For someone who loathes being jingoistic and believes that chest beating reflects a mindset riven with an inferiority complex, the last five days have been a mind-churning experience. Much as one hated the intimidating aggression of our rivals and squirmed at the way Indians love to hide behind the veil of “unfair play” as a cover-up for their inferior skills, there was still great admiration for the way Australians play their cricket.
Waking up the day after the loss, one expectedly finds the newspapers doing their bit to add to what the TV channels have been telling us —about how biased umpiring did us in. Then, one part of you wants to say why blame the umpires alone? Why blame the Australians? Why couldn’t our team last two sessions on the final day. Even after having been literally mowed down by the umpires, we should have been able to save the match.
No matter how many dollops of jingoistic claptrap our media dishes out, the fact remains that in the end we just could not bat for 70 overs to save a Test.
And yet there is something within you that says you are not being fair. You are not being fair to a team that, despite their timid defeat in the first Test, had fought with a tigerish resolve on the first day of the Sydney Test. Had the umpires not intervened, India could have dismissed the best team in the world for around 250 runs. Even after the damning finger had done incalculable harm to India’s chances, they still out-batted the Australians. It was an exceptional performance. Had the umpiring been fair, India would have, even by a conservative estimate, been ahead by at least 150 runs.
We can’t blame the Australians here as the umpires are appointed by the ICC. Fair or unfair, they can’t be accused of conspiring with the umpires to put India on the mat. This is something for which the ICC should take all the blame and introspect seriously why incompetent umpiring and handling of the game should spoil a Test match.
But India, despite all the wrongs done to them on the field, could have still salvaged a draw and been in a much stronger position to take a high moral ground and tell the umpires and the Australians of what they thought of them.
And yet, the images that are now stuck in the mind are those of a smug, arrogant Ricky Ponting appealing for a catch even after he had grounded the ball; of Michael Clarke standing his ground even after being caught in the slips and of the same man’s word being accepted by the umpire that he had taken a fair catch in the slips.
Images of a self-righteous Ponting telling the umpire that Clarke had taken the catch and also that of Adam Gilchrist jumping in glee
behind the stumps after catching Rahul Dravid off his pads.
You would say what is wrong in all this. All players do it, not just the Australians. Yet something snapped within you. This is not cricket and this is not the way a champion side should play their sport.
The captain of the best team in the world should take lessons in grace and dignity from the man whose team he was sickeningly desperate to beat.
There is definitely something to be proud of in the way Anil Kumble played his cricket and if you are an Australian, there is something definitely to be embarrassed at the way Ponting played his cricket.