Ruthless Australians rattle world cricket

By Sid Astbury, IANS

Sydney : Australia’s bratty world-champion cricket team is learning that winning is not everything.

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After not giving visitors India a sporting chance of evening the score after two games and allowing the four-match series to continue in a competitive manner, the team has fallen foul of its own fans.

Many sympathise with the Indians in suspending further play until an appeal is heard against a three-match ban the International Cricket Council (ICC) imposed on Harbhajan Singh for allegedly saying something nasty to Andrew Symonds at the weekend game in Sydney.

The Indians argue that in the absence of any evidence from match officials, it was unacceptable for the ICC tribunal to take the word of the local team over that of the visiting team.

Some defend Australia’s win-at-all-costs conduct on the field.

They try and unsteady their opponents with insults, they seek to intimidate the umpires by appealing at any opportunity and, when a catch is taken or a wicket is given out, they celebrate the dismissal whether it was fair or not.

“It may well be that Australia plays the game too hard in the eyes of some, but equally in the eyes of others, India does not play it hard enough,” cricket commentator Mike Coward told his readers in The Australian.

But even Coward accepted that India’s condemnation would find support around the cricketing globe.

What has further inflamed the Indian visitors and prompted their threat of a boycott of the remaining two games is captain Ricky Ponting’s refusal to brook any criticism of a team that in Sydney flouted the conventions of the game by withholding respect for the losing side.

“It’s disappointing, but they are entitled to their opinion, but if you look back at the game I really can’t see how we have done anything wrong by the spirit of the game,” he said.

Ponting has drawn a rebuke from Peter Roebuck, among the world’s most respected writers on cricket. In a front-page article in The Sydney Morning Herald, Roebuck said Ponting had embarrassed his country and deserved sacking.

“If Cricket Australia cares a fig for the tattered reputation of our national team in our national sport, it will not for a moment longer tolerate the sort of arrogant and abrasive conduct seen from the captain and his senior players over the past few days,” Roebuck said. “Beyond comparison, it was the ugliest performance put up by an Australian side for 20 years.”

True. Radio stations and the letter pages of the newspapers have been inundated with cricket fans deploring the behaviour of their side.

“A historic victory was achieved with much celebration, but little dignity,” Niranjan Holla wrote. “Is this the Australian way?”

Peter Nicholas, another letter writer from Sydney, said Ponting had “failed the game and failed his country”.

Fans were joined in their criticism by former players – and former captains of India, Pakistan and England.

So far Cricket Australia (CA), the administrator of the game in Australia, has backed Ponting and his team. CA chief administrator James Sutherland declared:0 “It’s always been the Australian way to play the game of cricket hard but fair.”

The welter of criticism has not let up and many have welcomed the decision of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to lay down the bat.