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Sports


Was it Australian reprisal?

Cricket is not without controversies and there was plentiful during the recently concluded ICC Champions trophy held in India.
Ricky Ponting’s Australian side finally won the trophy which had eluded them for eight long years when they defeated defending champions West Indies in a final which turned out to be an anti-climax with the Caribbeans who had promised so much in their lead up to the final going down without a whimper.
By their victory the Aussies proved that they are second to none and it is their performance on the cricket field that is looked up as the benchmark of achievements by other cricketing nations.
As much as one must congratulate the Aussies for their grand victory, there was also the ugly side of Australian cricket that was on display in Mumbai, the home state of Indian Cricket Board president Sharad Pawar.
Ponting and then one of his team mates Damien Martyn was caught on television jostling Pawar, the chief guest at the final from the presentation dais as they prepared to take a team photo with the trophy.
Ponting was seen gesturing towards Pawar with his forefinger and Martyn pushing him with his right hand urging him to get off the stage.
The Australians’ behaviour against an Indian government minister did not go down well with the cricket mad public. There was total uproar over the incident from all quarters and the Indian public vented their anger by painting a donkey in Australian colours (yellow and green) and writing the name Damien Martyn across its body.
Pawar who succeeded Jagmohan Dalmiya as president of one of cricket’s most powerful body last year is also India’s Minister of Agriculture. To treat him the way the Australians did in cricketing parlance is simply ‘just not cricket’.
Were the Aussies trying to show their resentment to the Asian bloc for getting rid of their most respected umpire Darrel Hair from the ICC’s elite panel of umpires? The four Asian nations plus South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe all voted for the removal of Hair from the panel. Whatever their intentions were the Aussies action has to be condemned wholesale.
What would have been the reaction in Australia, England or New Zealand had one of the Asian nations treated Creagh O’Connor, David Morgan or Sir John Anderson similarly? There would have been a huge hue and cry in their broadsheets and tabloids tainting the image of Asian cricketers.
The magnanimity of the episode was described by Cricket Australia’s chief executive James Sutherland who admitted that it had the potential to damage the image of the Australian team.
“I think it’s definitely a concern about how this has been perceived in India,” he said. “I think everyone in Australia sees and understands that it was certainly an unfortunate incident and can perhaps understand to some extent how it may have happened.
“The disrespect that people have gathered from this is obviously more heartfelt in India and that’s something that we need to accept and obviously deal with.”
Pawar who described the Australians’ attitude as ‘totally uncivilized’ decided to sportingly play down the incident stating that his Cricket Board had extremely good relations with their Australian counterparts. He said that he would certainly accept an apology and close the chapter on the incident.
“If they apologise, it would be a good signal to the people in this country,” Pawar was quoted by the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’.
Ponting and Martyn have subsequently tendered their apology to Pawar, although one doubts whether the embers from the raging fire will be extinguished totally.
Death of ‘Polly’
Former Indian captain Pahlan ‘Polly’ Umrigar who died at the age of 80 in Mumbai from lymph cancer was an early pillar of India’s middle order batting playing 59 Tests between 1948 and 1962. He scored 3631 runs at an average of 42.22 with 12 centuries and went on to break several Indian records, including the most Tests, highest batting aggregate and most hundreds than any other Indian till Sunil Gavaskar erased all such batting records a couple of decades later.
The Bombay stalwart was the first Indian to hit a Test double century, 223 against New Zealand at Hyderabad in 1955 and one of two Indian cricketers (Vinoo Mankad being the other) to score a century and take five wickets in an innings - a feat he achieved against West Indies at Port of Spain in 1962.
Sri Lanka had the opportunity of seeing this burly six-foot domineering figure at the crease when he led an Indian team on tour here in 1956. In the two unofficial Tests played at the Saravanamuttu Stadium, Umrigar made 19 and 61 batting only once. His rival captain was Gamini Goonesena who picked up his wicket in the first ‘Test’. In the second ‘Test’ however Umrigar shared a second wicket stand of 115 with Nari Contractor (78) before falling to Bertie Wijesinha. Both matches ended in draws. After retirement, Umrigar continued to serve Indian cricket as chairman of the selection committee, tour manager and BCCI executive secretary.