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HindustanTimes Sat,22 Nov 2014

Cricket Columns

The ‘ugly’ face of a brave new India
Pradeep Magazine, Hindustan Times
October 20, 2007
First Published: 02:24 IST(20/10/2007)
Last Updated: 14:37 IST(20/10/2007)

In the reality show that is India today, there is every danger that the new, aggressive, young "superior" India could end up as a farcical entity, doing no good to itself and to those who wish it well.

In this new world, the gnawing, snarling, hissing face of a Sreesanth or the image of a Harbhajan Singh contorting his face is to be celebrated and much admired. "Give it back to them" is the refrain. After all, haven't we been at the receiving end of "racial slurs" from the white world for too long?

Haven't the crowds in Australia targetted us viciously? And, haven't the Australian players always been masters of sledging - so what are they complaining about?

In this brave new world that is India today, tit for tat is becoming our emblem, something to be flaunted with pride. We seem to be revelling in our newfound economic freedom, in our growing GDP and in the money that is flowing into the coffers of middle class, urban India.

As far as racism goes, what does that mean? We in India, who, for centuries, have discriminated against people on the basis of caste and colour, know the meaning only because the white world treated us as inferior beings! So what if our crowd calls West Indian players "bhoots" (ghosts). They are only taunting them because the colour of their skin is black, not because of any racist intentions!

Similarly, if Andrew Symonds is now the target of our ire, it has nothing to do with the colour of his skin or his hairstyle. It has to do with the man himself. How dare he taunt our players? How dare he take a "panga" with this new India? In this globalised world, India is now ahead of the world and what you do, we can do even better.

Oh yes, he has cricketing skills. Skills that make him someone special but we in India only respect good manners. For us now, meekness in others is a sign of our own aggressive strengths.

Anyone from India who has been to Australia on a cricket tour knows how stifling it gets there, especially when your team is doing badly and the media is poking fun at the players. There are many subtle ways in which they make you feel "inferior" and a section of the crowd targets the players with racist chants.

But there are also people there who condemn such behaviour and, in any case, two wrongs can never make a right.

On this Australian tour here, the verbal jousts have often gone out of control and a section of the media does seem to be supportive of what our players are doing. It almost seems as if the more aggressive someone is on the field, the better his chances of doing better.

Alas, it does not work that way. A team wins because it is superior in skills and not superior in antics. There may be much to be disliked in the Australian way of playing cricket, but there is also a lot to be admired in the way they play the game.

Let us follow them in the good things they do, their cricketing system, their training methods, their putting in place a system that has helped them become the best team in the world over the years.

But, please, let us not follow them in sledging, in their "I am superior" attitude towards their rivals and certainly not in trying to strip a player of his self-respect and dignity. Everyone wants his team to win but in the end, we have to remember that we are watching cricket, not a war where a nation's independence is at stake. If we can't appreciate skill, no matter which side is displaying it, we have no right to call ourselves a sporting nation.

Let us not scar the image of a new, young and vibrant India. Let it have a pleasant face. 


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