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Was it just sledging or much more?

So why did Hayden do it? The Australian opener is no child or a wet-behind-the-ears rookie, ponders Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2008 03:07 IST
Kadambari Murali

Why did Hayden do it? If you hear Matthew Hayden talking on The Cage, a breakfast show on Brisbane’s Triple M radio station (if you haven’t, hear it onhttp://www.triplem.com. au/brisbane/sport/haydenspray.html), you’re bound to get really ticked off.

Not because Hayden (now infamously) called Harbhajan Singh an ‘obnoxious weed’ but because there will now be more reaction and overreaction and it’s all so darn unnecessary.

So why did Hayden do it? The Australian opener is no child or a wet-behind-the-ears rookie. At 36, he’s one of the game’s most accomplished batsmen, with 15 years of international cricket behind him.

The radio show he chattered away on apparently has a reputation for being saucy and provocative, but unless the podcast that’s online has been edited, there is no indication that Hayden was provoked beyond reason by the RJs. In any case, he is a seasoned campaigner and shouldn’t have gotten provoked even if he was needled. So why did Hayden do it?

There are two ways of looking at this whole situation. On the one hand, you can try and ignore the clamour and say, “this is endless, let’s concentrate on the cricket and push away the rest of the tosh”.

Deliberate ploy against India?
On the other hand, even though the atmosphere of attrition between India and Australia is highly wearying, it is impossible to separate the cricket from the rather messy imbroglios that are constantly exploding onto centrestage. Again, because logically, they seem stage-managed, deliberate ploys to have the Indians so riled that they forget to play even whatever little sessions of good cricket they come up with now and then.

There was no earthly reason for a smart, experienced player like Hayden to make obnoxious comments on public radio about an Indian player or make fun of another. If you hear the show, you’ll hear him trying to mimic Ishant Sharma’s accent and manner of speaking and given the current atmosphere, that isn’t fun and games, it’s racial. Period. It’s all very well for Cricket Australia to tell this newspaper that any other charge was never laid against Hayden, only that of making “detrimental public comment” but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t take note of this. It is serious nonsense.

There is no way Hayden or anyone else could have believed that his comments would stay in the Queensland area and not be broadcast to the world and its mother. That he did still make immature, insensitive remarks indicates that he/they thought it would help their cause in some way.

It’s cricket not war
Post the Sydney controversy, there was talk about how Australians say it as it is (or as they see it) and about Hayden and Symonds being prime examples of big, strong Aussie men who give as good as they get. But this is cricket, not war. Nor some barbaric I-beat-you-and-thump-my-chest ritual that we need to be subjected to ever so often. It is high time it was stopped.

Harbhajan himself is no angel. Far from it. Neither are the other young Indian players, most of who are reflective of a brazen new generation of young and restless Indians, blatantly seduced by the concept of what they believe is ‘India Shining’, and quite happy to rub everyone else’s faces in it. They are as unused to words like “restraint” and “control” as the Aussies clearly are. At the same time, for the past couple of months or so, these young Indians have kept their calm for the most and generally behaved with rare grace. When they have chattered, it’s mostly been reaction, not provocation and that too, sparingly.

As tough as it might be, it would serve them well to try and keep their emotions on a tight leash for the moment and channel all that angry energy into their cricket.

Australia are the better team and by far the most consistent. India will need all their wits about them when they play them in the tri-series finals beginning Sunday. Sometimes, when you’re provoked, it’s better to let your bat do the talking.