The fact that the Indians are already the subjects of relentless criticism with the tour two months away says much about the Australian media's role in a high profile sport like cricket.
The battle lines for Indias tour down under this December have already been drawn. Though the Australians have won the one-day series against the Indians fairly convincingly, they have already started piling up the pressure. And the Indian media, as has been the trend historically, have reported the Australian threat in glowing terms all over. In no other country could Andrew Symonds get away saying what he has said. Can we ever imagine Saurav Ganguly saying things like Without Warne and McGrath these Australians are hardly a force in world cricket in Australia and getting away unscathed? Such statements might result in the publication of special sections in the daily sports supplements distributed with Australian newspapers where local scribes would not stop short of calling Ganguly an unsporting brat.
Sunil Gavaskar too has talked on the role of the media in a recent column of his. In fact, he stressed the need for the Indian media to support the home team rather than merely echoing sentiments expressed by touring journalists and players.
Even as the teams brace for the series down under, the Australian Press has given ample coverage to the internal quabbles that have plagued the Indian cricket establishment. Whether or not the Indians have celebrated the T-20 victory unnecessarily and whether the players behave like princes or rock stars arent things the Australian players or media should be concerned with. The Age for instance has focused more on sore issues like racism against the Aussies and stated that, The Board of Control for Cricket in India has thumbed its nose at authority by failing to appoint an anti-racism officer, despite the International Cricket Council instructing each board to do so last year. The report ends thus, Many will perceive India's move as another example of its disregard for authority. With the millions the India board brings to the ICC's table in terms of television and advertising revenue, the council would wield little in the way of brand power, and the Indians know it.
Players too have not been spared the tirade. The Age for example writes thus about the Indian players, If ever there was a case of a sporting team barking up the wrong tree it's been the Indian cricketers in their current one-day series against Australia. They've
set themselves up for some grief when they tour Australia in the summer. It goes on to single out Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh. Sreesanth has been troublesome for months and needs to be hauled in for everyone's sake. He is an overly hyped youngster with a lot to learn
When he toured England in July and August he was a constant worry for his skipper Rahul Dravid. Inevitably he would lose his rag and bowl rubbish...
And Harbhajans aggressive intent is summed up thus, Buoyed by India's (T-20) win, he probably thought the only way to take these Aussies on was confronting them, but he's struggled for support and has run into a ravenous opponent. As a result he's appeared to be an angry and frustrated cricketer. His frustration reached its peak when he lingered for what seemed an eternity after being given out stumped in the second match.
The fact that the Indians are already the subjects of relentless criticism with the tour two months away says much about the Australian media's role in a high profile sport like cricket. When India visits Australia in December, we don't have to be fortune-tellers to know that the Aussie Press will stir up extra cricketing issues to unsettle the Indians. For his match winning potential, Harbhajan Singh could easily be the central target. Having had problems with his bowling action before, the sardar would be perceived to be that tiny bit susceptible to buckle under that extra bit of pressure.
This is where Indian media could profit by taking a leaf out of its Australian counterpart. More so because the traveling Indian cricket media is the most voluminous in world cricket. We should not be worried about displays of patriotism (what else are they when indulged in by the Aussies or the English?) casting aspersions on our credibility. Do we see the Australian media even conscious of its blatant partisan acts? For nowadays, the media as a whole is a very active participant in the strategy leading to, what Steve Waugh calls, the "mental disintegration" of the opponent. And that is where Indian press would do well to emulate their strategy and not just their words.
Come December we will do well to highlight the extremely hostile nature of Australian cricket crowds. Any chant, which is a slight bit racist, and there are many such from sections of the crowd, should be brought to the notice of Cricket Australia and also the ICC. Slighting the Australian tactics of trying to stir up trouble can well be a strategy. The verbal volleying can be smirked at dousing the fire. Finally, lauding the potential of this young Indian team is essential if the Indians are to put up a fight down under. It is the toughest tour in contemporary cricket and the Indians will need every bit of arsenal they can muster. A protective and aggressive touring Indian media contingent, it is time to fathom, is an essential part of the armory.