E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Australians are a great side. They are No. 1 in the world and there cannot be even one-and-a-half opinions about this. They have the power, the strength, mental makeup, and training to steamroll any side. And they usually do this in style—inside four days or less.
But they do have an ugly side which never comes out in the open till they start losing or till things stop going their way. And when that happens, as seems to be happening in Sydney, they have a brain explosion, start bullying, throw tantrums, and start appearing poor losers. And all this even before losing.
# When they couldn’t read Muthiah Muralidharan and he bamboozled them time and again, they started this talk of Murali chucking the ball, even though he had played in all other countries; even when he bowled leg spin! Then their crowd got into the act, giving him hell on the field. Even their Prime Minister John Howard, in a most churlish act for a prime minister, joined in the chorus asking for a life ban on Muralidharan.
# When Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan started hammering Glen McGrath, the “pigeon” lost his cool and let loose his verbal ‘droppings’, which the West Indians paid back in kind. On their last tour, McGrath misbehaved with Sachin Tendulkar repeatedly, but no umpire dare warn an Aussie.
The saga now continues. It started when India beat them in the Twenty20 World Cup and the champions later sank them in the “revenge” match at the Brabourne Stadium. The Sreesanth-Andrew Symonds fracas on top of the losses clearly shows that they could never quite come to grips with the reality of being beaten.
Even before India had landed in Australia for the current tour, various members of the team led by Michael Clarke were predicting a 4-0 whitewash. Melbourne was the first step in the direction of that prophecy. Australians walloped India by 337 runs. No complaints from India; no complaints from Australia either!
But look how quickly the mood changes.
In Sydney after being 134- 6, with decisions a blind umpire would have given without hesitation, they score 462. No complaints from Australia. The Indians are clearly feeling done in, but decide not to complain.
When V.V.S. Laxman kills them with silken touch, they look ragged. And when Sachin with the tailenders helps India take the lead (after how many matches has any side dared to take first innings lead?), the ugly Australian is surfacing.
Even their crowds know their team was lucky with the decisions. Thoughts of the 16th straight win are quickly evaporating; 4-0 whitewash may not happen.
Therefore, now, the squealing and kicking and screaming is at its loudest, with Andrew Symonds pointing the finger at Harbhajan Singh. ICC will find Bhajji guilty and slap a fine/ban which BCCI will appeal and get reduced. But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who appears sensible, should ask CA/ Ricky Ponting/ Symonds to get on with it.
Years back, John McEnroe, with all his greatness, could not stomach that somebody like Bjorn Borg or Jimmy Connors could be better than him on a given day. If he was not doing well, he would throw tantrums like a spoilt brat, delay his service, fight with the umpire, and do all he could to throw his opponent off-mood.
The Aussies, given a glimpse of what other teams usually get, are doing the same thing.
First, they couldn’t stomach the thought that the ‘Great’ Don Bradman chose not an Australian (not Ian Chappell, not Greg Chappell, not Ponting) but (my! my!) an Indian as the batsman who plays like him! They have yet to recover from that shock and no Australian commentator ever talks of that.
Without Shane Warne, McGrath and Adam Gilchrist after a season or two, Australia will face the reality. They will lose more matches than they have done in the last couple of decades. But it is their behaviour the crowds will watch. Luckily, the West Indians, despite clobbering the opposition into total silence in the 1970s and ’80s, played and lived like true champions. They were true sportsmen both in victory and defeat. They are the true role models.
One thought the Australians would have learnt the essence of sportmanship from Frank Worrell, rightly a West Indian, when he presented the specially mounted ball used for the first ever tied match to his counterpart Richie Benaud, after polishing it with his tie.
The better side did not win the series that year and even Australians knew it. From their recent conduct, it is obvious they haven’t that lesson. And probably won’t with their monopoly over boorishness.
Also read: From us to them: rack off you bloody bonzers
TREVOR CHESTERFIELD: Media lessons from down under