Fair or unfair, take your pick
As the drama surrounding Harbhajan's ban took centre stage, the on-field controversies have been equally absorbing... a blog piece by Deepan Joshi.india Updated: Jan 08, 2008 19:02 IST
Entertaining as it surely was, the Sydney Test has produced an equal amount of controversy and debate, if not more. Fans and cricket writers from around the world have written and blogged on all the issues on and off the field, television channels have had enough dope to sustain a round-the-clock coverage.
No doubt, contrary to claims by past Australian captains and players, India have been handed a raw deal on the field. An error or two with the argument that umpires are also human is fair enough, but this match has seen a series of errors, most of them going against the visiting team. What is also baffling is the opposite spectrum of two of the most glaring errors the match saw, Steve Bucknor could not hear the Symonds nick, which as one Australian writer says was even heard in the members room where the wine was generously flowing. On the other instance he heard something when Dravid's bat was safely tucked behind his pads.
As it is, both turned out to be decisions that altered the course of the game, and ironically both happened when India were making something out of the game. One that could have provided them a stranglehold on the match and the other could have gone a long way in saving the match.
Australia should surely not be blamed for the largesse of the umpires and they had every right to make the best of all the luck that came their way, every other Test team would have done more or less the same. But then why be so churlish if a bit of bad luck also comes your way and especially since you are already living on borrowed life, the Australian captain showed very little discretion after Harbhajan got him in the first innings. Maybe he was more upset that Harbhajan had him, with all the pre-series build up about his being the Turbunator's bunny.
The moral issues
There is no doubt that at the end of it all, Ponting and his team, however much they defend their hardnosed approach were revealed in extremely poor light. Ponting's assertion that he was 100 per cent sure that he caught India's wicket-keeper Dhoni could not have come at a worse time for him, with every possible picture and video evidence showing that he grassed it.
Peter Roebuck in his column for the Sydney Morning Herald, called for Ponting to be sacked. "He (Ponting) has shown not the slightest interest in the well-being of the game, not the slightest sign of diplomatic skills, not a single mark of respect for his accomplished and widely admired opponents," he argued.
Greg Baum in The Age conceded that the umpiring was way below standard but blamed the players for this, in particularly Ricky Ponting, whose reprieve according to him set in train a sorry series of events. "The umpiring was poor but, partly, the players have only themselves to blame. Umpiring is a tough enough job anyway. Aggravation from and between the players only makes it tougher. It began with Australian captain Ricky Ponting's double standard and mute protest when dismissed on the first day and did not abate. Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson would have found themselves second-guessing every decision. So it is that Bucknor might have stood in his last Test match. He was culpable here, but a victim, too."
Regarding the Michael Clarke dismissal, former Australian captain Ian Chappell commented on television that Clark had a poor first innings outing and considering how awful a day the umpires were having stayed his ground even after edging the ball to slips. Clark defended his stand to an Indian television channel saying he's never been a walker, he always waits for the umpire's decision. The reporter forgot to ask him if that logic applied even if he was bowled of a legitimate delivery.
Australia are a champion team, they display their skills over the course of five days better than any other team, they field better, run faster and score at a faster clip than any other team, thus giving their bowlers the time to stub the opposition out. That is why they win most of the matches. But even champions do not win every contest, Federer wins most and loses some and so does Tiger Woods, and both are extremely composed in victory and gracious in defeat. This Test match to a degree has revealed what the cricketing world has been saying for many years that the "hard but fair" motto is fine as long as the Aussies are winning and if they are in any way challenged it could actually be "by hook or crook".
Response in Australia
Arrogant Ponting must be fired: Peter Roebuck (Sydney Morning Herald)
We've nothing to be sorry about: Hussey (Sydney Morning Herald)
Harbhajan 'broke a deal' on abuse (The Australian)
Competitive fire often heats things out of proportion (The Age)
From around the world
Ex-NZ cricketers take Aussies to task (Dominion Post, New Zealand)
India's fury with Australia threatens world split (Daily Telegraph, UK)
India choose the wrong time to flex their muscles (The Guardian, UK)
All out: Crisis in world cricket (Mail & Guardian, South Africa)