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By Sunil Gavaskar
India travel to Australia later in the year to try and conquer a peak that has been insurmountable for them since 1947, when the Indian team first visited Australia. India have drawn Test series in 1980-81 and 2003-4 but haven’t won there so it is going to be a huge challenge indeed. India also has a similar record in South Africa where they drew the series played over the New Year and while like in Australia they have won Test matches, but haven’t won a Test series there. They had a wonderful chance to do so but missed out in the third Test when that much underrated player Jacques Kallis, despite an injury got a century in each innings and took the hosts to safety in the final Test match.
Of course India first have to tackle England in a few weeks time and the mind games have already begun between the players supported by their media. This is something the Brits have picked up from the Australians. To most cricketers from other countries the Australian cricket media is part of their support staff though they may not be in the Australian dressing room.
The tactics are simple. Just before a visiting team arrives one of the Australian players preferably a bowler will talk about how he is going to target the touring team’s best batsman and show him to be a flat track bully. This will be then followed by similar articles questioning the runs scored by the batsman and pretty much suggesting that he got them only on pitches which have less or no bounce at all. The batsman’s fine record on similar pitches will not be taken into consideration at all and thus begins the campaign to try and destroy his confidence and create doubts in his mind. All that is fair dinkum and woe betide anybody who suggests a weakness in any of the Australian players. That cannot be accepted even if the record proves that that player cannot play spin or cannot take wickets and has a poor record outside Australia.
For a country which places such great store on mental toughness and makes a virtue of abuse of the opposition the reaction to Daryl Harper’s voluntary stepping away from officiating in the final Test between West Indies and India in Dominica has been hypocritical to say the least. Once again BCCI and India bashing has been the form after Harper's decision to not do what was going to be his final Test. Now let me say firstly that Daryl Harper is one of the nicest guys you could meet, friendly, and with a sense of humor to boot. However, it was clear that he was making errors for quite some time now, which is why he was not reinstated in the ICC elite umpires list from 1st September.
The Dominica Test match thus was going to be his last Test. Harper's supporters will show his correct percentage ratio record but more crucial is not how many an umpire gets right but the impact on the fortunes of the game when he gets it wrong. That has to be one of the parameters to judge how good an umpire is. This is what I suggested when I was the Chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee but it was not accepted. Wrong calls change the course of a game dramatically and that's why they need to be taken into account when marking an umpire’s performance in the match.
The Aussie media wants ICC to take action against Mahendra Singh Dhoni for his comments on umpiring and while Dhoni treaded a fine line between reaction and comments that invoke the ICC code of conduct, he did not specifically take Harper's name. Why then did Harper feel so aggrieved and not Ian Gould who also officiated in the same match or was it the awareness that yes there were mistakes made.
All Dhoni said was that he would have been in the hotel earlier but for some umpiring errors. Now the part of the world except Australia of course which watched the match on T.V. would have seen which umpire had a forgettable match. Since Dhoni had not mentioned the umpire why did Harper take offence? Aren’t Australians supposed to be mentally like granite and take it on the chin like a man? Why back out of a Test because of what was essentially a mild remark when the Australians dish out much worse?
What would the Australian support staff, sorry, Australian media say if a player backs out of a tour to Australia if there were articles questioning his ability to play on those so called bouncy pitches. Wouldn’t they call him 'chicken' or even more derogatory stuff? So why then was it hard for Harper to take it on the chin, come to Dominica and have a great game and show that umpires are human and make errors too and then bow out on top?
Despite what Dhoni said I am sure that he would have been the first to congratulate him on a fine career and wish him the very best in his retirement. Unfortunately by backing out of the Test and then commenting that the laws of the game don’t apply to the Indians, Harper has once again exposed that those who criticize cannot take any criticism back at them. It’s the old syndrome of 'I can say anything about you but you cannot say a word about me.'
December is still far away of course, but BCCI and Indian players bashing will begin in the Australian media in November. Pity is that some of the Indian media with their personal likes and dislikes of certain players will also join them.