If ever there was proof needed that Australia are itching to pick a nasty fight with India, Matthew Hayden provided that in no uncertain terms while speaking to a Brisbane radio station on Tuesday.
<b1>“It’s been a bit of a long battle with Harbhajan, the first time I ever met him he was the same little obnoxious weed that he is now,” Hayden was quoted as telling a radio show, adding that Bhajji’s “record (of on-field behaviour) speaks for itself in cricket”. “There is a certain line that you can kind of go to and then you know where you push it and he just pushes it all the time.”
He said India were complaining (about the Aussies provoking them) because “they are losing every game they are playing”.
In addition to the incivility, the irony of Hayden being the one making these remarks is not lost on the Indians. Hayden is one of three Aussies — Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds being the others — with whose behaviour the Indian cricketers are extremely unhappy. “He will not stop making sarcastic or plain rude remarks, whether he is fielding or batting,” said an Indian player. “It is very difficult to not get upset and we don’t see why he is allowed to get away with his constant barbs.”
The tri-series finals beginning on Sunday are likely to be high-voltage ties, given a series of spats, the last one being between Symonds and Ishant. On Tuesday, MS Dhoni said as much. “It has never been friendly (India-Oz games)… Cricket is not friendly. There is going to be a clash on the field and it is okay as long as teams don’t cross the limit.”
But Hayden’s comments have crossed that line and how a largely young, aggressive India react will be interesting. While no official reaction was forthcoming from the Indian camp, one player said privately that Hayden had clearly “lost it”. “If he’s said this, he’s gone crazy. It’s not strategy, it’s insane and asking for a fight. And if he wants that, we’ll give it to him.”
But Dhoni suggested earlier that he had a strategy in mind. “It’s an art… How to react to things said on the field, a lot more than simple things like sledging or bantering. The sooner our players learn that the better for them.”
They had better, because the BCCI isn’t about to get involved on this one. Board secretary Niranjan Shah told HT in Mumbai that the Board “wouldn’t like to react to any and every stupid comment that the players make”. “I have already raised the issue of sledging and the use of abusive language with the ICC last week and both the boards have agreed on the issue of players’ behaviour,” he said.