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Oz team: Bunch of backstreet boys?

india Updated: Nov 08, 2006 05:50 IST

Way back in Feburary 2001, the Australian team had come to play a three-day match at Nagpur in preparation for the Mumbai Test.

Backed with 15 wins in a row, and an inspirational captain in Steve Waugh, determination was writ large on their faces. The world beating Australians were extremely confident of winning a Test series in India after three decades -- a confidence which Laxman and Harbhajan later dented.

However, the hordes of journalists who had descended in Nagpur were mainly interested in just one question. The question was first thrown on Steve Waugh in the on-ground press conference on day one of their training. How are the Australians trying to overcome the image of 'ugly Aussies'?

I do not exactly remember the answer Steve gave that day, but the image of him defending Australians' on-field aggression persists to this day. A defense, that may have been undone by a gentle, though extremely discourteous tap to Sharad Pawar on shoulder by Martyn, following an indication by Pointing to the BCCI President to leave the stage. The incident only reinforces this long-held notion, even though the event happened off the field.

There are two ways of looking at the unfortunate occurrence. One, it was a spontaneous move by the two Australians, who were too elated after winning the only major trophy which has eluded their trophy-case.

That is understandable as there were moments in the tournament when it looked that the jinx might continue and trophy may once again slip from their grasp.

Loss to West Indies in the inaugural match, and then explosive opening stands by the opposing teams (England in the second match and West Indies in the final) were few such moments. Not counting the unseasonal rain in Mumbai, which threatened to take the match at least to the reserve day!

So the madness of the moment --  their last and most important match in one year before the quest to reclaim the Ashes --  can be very well understood.

The World Champions failed to acknowledge the generous hospitality of the host nation by waiting for a few seconds and allowing its Board President to vacate the stage with poise and grace, which has so much characterized Sharad Pawar in his one year as BCCI Chief.

But the second, and the more plausible explanation, is that the snub was deliberate. A very calculated and polite ''please get out of the way'' move.  It was not meant to insult Sharad Pawar, but was targeted at BCCI, which is perceived to be one of the main bodies behind the removal of Darrel Hair as ICC elite umpire.

Ban on Hair, which occurred a day before the final, has created enough bad blood with Skipper Ponting (though it is not a captain's business to defend umpires), Australian Board and ECB repeatedly coming to the defence of the now banned ''umpire with inexplicable moods''.

Earlier too, Malcolm Speed may have laughed at Lalit Modi calling ICC as East India Company, but his scathing comments, after India's elimination, on its cricketing prowess, showed that scars still remained. ICC has an affiliate who is bigger than the master! Something, which the master can't digest.

Kiran More, former chairman of selectors, has called for an apology, but the  very simple fact that any apology, if at all it comes, will come at least two days after the incident may give rise to many misgivings.

In case of an advertent offense, and given the reach of mass media, it should have been spontaneous. Even a regret would have done the trick!

It won't be surprising that in future press conferences, Australians will be asked again and again as to what they are doing to change their image.

The image of 'ugly Aussies' that has so much sullied the reputation of the men in yellow, that their conquests often take the back seat. That is the reason their every cricketing defeat is celebrated the world over, barring Australia.

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