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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Cricket Columns

He's mortal after all
Atul Sondhi
March 16, 2007
First Published: 11:43 IST(16/3/2007)
Last Updated: 19:24 IST(16/3/2007)

Sunil Manohar Gavaskar plays with straight bat. At the peak of his career, this one of world's all-time best openers was perhaps the greatest in leaving deliveries, which had even the remotest chance of creating nuisance.

This approach continued in his post-retirement days as well. He could effortlessly steer clear of most controversies despite his repeated tirade against the archaic, old men in England and Australian establishments, hell bent upon imposing their world view and denying Asia their due share in the power equation.

As an analyst, he is without doubt one of the best in business. Most teams and fans believed that his comments on Australia's decline were not much off target.  But what got people by surprise was the way  he gave it back to Ricky Ponting for belittling his approach to cricket, and India's credentials as a cricketing superpower.

It seemed so unnecessary replying back to a man (Ponting) who was on the back foot with his team coming to the World Cup on the heels of five consecutive losses. And now, thanks to a moment of indiscretion, Gavaskar seems to have been well and truly trapped. Not because what he said was not right, but because in a moment of anger he brought the name of a dead man in the discussion, and not in a very positive light.

Now how much was David Hookes responsible for the fatal attack on him, one will never know. But a departed soul must be spared this trauma. By a common convention the world over, one refrains from bringing the negative traits of a dead man in any discussion involving two civilized people. Unless they happen to be universally condemned mass murderers like Hitler.


In comments aired on a Sydney Radio, Glenn McGrath has rightly called it ''very disrespectful (to a departed soul)''.  McGrath does say that Gavaskar was an amazing cricketer and has accepted his right to comment on the team, but has  criticised him (on Hookes) saying ''I think this time he's gone beyond."

In signs of more trouble to come, it is not just the Australians including the likes of Allan Border who have jumped into the fray. Former England Captain Tony Greig has called Gavaskar's  comments ''inappropriate'' and ''shocking''.  Mercifully, Cricket Australia has so far refused a response except expressing its ''disappointment with the comment''.

Probably, another India-Australia war of words was not entirely unexpected. Trouble has been simmering for a long time.  In November 2006, the way Ponting and Martyn had behaved with BCCI Chief Sharad Pawar on the winner's podium was most deplorable, something which Indians may still not have forgotten.

First there was an indication by Pointing to the BCCI President to leave the podium, and then followed a gentle, though extremely discourteous tap on Pawar's shoulder by Martyn, asking him to clear the stage for the Champions Trophy winners' group photograph.

Incidentally, the deplorable show had come on the heels of Asian Block ensuring the removal of  Darrell Hair as ICC Umpire, and the TV images of the incident involving Ponting, Martyn and Pawar generated tremendous outrage in India.

At that time, Gavaskar and Tendulkar were among the first to condemn the Aussie behaviour. Initially, Pawar, as gracious host, had decided to play down the incident, but later on described it as "totally uncivilised". 

But that time, the Australians were in the wrong. And they did apologise. This time, Sunny with all his experience, may have fallen to a moment of anger and indiscretion.

He need not apologise for his comments on the Australian team's antics, but a regret for bringing a dead man in discussion on Australians' ''conduct'' will go a long way towards soothing the frayed tempers.

Else, there is a possibility that this war of words may continue for lot many days to come, further sullying the atmosphere.


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