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Indiscipline of sports icons brings India infamy
Natteri Adigal | 29 Feb 2008

The manner in which CA and the Oz players have behaved on this issue deserves to be contrasted with the shameful way in which Indian sports authorities tolerate indiscipline. One should be ashamed to cite provocation as reason because it betrays intellect

The manner in which CA and the Oz players have behaved on this issue deserves to be contrasted with the shameful way in which Indian sports authorities tolerate indiscipline. To cite provocation as reason betrays intellectual bankruptcy.
 
FIREBRAND INDIAN patriots and self-styled champions for the cause of cricket (whether or not their fervour goes beyond a couch in front of a TV) are welcome to slam this writer for ruthless condemnation of icons. But, it will do the chauvinists lots of good if they read the full contents before accusing me of being an enemy of India, or white men’s agent or enemy of cricket!
 
“It saddens me that my employer has to discipline me for my behaviour,” Matthew Hayden told an Aussie newspaper after he was ‘reprimanded’ by Cricket Australia this week. He had aired scathing comments on hotheaded Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh and greenhorn pace man Ishant Sharma in an interview on Radio Brisbane.
 
Hayden admitted, “I can see that my comments were insensitive.” But, he was visibly unhappy at being pulled up for something he was not guilty of. Code of conduct commissioner Ron Beazley had held that he had breached the CA code of behaviour and issued the reprimand as penalty. The charge was made by CA’s CEO James Sutherland; the objection was to the description of Bhaji as remaining, despite years of international exposure, a ‘little obnoxious weed’. He had told the interviewer, “There is a certain line that you can kind of go to; and then you know where you push it; and he just pushes it all the time. …That's why he has been charged more than anyone in the history of cricket.”
A little reflection will reveal that Hayden was not at all exaggerating the matter. The quality of being hateful is termed as obnoxiousness; an uncultivated plant that crowds out cultivated crop is known as a weed. Even die-hard fans, going gaga over Harbhajan’s exquisite deliveries, could hardly expect him to be called anything other than a boisterous toughie! And, by calling the bowler a weed, Hayden indirectly acknowledged that most others were ‘cultivated’.
 
The spinner proved his obnoxiousness (being hateful) once again by claiming that Ricky Ponting had told him to “f*** off” during that match after he was dismissed. Singh in fact turned to see the Australian captain yelling the ‘abuse’ while celebrating with his teammates. Bhaji grudgingly told a newspaper, “They do it so well…. They keep their back to you when they have something nasty to say to the opponent!” Harbhajan has a ‘reputation’ of not ‘doing it so well’. Well, that is the difference between a well-groomed man and a crude person!
 
Singh has repeatedly been booked for bellicose on field behaviour, unbecoming of a national icon. Only recently, he could escape a humiliating three-match ban after the Sydney test. That was only due to high-level wheeling dealing with CA and ICC, condemnable bullying tactics and the genius of VR Manohar. The wily father of BCCI’s chief-designate Sashank Manohar foxed Appeals Commissioner John Hansen to get his client off-hook. The legal eagle claimed that Harbhajan used the Hindi words, “teri ma ki” (with a partial ‘n’ sounding between ‘ma’ and ‘ki’) and not ‘big monkey’ – a well-known racist insinuation when directed at aboriginals. Bhaji got away with a fine of 50 per cent match fee. In the process, BCCI and the cricketing icons disgraced Indians as a community, by ‘exposing’ Indians’ great love for motherhood!
 
Neither Hayden not any of his teammates thought it wise to bully CA, by resorting to indiscipline over the unjustified reprimand. Hayden said, “I maintain my innocence; my intentions were never to denigrate cricket or anyone. But, in the spirit of cricket I respect and accept the decision.”
 
The manner in which CA and the Oz players behaved on this issue deserves to be contrasted with the shameful way in which Indian sports authorities tolerate indiscipline. Players who behave like uncultivated ruffians are defended and rationalized. Tragically, patrioteers back home hail rowdyism as bravery! A case in point is the inaction in respect of the utter indiscipline-targeting captain Leander Paes by India’s tennis players. They threaten not to play under Paes just because he frowned at contracting of diarrhea by a brat who went partying before an international match!
 
During the one-day match, on February 24, Ishant Sharma had blatantly misbehaved on the field by giving a derogatory send-off gesture to Andrew Symonds after dismissing him for 59. ICC match referee Jeff Crowe summoned Sharma, after umpires reported the misbehavior, for a disciplinary hearing and was docked 15 per cent of his match fee. Crowe said in a statement, “ICC has recently reiterated that a zero tolerance attitude will be shown to abusive or insulting language and actions. So, hopefully the teams in these remaining matches in the (Tri-) Series will focus on the business of playing and entertaining.”
 
Indian team manager Bimal Soni was present along with Ishant at the hearing. Rather than prevailing upon the youngster not to behave like a ruffian, this babu rationalised the outrage. His took the plea that Ishant behaved the way he did because “Symonds provocated [sic] Ishant.” Earlier, on coming to know of the imminent rap, India wrote a horribly drafted letter to CA, which protested against on-field postures of Aussies. This has become a commonplace tactic to shift attention from serious indiscipline by its players.
 
Indian captain MS Dhoni was not as idiotic as the bureaucrat. While maintaining “He (Sharma) only reacted to what Symonds said to him,” Dhoni did concede that it was a lame excuse by adding, “It's going on for a long time and we have to be careful about that – if you are getting provoked there are ways in which you can reply. We have youngsters in the side who have to learn this art – I think it's an art – it’s not only in cricket but we have to be good at it.”
 
There was yet another incident during the one-dayer that revealed the difference between ‘anari and khilari’ (professional and immature behaviour).
 
After former Australian stumper Ian Healy and former captain Ian Chappell observed “too much webbing between the thumb and forefinger” in MS Dhoni’s gloves as he snared Gilchrist's wicket, his 100th, the Indian wicketkeeper received a stern warning from Match Referee Crowe. He undertook to desist from wearing gloves that breached ICC specification or face a penalty of up to five Test matches. Gilchrist preferred not to make a big controversy of the ‘illegality’ and said, “They're all hand-made, hand-stitched – they may have just used a little bit too much leather in that area.” He was decent enough to clarify, “Not for a moment am I insinuating that Dhoni intentionally wore them out there – whether it's a manufacturing error, I’m not sure – I promise you, I'm not accusing anyone of that, in fact I know it's the opposite because it could happen that easily.”
 
Dhoni himself admitted, “I thought the gloves were OK…. It was quite close to the line, it was very close to what I call legal gloves or the illegal gloves.” But, the Meerut-based Indian manufacturer – Sunrising Sportings Goods – made a mess of the issue. A company director Virendra Sareen was quoted as asking, “The same gloves are also being used under the brand name of Puma by wicketkeeper Gilchrist. Then why are those gloves not termed illegal?”
 
No responsible sports goods manufacturer would put his foot in his mouth like this without going into details. Gilchrist did turn in his gloves and got them certified as okay. Moreover, the company has no means to verify whether the product had been modified after shipping. Will not such foolish display of partisanship paint a horrible picture of quality standards of Indian firms?
 
It is time India’s sports authorities and the players are educated in etiquette. “Provocation” is an idiotic excuse for despicable behaviour. One should be ashamed to cite provocation as reason because it betrays intellectual bankruptcy. Any number roadside rogues in India argue that it is only due to ‘provocative dress’ worn by the girls that they indulge in eve teasing!
 
There is no denying the fact that any sport is a game of upmanship. Even when you play a ‘friendly’ tennis set or poker game with your own sibling, all you do is try to defeat him. No bowler worth his salt would bowl to Sachin Tendulkar with the purpose of seeing how the maestro hits the ball to the fence! He would only attempt to get Sachin off-balance and out! After all, any sport is a game of overcoming your opponent through provoking him to make mistakes. Particularly in international sports, you try everything to force your opponent to undergo mental disintegration and lose concentration. That is hardly cheating. Wise people do that by staying within the specified rules and guidelines.
Sports officials have a duty to enforce utmost discipline among players to see that they do remain within sanctioned bounds. I am all for sportsmen cashing their talents and netting millions of rupees. They should not be expected to be ‘patriotic’ and poor even as others make fortunes based on their performance. Moreover, wealthy sportsmen will inspire the next generation to excel.
 
It is okay if the sportspersons do not get accolades; at least they should not portray the country as a nation of uncultivated ruffians, where indiscipline pays!