Not always are bards required to preach the king’s fame. In practice, the sword itself calls it shots. In a like manner, the protocols of CRICKET had been laid down an era ago in the mid 19 Century and have been methodically followed for ages. Since ab initio, it has been hailed as the aristocratic game, where caliber and skill dominate, with modesty and honesty being the moral obligations for all. It is the only game that has given countable infinite instances of true sportsman’s spirit, overriding all human inclinations, and perpetually earned its disciples the name and fame.
But that scene stands the risk of repainting, following the modernization of the temperament of the players. Testimony to the degrading standards of the game and its regality has been the recently concluded second test match between India and Australia. The world was subjected to five days of terrific cricket, frequently interspersed with unfortunate erroneous judgments of the umpires and unethical behavior of the players.
If the first test match were to be overlooked, it meant pardoning at least four unfair, incorrect umpiring decisions, a number too many for international standards. Nevertheless, the second Test match kicked off in good spirit, ending up with more than double of such follies, very few of which can seek redemption. To begin with, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds in the first innings and Michael Hussey in the second, were classic examples of continuous umpiring shortcomings. Each were adjudged not-out on at least two occasions on mere individual scores, and each went on to score huge hundreds, building up a huge lead for Australia.
Another outstanding evidence of impaired umpiring was the dismissal of Sourav Ganguly on the last day of the match. When his catch was dubious, the umpire in question consulted the fielders, forgot the square-leg umpire and without bothering to disturb the third-umpire, erratically gave the batsman out, when the ball had clearly fallen short of the fielder. Probably, he considered shouldering all responsibilities on the field. Dravid was another such victim. Wrong dismissals of two seasoned batsmen consecutively on the last day on an Australian pitch meant doomsday for India. Courtesy reluctant and tired batting, India slumped to a dramatic, nightmarish defeat.
Once during the match, Ponting claimed a catch off Dhonis’ bat that was clearly grounded and later ruled not out. When remarked about that, by a senior Indian journalist in the post-match press session, Ponting lashed at him with demeaning comments. Although Ponting aggressively defended the team’s performance, the Australian media and eminent sports-columnist termed this victory as “unwelcome”. They empathized with the Indian team for the poor decisions throughout the course of the match and couldn’t attach any credentials to the home team. An infuriated Ponting exposed his acknowledgement of the fact that they didn’t deserve the feat.
If all these were not enough for a chaotic test match, there was another incident that caught all eyes, and rightly so. Harbhajan Singh was accused of hurling racist comments by Andrew Symonds. Although none of the umpires could hear any offensive words from ‘the turbanator’, they apparently filed a complaint on Ponting’s insistence. Sachin Tendulkar, who was at the other end of the batting crease, supported Bhajji, who was later roped in for a late-night investigation by the match referee. Experts believed that he couldn’t be penalized due to want of evidence as none of the cameras and sound-devices could capture any derogatory comments from the off-spinner’s mouth. But the match referee decided to go with the verdicts the few Australian team-mates had to offer and incredulously slapped a 3-test ban on Harbhajan. A neutral referee preferring verbal evidences of the complaining party indicates something unexplainable.
The BCCI heavily criticized the unreasonable decision. Following legal suits from the Indian board, the ban was suspended and Steve Bucknor was removed from officiating the next match. Despite such redressal of grievances, the defeat that India faced, amidst unfortunate decisions and unhealthy cricketing attitude of the Aussies, could not be reversed. Where the series could still be alive at 1-0 with a draw, it involuntarily and surprisingly, concluded, virtually, at 2-0, an unassailable lead for Australia. The viewers are left with less to cherish and the international committees with lots to put in place. Let’s hope we don’t get another cricketing disaster as this series, a suspicion well placed.