Today in New Delhi, India
Oct 17, 2018-Wednesday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

Hard times in tough Australia

A prominent notice in the Member's Reserve of the MCG exhorts all public-minded Aussies to drop the ashes. Is this, I wonder, proof that this proud sporting nation has lost the spark, or that its competitive fire has, for some strange reason, been extinguished?

india Updated: Dec 30, 2003 01:25 IST

A prominent notice in the Member's Reserve of the MCG exhorts all public-minded Aussies to drop the ashes.

Is this, I wonder, proof that this proud sporting nation has lost the spark, or that its competitive fire has, for some strange reason, been extinguished? Actually, nothing dramatic has happened - the smart sign is a part of a clever anti-smoking campaign.

But the message is significant in the sense it reminds you, that Australia is obsessed with health. It shows that sport exists within society and is an important part of life.

Walking around the MCG you wonder what makes this ground special, except its size and the imposing Southern Stand which climbs a hundred metres into the sky.

Besides the scale, at least at first glance, nothing else appears distinctive. But a more interested look reveals that the MCG has tradition, character, atmosphere -- and history. Cricket has been played here for 150 years, which means that when the British were quelling the gadar around Ferozeshah Kotla (in 1857) some of their relatives were hitting a cricket ball here.

The MCG is not a soulless, concrete monster but a remarkably well-organised venue. Spectator comfort is ensured; the stadium fills up without any chaos, there is no struggle to park a car or find a seat. What's more: ushers behave better than the stewards at Lord's.

On Day Two, the talk in MCG's several bars still centred around "that bloke Seewag".In these premises comment is never in short supply, it flows freely and is always spirited. The intensity and eloquence of cricket debate is linked to day temperature and the amount of liquid consumed.

Impressed by Sehwag's brutal assault, one patron paid the Indian opener the ultimate compliment. "That guy," he said in typical Aussie style, "can bat". Hearing this, said an interested listener standing besides him: "So can Sachin but we want proof".

Former Test player Subroto Bannerjee, who migrated to Australia two years ago, offered a more unbiased insight

The Aussies are tough, never give up, don't care for reputations, he said from experience of grade cricket in Sydney. Matches, says Subroto, who bowled accurate outswing at a brisk pace, are competitive and the quality of play is any day better than Ranji. Even young kids give tadi to Waqar Younis who plays for one of the 20 teams.

If the ball is up, it is smashed - only way out is to deny runs to batsmen and play on their patience.

The Indian team, struggling to separate Ponting and Hayden, could have used this advise. Late in the afternoon, Harbhajan Singh, with right hand in a sling following an operation, stood leaning on the fence near the pavilion.

In front of him at third man, but on the other side of the fence, was Ajit Agarkar. The two had a chat, perhaps reflecting on the helplessness of the situation their team was in.

They looked like dispirited members of a beleaguered force which, while launching an attack, is suddenly forced to retreat after a colossal tactical screw up.

First Published: Dec 28, 2003 00:39 IST