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By Sunil Gavaskar
One of the reasons why the Australian team has been able to conquer the subcontinent is the way they have tried to understand the culture of the countries they visit, and even though they may not agree with some aspects they still show respect to it. Apart from the fact that they are also top class players, the moment they adjust temperamentally to a life dissimilar to the one they are used to back home, they are in a better mental frame to play the game and not let extraneous factors come in the way of their pursuit of winning the matches.
This turnaround was started under Bob Simpsons managership of the Australian team in 1986 and with Allan Border the skipper, being as gutsy as they come, the Australians not only won games, but also fans with the manner in which they dealt with an Indian tour. Instead of staying cooped in their rooms and seeing the faces of their teammates day in day out, they ventured out , took rickshaws to travel, went out to restaurants and to people's homes and got into a positive frame of mind.
Sure, India has changed and the liberalizing of the economy means that outside brands and enterprises are vying with local brands and businesses for a share of the Indian purchasing power too. With the lowering of taxes the middle class also is able to save enough and still have some to indulge themselves and that in turn has enticed more overseas brands to explore and expand in India. Today it is not just Indians, but also players from Australia and South Africa, who are seen on billboards flaunting Indian brands. Yes, the overseas player may be a bit more affordable than the Indian superstar, but hey he is not complaining.
This is where England differs from the Australians. They start a tour with a negative mindset and are looking for problems. It may not be the players themselves for they know that they have to adjust, but it is the stubbornness with which the media refuses to change that causes unnecessary issues to crop up. There is a mindset that is looking to malign Indian cricket, the BCCI and looking to poke fun and ridicule and so instead of coming with an open mind the approach is only to bolster the stereotype and find fault with anything and everything. It is a pity really because if anybody should have a great relationship with India it is England because they spent so much time in India and so should know and understand them better than anybody else. Unfortunately, with the compulsion of the readership back in England the stories will invariably be to put India down. All the progress made will never be highlighted, but the image of a bullock cart on the roads will be enhanced.
With the Test series starting this week there is already talk about what the pitches will have in store and who will be able to cope with it better. The English know that it is not going to be easy without the presence of Kevin Pietersen, so they had the drama of reintegration as if a couple of days of meeting with teammates clears up hard feelings. The great man was made to eat humble pie and humiliated with having to apologize publicly when others, who have had a go at their teammates, have been spared. The double standards are incredible to say the least. It will be interesting to hear the excuses as the tour goes on. However the old reliable of a tummy bug should no longer be valid.
If teams can come down early to acclimatize and also have camps simulating the conditions they will get in the subcontinent then there is no reason why having the team eat the cuisine they will get on tour should not be part of the acclimatizing process. In any case with so many Indian restaurants in England it is simply a matter of going to eat in these before the tour to get the stomachs used to it. That would be real professionalism and not moaning about it later.
Hopefully, the action on the field will be riveting and not allow the regressives to talk about off field matters, for frankly that is the only place where the men are separated from the boys.