to give Tendulkar chance for 100th 100.

  • manish on July 23, 2011, 8:44 GMT

    Harsha, I always fan of your writing skill and style, I have read several articles on DRS where I found your are the man who defend India on DRS issue. Neither Indian players nor BCCI officials could put their view precisely as you made it clear. Because of terse statements made by Indian officials, abroad media have made a devil image of Indian on this issue while Indian stand was quite valid. Not being a rich board but being as any other cricket board India has to put his stand on DRS issue and no on can refrain it to appose the DRS. I totally agree with harsha that Indians can not speak even their view is quite true on he legal point of view and let off the issue after making terse statement. That is a point which makes arrogant image of India which BCCI dose'not have even Indians also can believe that BCCI is misusing its power.

  • Kevin on July 23, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    @suraj I think you got it wrong buddy. In the movies, the villager dreams of the big life (india in 90's) and finally achieves all its goals by becoming a very rich and powerful man (india now). Soon, it realizes that all its old friends have left them (SL, Bangla, South Africa) and realizes that he has changed to a greedy/mean/bad person. By the time he learns the error of his ways, he is too late as somebody had already died (i have no idea what analogy to put that to) and tries to change back. Look at Aus... they were in same mentality until they beat Windies in the late 80's and took over. Then in the early 2000's they turned to one of the biggest bullies cricket has seen (reminds me of high school jocks in those movies who pick on everyone). Now they have lost their pride/place and are humbled, but there is a new bully in town - Team India

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2011, 7:12 GMT

    Kudos to Nutcutlet. I'm an English fan of a similar opinion. I've been really looking forward to this series and seeing these great Indian players, perhaps for the last time. English tabloid media is not representative of most cricket fans here. India has not helped itself over DRS, leaving outsiders to interpret what appears to be an inflexible point of view. Tabloids assume sensational viewpoints to sell papers. They are equally scathing about our own sportsmen. Some of the Indian resentment seems decades out of date. Regarding weakened tours for example. The MCC regularly used to send more than one team abroad, all losing money. This was part of the evangelical outlook, spreading the game worldwide. Would Sri Lanka (Ceylon) have made such a quick assimilation into the game without it? India are often portrayed of late as asking 'what's in it for us' before what's good for the game. I'm encouraged by some of the fan comments here. Let's put the game first. The money is already there.

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