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Indian money harming Aussie cause?

The Aussies are finding out that public perceptions change faster than English weather. Defeat at Adelaide has sparked a furious debate and suddenly all manner of doubts are being expressed about their cricket.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2003 10:02 IST

The Aussies are finding out that public perceptions change faster than English weather. Defeat at Adelaide has sparked a furious debate and suddenly all manner of doubts are being expressed about their cricket.

Experts think Adelaide wasn't just caused by arrogant batting on Day 4. They feel larger issues are involved, for instance: Is the team really hot? What happened to its celebrated bench strength? Does the system encourage excellence?

Add to this list one deadly, totally lethal, doubt: Are the Aussie players spoilt by money earned from contracts with Indian companies?

The Indians are amused because they live with these accusations every day of their life. Whenever Sehwag gives it away or Nehra slides down leg striving that bit extra, charges are levelled that players spend their energy chasing money instead off working their butts off in the nets.

We quickly connect cricketers with cash, think players are tempted by paan masala contracts which shift focus away from the game.

Now, as the Aussies are discovering, it seems India's dangerous cricket/cash virus has travelled overseas, cleverly exported by corporates to corrupt their pure, professional players. But don't miss the irony: one defeat and the panic button is pushed. And the delicious twist: Australian players drugged by Indian cash.

The Aussies, leaders of the cricket world, successfully export their knowledge; their coaches/trainers/players are everywhere and Rod Marsh is a national selector in England. But even as the system rolls along smoothly an unlikely leak is detected -- December 16, Adelaide isn't September 11 but a major setback -- that players are not hungry enough, or that they are dulled into complacency by cash, which is a serious threaten to Aussie sporting culture.

This country values success. Tough, relentless competition is its strength, and if the quest for excellence is dulled there is a danger the structure itself could crumble.

What infuriates Australian observers is they succumbed to India, written off by its own people. Knowledgeable pundits, including one ex-captain, had predicted confidently that India would struggle to take 40 Australian wickets in the series.

There is a spreading feeling that Australian players, assured a decent wage from first class cricket, are losing their competitive edge This is similar to English cricket, whose sorry decline is linked to easy money in county cricket which perpetuates a cycle of low quality cricket.

Of course, there is no conclusive proof that money impacts the quality of play. It is conceded though that sportspersons must be paid decently because, for them, it is a matter of existence. But whether financial security is incentive or dampener is uncertain.

Often it depends on the mental attitude of the individual .Sachin is no less motivated because he owns a Ferrari., he says money comes from cricket, his scores and his centuries. Sourav thinks likewise. You only make money if you make runs, he repeats. There is a direct connection between the score book and the cheque book.

The Indians have handled this cash/cricket issue for long, now the Aussies must grapple with the googly. Perhaps the answer lies in Buchanan's computer running a virus check before allowing his players to accept personal endorsement contracts from India.