Thursday, March 15, 2007

Missing the woods for the trees... Gavaskar Vs Ponting

We are all missing the whole point. Tempers have flared, egos have been hurt and a lot of unnecessary talk has happened between a yesterday great and a modern day great, Gavaskar and Ponting. While the latest salvo from Gavaskar, on the death of David Hookes’ death was uncalled for, what amazes me more is how conveniently we have ignored, or chosen to ignore, the remarks that Ricky Ponting made.

The issue at hand was not ‘who is the champion team’. The issue was more to do with ‘how do cricketers conduct themselves on the field’. A very recent article on made me wonder a little. There were two parts to it. Firstly, the writer talked about the Aussies having a more colourful language in their culture ; and, secondly, about the Aussies losing to England in 2005 because of their seemingly good behavior. Before I discuss these points in detail, let me add that this is nothing personal against the writer, whose articles are always informative and extremely well written.

A colourful culture does not mean that they get a license to abuse on the ground. Look at the way the Aussie players and crowds have behaved in the past. Here are a few examples:

1) Darren Lehman, on being dismissed, refers to the Sri Lankans as ‘Black C****s’.

2) Dean Jones called Hashim Amla a terrorist on air.

3) Aussie crowds haul racist abuse at the South African players.

The list, if one may go on, is extremely large, and colourful. I am no expert in the Australian culture, but I don’t think that any culture encourages people to pass racist abuse, and that too at sportsmen. And, I don’t think that Australia lost to England in 2005 because they were good blokes. The fact is that England had an in-form pace attack, and batsmen in form. Australia had McGrath unavailable for 2 crucial matches, Gillespie was woefully out of form, as was Michael Clarke and a few more Aussies. For once, can’t we all admit that England played better cricket? Did Australia lose to the Kiwis 3-0 recently because they were good blokes there too?

Now for what Gavaskar said and what Ponting retaliated about. Just like Gavaskar had no business bringing David Hookes into the whole issue, Ponting had no business talking of India’s record. In sport winning counts but what also counts is the manner in which teams conduct themselves. What Gavaskar talked about was simply the latter. Why have writers and commentators all over missed out on the fact that Ponting talked rubbish by dragging records into the fray and personally attacking Gavaskar, when that was not the point at all? Agreed, Gavaskar is not the epitome of good manners himself, but the point he was making isn’t incorrect.

People who read this column, please ask yourselves this question. When we read reports of the Aussie crowds showering racist abuse at players, what do we think? Do we think that ‘no, these are just a few lunatics (which is what the fact is)’ or do we incorrectly generalize by thinking ‘well, look at how their team behaves. Its no surprise that the crowds behave like that, that’s how all Aussies are’.

While cricketers have a duty to win for their nation each time they step on the field, they have a duty to behave themselves because they are ambassadors of their countries. Sadly, Gavaskar at times used to forget the same in his playing career (as was demonstrated at Melbourne, 1981), but Ponting probably doesn’t even know that they are supposed to be ambassadors of Australia and that they need to behave. Or else, he’d have thought again and asked his team to behave or, at least, behaved himself.

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