9th January 2008, 18:54
Debut: Feb 2006
Sydney siege one slip from a bloodbath
Sydney siege one slip from a bloodbath
Peter Lalor Blog | January 08, 2008
THERE’s a siege at the hotel. A gun is pointed at the baby’s head. The footpath is full of reporters and cameras and fans shouting nationalistic slogans.
Turn off the sirens, put down the megaphone and proceed with the utmost caution. Don’t spook the horses. That’s a nervous finger on the trigger.
Give them a bus, fill it with petrol and let them cool down in the sea. For god’s sake don’t let them swim outside the flags.
We just don’t need another disaster.
Indian cricket is twitching and hasn’t been sleeping. It’s been up all night on the phone, talking across time zones. It needs to be treated with respect and taken seriously.
The Indians are deadly serious on this one.
Cricket needs to examine the Indians’ grievances, but it’s not easy. Trying to work out what the problem is here is akin to a game of Where’s Wally?
Where to begin?
The Indians are upset with the International Cricket Council over the conviction of Harbhajan Singh for racism.
They want him freed or the baby is going to get it.
They believe the bowler and Sachin Tendulkar told the truth and that Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden did not.
The match referee did not believe the Indians. Doubting Harbhajan is one thing, questioning Tendulkar is heresy.
Tendulkar has been a catalyst in this.
He has apparently sent a text message to the head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India backing the bowler and pushing for a boycott unless the conviction is overturned.
Feeding the Indian angst are a number of grievances arising from the Sydney Test. Grievances with the umpires and the Australian players.
They believe the umpires dudded them and they have fair cause. They wanted Steve Bucknor removed. The authorities have caved in on that one and that’s good as it seems to have calmed everybody a little.
One senior player claimed the Australians “cheated” in Sydney and the side contained “liars” over the issues of walking, or not, catching and not catching. India is peddling a fair line in hypocrisy here. Or shall we say, let those who have not sinned bat first?
Go to YouTube and type in “Dhoni” and “Pieterson” (sic) or “cheat”. You will see the Indian wicketkeeper, a man with a reputation for his good sportsmanship and for walking when he nicks, claiming a catch off Kevin Pietersen in last year’s Test series against England.
For all the world the ball appears to bounce before Dhoni claims it and umpire Simon Taufel raises his finger after Pietersen’s decision to walk. Pietersen then turns on his heel after urging from team-mates who had seen the replay. The on-field umpires then decide to refer the incident to the third umpire. Pietersen is given not out and the booing England crowd cheers.
Cameras can lie on these matters, but the Indians believe Clarke claimed to have caught Sourav Ganguly in similar circumstances. If it is such a heinous crime for Clarke why is it not so for Dhoni, the team’s leader-in-waiting?
The Indians are upset that Clarke didn’t walk until he was given out, but seem quite comfortable with Yuvraj Singh and a number of their batsmen taking an age to walk when actually given out.
And of course, India No11 Ishant Sharma also waited for the umpire’s decision after he, too, snicked to first slip for the match-deciding wicket.
Which crime is worse, waiting for an umpire or waiting after the umpire has told you to go?
Certainly Clarke should have walked when he hit it, but maybe, like Yuvraj said in his own defence in the first Test, Clarke was too stunned to move. It was, after all, a golden duck.
Ponting’s claimed catch is harder to defend when you know the rules of cricket. In his defence Ponting didn’t claim one that bounced in the first innings and perhaps his interpretation of the rule is that he had control of body and ball before hitting the earth.
As for Bucknor, well, that’s another interesting one.
It could also be argued that India won last year’s England series because the umpires did not give Sree Santh out leg before wicket in the last minutes of the first Test, allowing India to hang on for a draw.
Sree Santh was plumb, the umpire appeared to have made an error. Guess who was officiating? That’s right, Bucknor.
These events are not mentioned in the grievance list handed over to negotiators during the Sydney hotel siege, nor is the decision which saved Tendulkar when Clarke trapped him in front early in his big century.
These are just things you might want to think about but keep to yourself because nobody wants to upset anybody further. Nobody is in the mood to be reasonable.
Harbhajan’s defenders are claiming that there was no incident in Mumbai last October. They are also arguing that if it happened why didn’t Ponting take it to the referee then. And they’re arguing that Ponting and Kumble should have defied the ICC and dealt with it like men.
Oh, hang on, they are also arguing that “monkey” isn’t a racist term. Members of the BCCI have said this and it will be interesting news for the defence of people arrested for using the term in Mumbai late last year.
None of this, however, addresses the ongoing problem for Australian cricket. The Indians, despite all their announcements about fighting fire with fire and not taking a backward step, are screaming about how hard the Australians play cricket.
It appears, from a number of polls and blogs, that the majority of Australians agree with India.
Remember that there was no ill-feeling off the field in this match. The way the SCG crowd responded to Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid was extraordinarily warm and made you proud to be part of a cricket crowd that could treat visiting sportsmen so well. Especially having seen how Indian crowds treated Australia in the one-day series last year.
Australian cricketers have won the match but lost the public relations war on this one. India’s cricketers lost the Test but won the hearts and minds.
A crisis shines a harsh light on many things and perhaps brings peripheral matters into focus. There is an argument that Harbhajan was denied natural justice. If so, the ICC must address this.
There is evidence the umpiring was below standard and the ICC might want to think about its problems in this area.
There is an argument that Australia did not play fairly. The Australian players and officials must address this.
The team had a lecture on the spirit of cricket when they went into camp late last year. At it they were told “perception is reality”.
If that is the case, there is a lot of work to be done. It is no good being the best side in the world if nobody wants to watch you, or play against you.
India, for its part, has ridden roughshod over the ICC and the notion the game must go on.
If there is any realpolitik allowed into this situation it will be that India has the power to do what it wants and if upset it must be appeased, for the last thing cricket needs is India to pack its bat and ball and go home.
Right or wrong, the Indians hold the baby’s life in their hands.
Lies, Damn Lies & then there are stats about "caught behinds in gully"! Click Here