Earlier there was nothing better than an Indo-Pak match. But slowly the Indo-Pak matches lost their charm. Even the little master acknowledges the fact that cricket matches between India and Australia are much more enticing than the Ashes or even clashes between India and Pakistan. “We have played some of our best cricket against Australia,” he said, “It is because of the competitive nature of cricket that an India-Australia series is bigger than the one against Pakistan. 2003 World Cup Finals – India lost to Australia in spite of its splendid performance in the entire series; Cricket frenzy nation – people wanted another 1983. Thus, lost opportunity to defeat world champs and prove worth in the international space. For the fans – disappointment, feeling of resentment. Australia repeatedly and consistently emerged as the winners in almost every series against India as well as the other nations; greatest cricketing team in the world – Rank 1 in both ODI and test rankings.. Thus, the feeling of bitterness grew among the Indians who had the same dream for their team. And the fact that India as a country is so passionate about cricket, the desire to defeat the world champs and prove their credentials always persisted.
The Indian Team progressed steadily under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly. Greg Chappell was appointed as coach in 2005. His insatiable hunger for experimentation, his ploy to juggle and shuffle the batting order of players seemed to shake their confidence right till the onset of the World Cup resulting in a 1st round exit. His first few months or in fact days with Indian cricket brought about the exit of one of India’s most successful captain’s Sourav Ganguly. This eventually created a rift between the senior members and the junior members. Thus, the fact that the Australian coach brought about the decline of the team encouraged the bitter anti-Australian feelings that already persisted.
The growing significance of Indo-Australian cricket has had a perceptible impact on tourism as well. In the series of 2004, around 3,000 Indians arrived in Australia to cheer their team. In 2007-8, this figure increased further with the Indians under Dhoni winning the one-day series. Australia suddenly became an attractive tourist destination as well as a trading partner-bilateral trade between India and Australia during 2004-5 touched a record of $ 6.54 billion- a sharp increase of nearly 52% from 2003. In January 2008, relations became strained after the second test in Sydney which was marred by a series of umpiring controversies and belligerent conduct between some of the players. The match ended with the Harbhajan – Symonds controversy where Harbhajan Singh was charged with racially abusing Andrew Symonds. This could have adversely affected the bilateral ties and might be a contributing factor for the recent racial attacks.
India, an emerging economy prone to increasingly jingoistic displays (tied to a post-colonial inferiority complex) feels Australia lords its cricketing superiority too bluntly and without respect to opposition teams. India feels for once, they could be world champions and therefore need to beat the current champions, Australia. Hence, conflict. Australia think India mistakes its financial clout and love for the game for actual on field talent. In other words: the Indians act too big for their boots. Therefore, the two teams do not get along very well.
It is quite possible that cricket has been responsible for the recent racist attacks on the Indians in Australia. Australians, traditionally best at cricket, world champs for so many years, have defeated India consistently and so, could have possibly developed a superiority complex. Now the recent defeat in T20 world cup could have caused the feeling of resentment. Thus, considering the fact that most of the people who have been suspected for these attacks are young people and it is among this group that the feeling of bitterness and resentment would have been maximum. It’s quite possible that these attacks are just a manifestation of this resentment. One of the victims, Upkar Singh Babbal, is the nephew of Harbhajan Singh. Even though there’s not much evidence to prove that this attack may have been related somehow to the Harbhajan-Symonds controversy, but the question still remains!!
Australian pace bowler Brett Lee and former Australian captain Steve Waugh condemned attacks on Indian students in Australia and appealed to all concerned to “bring an end to this unfortunate chain of events”. To ease tensions in the wake of the spate of attacks against Indian students, the Victorian police organized a game of laneway cricket (gulley cricket) that saw prominent Australian all-rounder Brad Hodge participate in a game last week. Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans felt the match was another small but important step in helping repair Australia’s image in India. More matches, he feels, could be a stepping stone for rebuilding the relationship between Indian students and the wider community. Though Cricket has sometimes been hailed as an over hyped sport but this is the one time when many in Australia are hoping the game will work its charm and help mend bridges with Indians.