Friday, January 11, 2008

I'm with India

Kiwi cricket fans should not have any doubt about what attitude to take to the current stoush between the Indian and Aussie sides. After all, we've suffered our share of injustices at the hands of ocker players, umpires, and crowds over the years.

New Zealand was admitted to the select club of test-playing nations in 1930; in
1946, Australia finally deigned to play us, and had the better of a seriously underdone pitch. For the next twenty-eight years they'd put their B teams up against us, even after we started to win the odd victory against the more sporting test-playing nations.

Everybody knows about the 1981 underarm 'incident', as Aussie cricket historians rather delicately call it. Thanks to the wonders of youtube, this moment of infamy can be preserved and communicated to new generations of Kiwi cricket fans, fostering the spirit of resentment that sustains us through loss after loss to Australia:

A few hours after the Chappell brothers attempted to fuse cricket and lawn bowls, vendors on Queen St were doing a roaring business selling T shirts stamped with the immortal slogan 'THE AUSSIES HAVE AN UNDERARM PROBLEM, AND IT STINKS!'

The underarm affair was responsible for Robert Muldoon's single progressive political act: after a few gin and tonics in the Beehive he sent the Aussie Prime Minister a telegram that read 'IT IS APPROPRIATE YOUR PLAYERS DRESS IN YELLOW!' Couldn't have put it better myself, especially considering I was six at the time.

Less well-known, but almost as embittering, are the three test matches that New Zealand has failed to win because of bent umpiring decisions in favour of the Aussies. In 1981, when the Kiwis were close to bowling Australia out and sealing their first test victory in Oz, Lance Cairns had a tailender caught out off a short delivery, only to be told by the umpire that the wicket didn't count, because it was the product of 'dangerous bowling'. Anyone who ever saw 'Monsoon bog' Cairns roll his arm over will know what an absurdity that judgment was. A decade later at the Adelaide Oval, when the Kiwis needed one wicket to clinch a victory, Danny Morrison had Peter Sleep on the back foot plum in front of his stumps. You can guess what the umpire said. A similar scenario unfolded the last time New Zealand had a chance of winning a test in Australia, at Perth back in the early noughties.

The whole cricketing world has been willing India to take it to the hated Aussies this summer. After fluffing the first test in Melbourne, they played magnificently to put Australia on the ropes at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Ricky Ponting's team were only able to prevail by lying about catches and intimidating umpire Steve Bucknor into committing a career-ending series of blunders. To add insult to injury the Aussies, who have perfected the art of verbal abuse in the middle, managed to get an Indian player suspended for three games based on unsubstaniated allegations that he made a racist remark (notorious racists, them Indians). The Aussies would never stoop to such depths, of course - they'll just threaten to rip your throat out. I'm with India, then. Until we play them next time, of course...

Just to stave off accusations of national chauvinism, and to prove that not all Aussies are made of the same stuff as Ricky Ponting, here's a clip of the great Paul Kelly driving a Melbourne cab and crooning his '80s classic 'Before Too Long':


Blogger david santos said...

Good posting, thank you, have a good day,

Happy New Year, Maps! And best wishes for a healthy and successful 2008

3:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole crisis can be sorted by NZ joining Australia, and then we can work on India too. Not the national chauvinist collective pronoun 'we' but the international collective pronoun of the sweating class.

11:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps, this really does smell of Kiwi nationalism.

Nonetheless the reaction of the Australians at the end of the Test was odious. And like a fish, the Australians rot from the head down. The defining moment of the Test for me was on day one (I was at the SCG) when Ponting was given out LBW. He glowered at the umpire, stormed off and threw his bat in the dressing room.

Yes, he'd an inside edge on to his pads, but he was quite happy to stand their like a chump when he nicked it to Dhoni - I heard it in bay 28.

But Yuvraj was just as bad, if not worse, on day two when he stood like a statue for seconds (seemed a week) when he nicked it off Brett Lee. How on Earth was he cleared of dissent? Shocked?! Really?! Maybe he does believe he is infallible. (He was rubbish through out the series and will be dropped, thank goodness. Bring back Karthik!)

The match referee should have taken Ponting aside and either charged him with dissent or bringing the game into disrepute or threatened to unless his team sorted it out.

Likewise, he should have hauled Yuvraj over coals and blasted Kumble.

But the malaise is much deeper. I say a pox on both their houses. (Although I was hoping for an India win, or draw at least by the end of the Test.)

The man-gods of Indian cricket or the craven boofheads of Australian cricket are creatures of a system. The reality is that money talks in sport and India controls 70 per cent of revenues. Look at how the ICC has reacted - dumping Bucknor. Sure, he had a shocker, but he's a great umpire and a great ambassador for cricket. But India bullied him out. And allowing Harbajhan to appeal... and that appeal to appear before a Kiwi judge... that'll be interesting.

Of course the appeal won't take place til after the test series, so it's effectively overturning Proctor's decision. He will play in Perth.

Cricket Australia is now in a situation where it has to dance to the BCCI's tune and it doesn't like it. Traditionally an Australian Test series wraps up in Sydney - but this didn't suit the Indians, so it was Test two.

This simmering tension between the BCCI and CA alongside the god-like status awarded to the cricketers (particularly in India) means things spiralled. The failure of India to stamp out racist chants against Symonds in India didn't help.

Indians can't be racists Maps? Hmmmm didn't you see this?

I like the way Harbajhan takes it up to the Australians. But you'd have to be an idiot not to know calling somone a 'monkey' is out of order.

Likewise, the Australians fucked it up. They should have sorted it out on the field or with a morning cuppa. The Australia side lost a lot of support in Australia through this. The biggest sledging slide in the world has a whinge cause someone doesn't play fair? Boo-fucking-hoo.

Fifty-five per cent of people supported Peter Roebuck's call for Ponting to be sacked as captain. A large majority thought Australia was odious. It really wasn't cricket.

We want good cricket, not idiotic nationalism (including from you Maps). But with so much money riding on the game, it's hard to blame people who are so narrowly focused on a sport for acting the way they do. Under capitalism, sports men and women (mainly men) are increasingly a caste away from society, not an integrated expression of human achievement.

In reality these days, I'm not too fussed who wins, though I'll be hoping India does in Perth. But I'm torn. I hope the Australia side picks Shaun Tait and he takes ten-for.

Bring on the cricket. Death to nationalism.

End of cricket rant. (And seriously Maps, get over the under-arm incident - what else can you call it? calamity if you want. But it's long gone.)

1:16 am  
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