When Jingoism Takes a Backseat

Sydney, December 2007

Harbhajan and Symonds get embroiled in a racism controversy. India is done in by bad umpiring calls. There is clear lack of sportsmanship from the Australians.

Entire India gets behind Bhajji and condemns the Australian cricket team. Even the Australian media and fans express disapproval of their national team.

Mohali, April 2008

Sreesanth is at his obnoxious best and gets ‘one tight slap’ from national team-mate Harbhajan. The two try to diffuse the matter but Bhajji ends up getting banned for eleven games and Sreesanth is let off with a warning.

Most cricket lovers welcome the move and wonder why Sreesanth is let off scot-free.
His antics against Mohd Kaif earlier in the tournament were also in bad taste. A ban on the Malayalee, similar to the one imposed on Marco Materazzi for provoking Zinedine Zidane would have tempered his mad streak to some extent.

Quick question 1 – what would have been the reaction had Bhajji slapped Symonds and gotten a ban and a fine in return?

I am sure Indian fans and the cricket board would have pooled enough money to cover the spinner’s financial losses. And he would have become a cricketing martyr at par with the likes of Bhagat Singh.

Quick question 2 – what would have happened if Sreesanth had infuriated big André Nel to the point that the burly South African hit him with a beamer and got banned for a year?

Sreesanth would be hailed as the second coming of Javed Maindad – a master of the mind games and looked upon as future captain and high-performance trainer.

Jaipur, May 2008

Shane Warne calls out Sourav Ganguly for violating the spirit of the game. He accuses Dada of delaying tactics and for refusing to accept the fielder’s word on a clean catch. The fielder is South- African captain, Graeme Smith. Ganguly retorts with a ‘Look who’s talking’, questioning Warne’s right to make a statement like this in light of the spinners colourful and controversial past.

A case of an Australian and a South African pitted against one of India’s biggest cricket stars.

Now i show the expected reaction from an average Indian cricket fan pre- IPL – blind faith in Sourav and criticism of both Warne and Smith.

Reaction from Bengali fans and media – How can an Australian (Warne) accuse Sourav of lack of sportsmanship, when they (the Australian test side) themselves were found short of it in Sydney?

I am a great admirer of the Bengali intellect but this excuse is as pathetic as they come. Aren’t they aware of the fact that Shane Warne is long retired and was not a part of the Australian side at Adelaide? You cannot classify every Australian in the world as un-sportsmanlike for something done by a group of eleven. Going by that logic, Saurav and every other Indian cricketer should be as ill-tempered as Harbhajan and Sreesanth. Ironically, the leader of the ugly Australians – Ricky Ponting was a member of the Kolkata side. Wonder why no one brought that up?

And what about Graeme Smith’s word? Have they clubbed all the residents of the Southern hemisphere together now?

As for Dada being late for the start of both innings, this is not even a debate. We all know this is second nature to him.

Reaction from the Jaipur crowd – Rather than being jingoistic and supporting the Indian against the foreigner, the Jaipur crowd showed loyalty for their local team by loudly booing Sourav Ganguly. There is pride in identifying with a franchise, which does not have a single star from Rajasthan. Their biggest hero is Shane Warne – a man who has inspired the so-called whipping boys to four straight wins.

Thanks to the IPL, the fans are no longer obsessed with members of the Indian cricket team. We have started noticing their flaws more than ever before. Jingoism is out and performance is all that matters. The league levels the playing field and everyone has to perform to be loved. The absence of a competitive domestic structure has been made up to some extent by the IPL and the ICL. Players like Shikhar Dhawan, Yousuf Pathan and Manpreet Gony are slowly becoming household names.

Some folks, however, are incorrigible. The recent performance of their team is a just reward for their loyalties.

Avnish Anand


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