Controversies ignite down under

The controversies marring the previous Test between India and Australia exploded into the front pages today. During the Test, India got the rough end of the stick when most, though not all, dubious decisions went against them. The umpiring as a whole was at an unacceptable level, and there were many incorrect decisions that altered the course of the Test match.

Amongst them, there was Ponting who was not given out despite nicking one to the keeper, and then given out LBW some time later despite edging one onto his pads. Symonds nicked one to first slip, and despite the entire stadium hearing it, it was given not out (Symonds went onto make a big century). Yuvraj was also lucky when he was given not out when he was caught off bat-pad and Hussey was given not out when he hit the ball to the keeper. Jaffer was also bowled off a potential no-ball from Brett Lee. Finally, on the last day, Dravid was given out in the final innings despite the ball clearly not hitting his bat.

In addition, two situations were handled in perplexing manner. First, Symonds might have been out stumped in his innings but it was not referred to the third umpire (the decision was close and could have gone the other way). Finally, Ganguly was given out when it was unclear if Clarke caught the ball cleanly and the umpire seemed to take Ponting’s word for it.

After the match, Kumble accused the Australian players of not playing the game in the right manner, while Ponting denied the claim and said his team always plays in the right spirit. Things also got testy at the press conference when Ponting responded by telling an Indian reporter ‘There’s no way that I would have grounded that ball and I think if you are actually questioning my integrity in the game, you should not be standing here.’ when questioned asked about the catch.

However, the biggest situation of all was the alleged remark by Harbhajan calling Symonds a ‘monkey’, which caused Ponting to report the incident and led to Harbhajan being banned for three matches. During the appeal, Sachin Tendulkar supported his teammate while Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden supported Andrew Symonds. In response to this, the Indians have leveled a counterclaim accusing the Australian spinner Brad Hogg of calling Kumble a ‘bastard’. There are unconfirmed reports that India’s senior most player, Sachin Tendulkar, sent a message to Sharad Pawar claiming Harbhajan is innocent and that India should play at Perth only if he is cleared of all charges.

This situation is a complete overreaction and you would think all of this would have been avoided if the two captains had simply sat down with the umpires at the end of the match and worked things out instead of Kumble deciding to drag his case out in the media. The Indians have reacted to this in the most immature manner possible. If they believe that the hearing was unfair, they should spell out their reasons, and present them to the ICC in order to bring about change. There is no reason for this type of blackmail – what exactly are they trying to accomplish? How do they see the end game playing out here? They can cancel the tour – but then what will happen? It would accomplish nothing except sour relations and spoil one of the best rivalries in the modern game.

It is not the Australian players that are at fault for the umpiring, nor are they responsible for finding Harbhajan guilty. Most of all, the public did nothing wrong and to deprive them of a contest because you disagree with an official ruling is quite childish. The best way to move forward is to fix any problems with the current system.

Kumble also has to take much of the blame here. It is understandable to be upset about the umpiring, but calling out the Australians was unnecessary. Up until the incident with Harbhajan, the tour was going well, and this type of situation that can undo many years of good work by both sides.

It is perfectly acceptable to rally against the umpiring decisions, but it does no good to go this much over the top. It’s not the end of the world. Yes, they affected the outcome of the match, but the proper course of action would be to lobby the ICC and use the power of BCCI to bring about change in umpiring standards.

The victim mentality that seems to prop up will not serve cricket in the long term. Complain about the umpiring, but do not let emotion override good judgment. Punishing themselves, the public, and the Australian cricket board does nothing except creating ill will. If BCCI do not push with everything they have and get immediate and significant changes in umpiring (in terms of referrals, technology, increase in elite umpires), then they have no right to complain.

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