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Aussies allowed Harbhajan to get under their skin

Roebuck said it was hardly surpring that Ponting's leadership was called into question, as he was responsible for the team's debacle.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Melbourne
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2008 08:24 AM IST

Australia made the "mistake" of allowing Harbhajan Singh to get under their skin during the just-concluded series, according to renowned columnist Peter Roebuck who blamed captain Ricky Ponting for not checking his side from getting "overheated".

Roebuck said it was hardly surpring that Ponting's leadership was called into question, as he was responsible for the team's debacle.

"The Australians allowed Harbhajan to get under their skin. It was a mistake, and the captain was responsible. Ricky Ponting had a poor summer. Admittedly, he was leading a weakened team but his form dipped and he allowed his side to become overheated. No wonder his leadership was called into question", he wrote in Sydney Morning Herald.

He said Australia made their worst mistake long before the ODI finals when they started to play the man and not the ball.

"As might have been predicted, the attempt to isolate and intimidate Harbhajan Singh served merely to strengthen India's resolve".

"Whatever the right and wrongs of the Sydney Test, the Australians lost their equanimity and never recovered. Harbhajan's exchange with Andrew Symonds was brief and of little account. And Symonds had started it. Symonds and Matthew Hayden are about as diplomatic as Sir Les Patterson.

"The rest was madness. Far from breaking their spirit, the attacks on Harbhajan helped the Indians to form the pack mentality that has long been the hallmark of Australian teams. The spinner's refusal to take a backward step was part of that" wrote Roebuck, a former captain of Somerset county. Roebuck said Australia were swept aside by an ambitious and superbly led Indian side.

"Bound together by a sense of injustice, enraged by the coverage in Australian papers and egged on by their own strident media, the Indians became formidable", he said.

"India's economic boom has released a new sort of cricketer -- tough, independent, materialistic and comfortable in his own skin. Suddenly, India seemed to represent the future, Australia the past.

"Australia were confronted and affronted by a younger version of them. Australia has always had a strong and democratic cricketing culture. The captain is a tough nut from Mowbray, and his predecessor grimaced more than he grinned. India used to depend on players steeped in the ethics and traditions of the game. Not any more", he said.

Roebuck said India had not merely copied Australia's abrasive style of play, they were also producing the same sort of characters who asked no quarter and gave none.

"Mahendra Singh Dhoni understood, represented and exploited the new Indian outlook. After all he was born in Ranchi, Jharkhand, a seething, struggling town whose airport is named after a tribal freedom fighter, and raised far from the fashionable crowd by Paan Singh, a retired pump operator who still potters around town on a bicycle".

"Throughout, he held his side together, remaining calm and constant in the tight spots, always showing faith in his players. Despite a sore paw, he appeared in the second final, pushed himself up the order and kept wicket one-handed", he added.

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