Monday 7 January 2008

Audacity of Hope

The last day of Sydney test saw two moments of sheer brilliance, that got eclipsed in face of unfortunate events of Sunday.

The first one was a purely cricketing one -Tendulkar's dismissal - result of a plan brilliantly conceived and equally well executed by the duo of Adam Gilchrist and Stuart Clark.

The second one may sound trivial to many, but was hugely significant, in the context of acrimonious events that had marred the test that far. Anil Kumble flicked the fourth ball of a Clark over, only to hit the forward shortleg fielder, Phil Jaques, where it hurts the most. Given the match situation, Kumble could have been excused had he turned a blind eye to the man in pain. Instead, the Indian captain walked across and with a friendly tap on Jaques' shoulders confirmed if he was indeed ok. It was a gesture, perhaps alien to most Australian cricketers, but it found an echo in Anil Kumble's post match remark on only one team playing in the true spirit of the game.

On a day when, Kangaroos erased the already thin line between playing tough cricket, as is their wont, and showing gross contempt for the spirit of the game, I was also reminded of a Colin Cowdrey lecture delivered at the MCC by Sunil Gavaskar, four years ago. Said Sunny:

The MCC is the custodian of the Laws of the game, and thanks to the initiative of men like Colin Cowdrey, Ted Dexter and Tony Lewis, to name just three, they have now put down in writing the Spirit of Cricket, which for more than a hundred years was only spoken about and observed, too, until the late 1980s, and now has been put down in print so that not only Test and international cricketers know what it means, but also youngsters who are taking up the game.

But what does it tell us to have to put the Spirit of Cricket in black and white? It tells us that the old adage: "It's not cricket", which applied to just about everything in life, is no longer valid - and that's a real pity. In the modern world of commercialization of the game and the advent of satellite television and the motto of winning at all costs, sportsmanship has gone for a six.

At Sydney, the Aussies indeed tossed it for a huge six!

Amongst the many reasons that made the Australian team my favourite over the years, was that they played a 'give no inch' brand of cricket. They also brought fresh ideas to the game, whether playing on the field or coaching off it. So when Ricky Ponting used a carbon graphite reinforced bat or when Adam Gilchrist stuffed a squash ball beneath his glove during the recent 2007 WC final, I thought, it was cricketing innovation at its very best. No wonder they dominated the game for well over a decade.

But being a champion team for this long, also made them forget to deal with situations when chips are down. While the Australians intimidate the opposing teams with their aggressive brand of cricket, it is when the opposing team refuses to get intimidated, that the Australians show their true colours, Sydney test just being the case in point. It is cricket's misfortune that not many teams have succeeded in doing so in recent past.

I won't be surprised if this Australian team under Ricky Ponting extends the current winning streak to few more matches. Even less surprising would be, if they plumb lower depths in this quest.

Unlike the Democrat's Presidential nominations race, that lost its 'sense of inevitability' following Barack Obama's victory in Iowa, this series retains very much of it, going into the third test at Perth. And for the first time, I wish, this Australian team under Ricky Ponting is cut down to size in next two tests. For the sake of good of cricket, if not for India.

A tall order? Yes. Wishful thinking? Very much.

But what's hope, if not audacious?

14 comments:

Golandaaz said...

You capture it well. Indeed this australian team cannot handle tough opponents and are quite soft in the core. They behaved like children who simply wanted the cookies. to hell with manners.

And they may argue against it but the perception is building that this is an ugly team.

Read this http://www.theage.com.au/news/cricket/ponting-must-be-sacked/2008/01/07/1199554570948.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

Ottayan said...

CG,

I believe that the Sydney test would prove a jolt to the Aussie self absorption.

Once they realise that they are but men, it is just one step to doubt and then another to diminshing confidence.

Eventhough I dont agree that the Indian team should call off the tour, in a way I am hoping that it happens, purely to give the Aussies a much needed slap on their face for bad behaviour.

Soulberry said...

Outstanding, lucid and perhaps the best cricket article written on the net through all this.

My salutations CG.

It is good for the Australians themselves that they are asking searching questions.

Straight Point said...

But what's hope, if not audacious?

very true...and very nicely put...we all should move on...the only problem is where...

...i am with OTT on his call for the tour...

scorpicity said...

CG... you moved me

Vidooshak said...

CG -- Great writing. Indeed the Aussies have been disciplined and innovative and therefore have won. But, they just lost their soul. This could be the begginning of the end despite the Aussies winning a few more.

Hanuman said...

CG if the atrocious umpiring decisions did not happen, India won the match and Harbi didn't open his mouth, would this article have seen the light of day?

How much of this communal Indian "lashing out" is due to the hurt of this unjust loss and the blow to the national pride at accusation of one of their own being racist?

Do you think perhaps the combined blows have culminated in a single reaction more than the individual parts deserved.

Hanuman said...

Some more balanced thoughts in the same vein in this article.

http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/current/story/329824.html

viklele said...

Very nicely put.

Though, the racist allegation leaves me wondering, if calling someone dog or rat would amount to the same. On that count, we can call Aussies racist - for singling out "monkey" as a racist slur ;-)

Reminds me of a story I heard as a kid - a king could tolerate any kind of joke at his expense, but one day someone called him "Gunja" (completely bald), he was sentenced to death. Why, 'caz the king was actually bald. The rest, I leave unsaid.

Indian team has certainly changed dramatically in their ways after Ganguly took over the captaincy way back.

Time and again they have shown ability to take the fight to the opposition - even in the Sydney test it amply demonstrated. Am not saying that the result WOULD have been different but for the poor outing by the "white coat wallas". Certainly, the possibility can't be denied.

An eternal optimist that I am - the tour is not over till the last ball is bowled.

Cricket Guru said...

Hi all and thank you for your good words. I am truly overwhelmed.

Golandaaz,
Ricky Ponting and co may care two hoots about the image their team carries, but are Indians really any different? I will refer to this in my next post.
I read Roebuck's article when you first posted it in 'Disturbing Australians'. Do you think Kumble's reference to only one team playing in the true spirit of the game hurt the Aussies more than anything and prompted a wave of criticism from ex players/columnists?

Ott and SP,
If this Sydney test does not shake the Aussies, then I doubt, if anything will! But I cannot agree with you on calling off the tour.

SB
I have said this before. You are aware of it too, but I will repeat - there are many times when I wish I could write as well as you. I am not being modest at all.


Scorpi,
Thanks again.

Vidooshak,
True. I have never seen an Australian captain/players having to answer so many questions in victory, a point well made by Golandaaz in his post.

I hope to see you more often on CaAt and other blogs.

Hanuman,
I never referred to umpiring decisions and Harbhajan case in my post. My views are entirely different on it. Perhaps I am in a minority. I will allude to it in my next post.

But you have asked a very valid question, would India have reacted in the same manner had they managed to escape with a draw or even better, won the match? I seriously doubt it.

Vikram,
Welcome to the 'Club Optimiste'. I don't know if I am the right person to welcome you, but Soulberry (SB) Golandaaz and Tubby, are its founding as well as permanent members! :)

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