If anyone thought that the recent un-cricketlike behaviour by the Aussies against India, would soon be swept under the carpet, I am afraid that they had another “think” coming. It’s a big World out there, and Cricket, the Gentleman’s game, would have to be one of the best known, popular games around the globe. Now, even the Baseball Capital of the World, America, is beginning to take an interest in the game that millions or perhaps even billions of Asians are literally wrapped up in, for many decades.
Getting back to the price that is paid, here’s hoping that Cricket Australia will peruse this article and take some definite action to stop what happened at the recent 4th Test match, and bring back the honour of the game of professional Cricket, a game that so many of us love to play, or at least, watch..
OPINION: The baggy green cap lies soiled and dishonoured on the bloody soil of the ‘Gabbatoir’.
In their desperation for victory against India, the hosts have routinely assaulted and abused their visitors and pretended that it was all in the name of cricket. Even during the squalid cheating scandal of 2018, Australia never fell as low as they have during this four test series against these gritty Indians.
Ball after short ball have been bowled at India’s lower order batsmen. Bones were cracked and men like Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja were forced to retire hurt from the series, one with a shattered elbow, the other with a mangled hand. And yet still the onslaught continued.
There was nothing accidental about it. It was a planned assault. In the lead-up to the series Tim Paine, the grubby Australian captain, the man who was supposedly brought in to restore honour, said; “It is a tactic we use pretty consistently, particularly to the lower order. Playing the short ball at that pace is uncomfortable.”
Indian after Indian suffered what Paine called discomfort. Their skin is raw from the bruises. Matthew Wade was heard on stump mic warning Ravi Ashwin during the third test in Sydney not to end up with a broken rib. And the commentators, largely a bunch of Ocker mates with the blessed exception of Isa Guha, condoned it all. When the Indian No 11 walked to the crease in the fourth test it was quite clear he was scarcely able to hold a bat.
The first ball that Mitchell Starc bowled at the hapless tailender Thangarasu Natarajan was designed to hit him and to hurt him. He barely fended it off and the Australian commentators swarmed like flies. They called the “intimidating” balls “all part of the game” and said there was “an opportunity here to inflict a couple of wounds on to opposition bowlers.” They talked about breaking Natarajan’s hand or foot, what they call “nose and toes” bowling.
But of course intimidatory bowling, particularly at tailenders, is not part of the game. Law 42.8 specifically prohibits it. It states; “The bowling of fast short pitched balls is unfair if, in the opinion of the Umpire at the Bowler’s end, it constitutes an attempt to intimidate the Striker…
“Umpires shall consider intimidation to be the deliberate bowling of fast short pitched balls which by their length, height and direction are intended or likely to inflict physical injury on the Striker. The relative skill of the Striker shall also be taken into consideration.”
So where the hell were the umpires when all this was going on in test after test? Captain Paine admitted what the Australian plan was, the commentators called it, the bowlers made no attempt to hide it, and yet the umpires let the Aussie hoodlums, of whom Starc is by far the worst offender, continue to assault the Indian lower order, at whom over twice as many short balls have been bowled as to the top order. Some of the short stuff is also produced by a chucking action which again is never called.
I wonder if the bowlers would have been quite so vicious in their thirst for victory if all the officials hadn’t been Aussies. While former test batsman David Boon, reputed long-time holder of a beer drinking record on a long-haul flight, has oversight as match referee, the onus was still on Bruce Oxenford, Paul Wilson and Paul Reiffel, the standing umpires in the series, to step in and warn the Australian bowlers and then remove them from the attack.
It has happened before. In the 1970-71 series between Australia and England, the Australian umpire Lou Rowan repeatedly warned the England fast bowler John Snow about excessive short-pitched bowling. Rowan cautioned Snow about fair and unfair bowling and then issued an official warning. He would write later in his book; “For a few minutes … the whole future of cricket between England and Australia was in jeopardy.”
Certainly Snow was in jeopardy. He was showered in beer cans when he fielded near the boundary edge and one man grabbed his shirt. Captain Ray Illingworth eventually took his team from the field of play for the safety of his players, only to be warned by Rowan that he risked forfeiting the match.
It would seem that the Aussies don’t mind dishing it out, but aren’t quite so good at taking it. And it further appears, as has also been apparent in England and New Zealand during these Covid months, that home umpires are biased. There was never any chance that the Australian umpires were going to enforce the laws on their own team, as Rowan had done to the visitors, in order to protect the Indian batsmen.
As humans continue to grow taller and stronger, bowling will only become faster and faster. The brilliant young Aussie Will Pucovski has already suffered nine concussions by the age of 22. Not all were from cricket, but several were, including the latest when he was hit in the helmet when playing for Australia ‘A’.
So surely someone in authority will have the sense to step in. New Zealand could play its part. Greg Barclay, the outgoing chair of New Zealand cricket, will soon become the independent chairman of the International Cricket Council. Barclay will have the power to end this plague upon our pavilions.
I have my doubts. But hopefully Barclay will prove me wrong and he will stand up to the bully boys of international cricket. Hopefully he will get the agreement to instruct the world’s pusillanimous umpires to start imposing the laws of cricket. If Barclay does nothing, then sooner or later he will have blood on his hands, because someone else will die, someone else will suffer the tragic fate of Phil Hughes.
At the time of writing I do not know how the series between Australia and India ended, but like many a neutral I am rooting for India. They have been like Horatio on the bridge. The draw that the battered and reduced Indians achieved in the third test was one of the most heroic in the history of cricket.
After Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant gave India hope, Hanuma Vihari and Ravi Ashwin resisted all manner of physical and verbal abuse for over 40 overs. Sometimes dot balls are more thrilling than sixes. That’s the beauty of test cricket, even in a series as ugly as this one.
But only one side has played with honour. The other, with their scuffing of every moral creaseline, has shamed cricket and shamed their country.