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A case of cultural differences

I would not brand Ricky Ponting as unsporting, writes Steve Waugh

THE TOUGH DON’T GET GOING: While most Australian players are known not to walk unless given out, Michael Clarke took the practice to an extreme, waiting for the umpire’s decision after the ball had been snapped up at slip off Kumble. — Photo: AFP

The Sydney Test will be remembered for a tremendous climax. Unfortunately it will also be remembered for all the controversy, acrimony and bad blood that the game witnessed through the five days. The win marks the equalling of our earlier streak of 16 Tests, but instead of feting the Australians for this truly tremendous achievement, the cricket world and the administrators are grappling with all that happened during these last five days.

At the end of the day’s play, Anil Kumble said that only one team was playing the game in the true spirit. While he might have said it at the spur of the moment, one can understand where it’s coming from. I don’t know what was agreed upon between the two captains before the series, but I guess he had an issue with Michael Clarke, who first chose not to walk for a clear caught behind, and was later asked by the umpire about the Sourav Ganguly catch.

Whatever the agreement between the teams, the umpires have to make their decisions without the assistance of the players. The umpires had a really tough game, and the mistakes they made have once again sparked the technology debate.

Some questions are also being asked about whether Adam Gilchrist, who famously walks when he is out, should have appealed for the Rahul Dravid catch.

Adam has clarified that if he is not fully sure, he does appeal, and yesterday he claims that he was not sure about whether or not Rahul had nicked it.

Raw nerves

Right through the Test and particularly on the last day, nerves were raw, and it’s sad to see the battle lines so clearly drawn between two teams that have always shared cordial relations.

By the end of the day, Harbhajan Singh’s hearing was conducted and the verdict, a three-Test ban would have only upset the aggrieved Indian fans even more. I don’t think it was necessary to drag out the incident and keep it in abeyance till the end of the Test. It could have been sorted out on the field or at best at the end of the day. I don’t know if it was necessary to register a complaint with the umpires and make such a big deal out of it.

At the end of the day, much of what is happening between the teams springs from an inability to understand each other’s culture. For an Indian, calling someone a monkey is not a terrible insult, and certainly not a racist one.

I saw the footage of what had happened involving Andrew Symonds when the Australians were in India. Most of the spectators were just having some light-hearted banter, and there was no malice in most cases.

Similarly, Indians too would be finding Australia’s aggression and desperation on the field way beyond what’s acceptable. But we play hard from the time we are youngsters in the backyard, and even our politicians go hammer and tongs at each other on television!

Part of the joy of playing at the international level is trying to bridge these differences and not widening the cultural gap.

Such maturity sadly comes after retirement, so while I might have done things differently from Ricky Ponting, I would not brand him as unsporting.

Transparency required

I doubt we have heard the last on this Harbhajan-Symonds run-in. The ICC should be a little more transparent as to what was said on the field so that there is some clarity on the issue.

If Harbhajan used ‘monkey’, he was asking for trouble especially after what had happened in India. However, we don’t know what he reacted to, but the Australians always feel that he is the one Indian who is pretty easy to get a response from.

I expect some protest from the Indians and would not be surprised if the ban is stayed till the end of the series.

Finally I did not ever say that the Australians will win 30 Tests if they get past this one. They might do that, but as we saw yesterday, winning a Test match is hard work, and 30 Tests is a very, very large number.


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