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Mud flying all around

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A bunch of big, tough bad boys start bullying a bunch of younger, less tougher kids during a little game. A series of incidents of bad behaviour and unsportsmanlike actions ensue. The kids retaliate, the bad boys complain, but general sympathy is with the kids and the bad boys are roundly admonished.

Round 1 goes to the kids.

The kids continue whining and look to make a big issue out of it. They bring their big, powerful father in the picture and ask him to mend it all. The bad boys are criticized a bit more but the general idea is to get on with the game.

Round 2 is even, but the kids are beginning to lose ground on account of being spoilt.

After the game, both set of parents look to settle the issue. Turns out the kids were, in fact, laying false accusations on the big boys in order to gather support, and were lying themselves. They should, rightfully, be punished but the big daddy steps in. He threatens his counterpart with his muscle power and clout. The spoilt kids threaten to take away their bats and stumps unless the verdict, whether fair or not, is in their favour. The rival parent cowers under the pressure and prevails over his reluctant, indignant and understandably grumpy boys to calm down, forgive and forget.

At the end of Round 3 there are no winners, and everyone is a loser.

It really is a pathetic and disheartening state of affairs where everyone is guilty of some crime, everyone has mud on their clothes, and the debate is who is dirtier than the rest, and not who is cleaner than the rest.

The only way that the Indian Board could surprise anyone now is by reaching new levels of stupidity, and the consistency with which they manage to breach their own abysmal records is amazing.

Chartering a plane to fly your players home* if the jury doesn't deliver a verdict in your favour is not a sign of solidarity; it is a sign that reeks with the disgusting odour of arrogance. A significant portion of Australians shook their heads in disapproval at the end of the Sydney Test, and I would be disappointed if a larger number of Indians do not grimace at this act of the BCCI.

Cricket stands at the edge of a ledge of a mountain slope, from where it can climb higher and achieve huge peaks, spurred on with the popularity of Twenty20 and the relatively high standards of Test cricket seen in recent games. But it is a sharp drop, and it is very easy to tip over and fall down to oblivion. One of the biggest challenges facing the game is the threat that its popularity will funnel down to the subcontinent, and define the nature and extent of the game, reducing its reach, extent and growth. Dominance of any sort, from any single entity is a major threat to the survival of a world game.

The BCCI has always been myopic and self-involved, eager to throw its weight around and remain completely blind to the big picture. Its immature tantrums, the support it has received from the Sri Lankan Board (headed, incidentally, by Arjuna Ranatunga, the leading contender in the 'No.1 Australia Hater' race) and CA wilting under pressure and actually persuading (read forcing) its own players to go easy on their charges is possibly the single most disastrous cricketing event in the last few years. Worse than the Oval-Darrel Hair-Inzy fiasco, and several degrees worse than the ODI World Cup failure (which was a blessing in many ways, urging the game into the next stage of its evolution).

The Indian players haven't covered themselves in glory either. Or, to use more fitting phrases, the cover of sympathy that they had on before the stump camera evidence came in has now slipped off leaving a dubious and not entirely clean underbelly. Here is the actual footage of what happened (check the video link to the right of the article). In the middle of Harbhajan's altercation with Symonds, Hayden had this to say: Now you have witness, champ...it's racial vilification, mate. To which Harbhajan responded by protesting that Symonds had started it.
 
There are two possible things that could have happened here, and one is certainly more likely than the other. The unlikely possibility, balanced on the flimsy support of the lack of evidence rather than its availability, is that Harbhajan did not say 'monkey', in which case there is nothing to bother with. But the second possibility, supported by logic, is that he did say the word. Why else would his first reaction be 'He started it' and not 'Hey I did nothing of that sort'. Think about it. If you were accused of insulting someone when you haven't, would you first deny the charge, or would you justify why you did it?

What this implies is that Harbhajan lied, and quite disappointingly, so did Sachin. The first sore note is that the basis of the great Indian protest drama is built on the dubious footing of a lie. The second painful point here is that there was no real need to do so - there is no question that the three test ban was harsh because there was no racist undertones involved. The two could well have accepted that Bhajji had, in fact, used the word in the heat of the moment but it clearly had no racial undertones, and the ban was unfair. Which was what the final verdict anyway was.

By now it is well known that Sachin's high pedestal position amongst the Australian players is now sullied, they look at him now as someone who has lied, and someone whose integrity is no longer sparkling clean. This turn of events will come as a severe disappointment to anyone who is a fan or supporter of the man. Sachin has never been a spanking clean, no-controversy player, but he is widely admired and looked up to, and for him to be caught lying is extremely shameful. If he has been lying, and there are indications that he has, seeing the great hall of famer so exposed is very disturbing. Even someone like this writer whose first instinctive reaction is to look for arguments to defend him is left clutching at straws.

The turn of events are so soaked in mud that one actually ends up sympathizing and agreeing with the Australian players, whose guilt list shouldn't be any less acceptable or pardonable. One actually feels for Symonds, Ponting and co. who have been forced to toe an official line and nod to the wishes of the rich kid.

However, any complaint from their end should be viewed through the right prism, for clearly, calling someone a monkey or denying that you did so is certainly not any worse than claiming catches which have clearly been grassed and completely misusing a sportsmanlike pre-match agreement. From a cricketing standpoint, the former is a lesser offence compared to the latter which involves attempting to influence play through unfair and unethical means.
 
So, here is the final report card. The Indians are liars. The Indian board is power and money drunk and will do whatever is needed to have its way. The Australian players are the bad boys who provoked and triggered off the whole hullabaloo in the first place. Cricket Australia has less steel in all its ties and suits put together than Steve Waugh does in his little finger. And Mike Procter's incompetence is, well, the one thing that all the warring factions will actually agree with.
 
The only ones to have escaped with their reputations untarnished are the monkeys, who have been dragged into this whole mess for now fault of theirs, and probably have a bit more maturity than everyone else involved in this imbroglio.


*(What they did was charter a plane to fly the entire Indian squad back home if the verdict, fair or not, went against Harbhajan, abandoning the tri-series and the tour, which effectively meant blackmailing the Aussie cricket board with the support of the broadcasters, ESPN STAR, who threatened a big lawsuit should the series not go on, and Sri Lanka, who blew off any plans of an alternate Australia vs Sri Lanka series should India go back. Cricket Australia, not surprisingly, duly caved in.)
 
Click here to know more about Sreeram Ramachandran 





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