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Let's counter professionalism with something similar.
by Suresh Menon
Oct 16, 2007
After Narender Hirwani took sixteen wickets on a turner at Chepauk and upset the West Indies in a Test match, skipper Viv Richards said laconically, “You come to the West Indies and we’ll show you.” Two months later, India lost a Test series in the West Indies 0-3. The ‘you come home and we’ll show you’ theme has resurfaced after India’s recent series against Australia. Andrew Symonds has articulated it most emphatically.

Symonds seems to be particularly affected. He is upset that the Indian players have made so much money after their Twenty20 triumph. He is upset that the ‘new’ India is aggressive and refuses to roll over and play dead when he and his mates sledge. He is upset that despite losing just one Twenty20 match to India and a single one-day international in four years, Indians somehow act as if they are the better side. He is upset that Harbhajan Singh and Sreeshanth don’t know where to stop and assures us that they will be targeted when the Indian team tours Australia in December.

Admittedly, Sreeshanth’s behaviour has been boorish - but it is no more than the behaviour of Australian players has been over the years. Pots are entitled to calling the kettle black, but if by-standers find that amusing, they cannot complain. In the 1980s, Mohammad Azharuddin was almost reduced to tears in Australia when Allan Border kept calling his sexuality into question by shouting a well-known Punjabi swear word at him at regular intervals.

No, the story of the India-Australia series is not - despite the media’s focus on it - the story of the bad blood between the teams. It is the story of the essential difference in the make-up of the players. Matthew Hayden once said that Indian players were more concerned about their personal landmarks and therefore seldom played as a team. That raised a furore. But you only have to look at top scorer Sourav Ganguly’s figures in the Nagpur one-dayer to realize how right he was. When the need was to step on the accelerator, Ganguly got bogged down in singles as he neared a century. He made just 29 off the last 36 deliveries he faced - and that certainly contributed to India falling behind in the chase.

Contrast that with the approach of a Symonds or a Michael Clarke or any Australian who takes risks regardless of landmarks round the corner.

Many years ago a popular Indian player confessed to me: “It is stylish to say that I would rather score a zero in an India win than a century in an India defeat. But that is not true. Most of us would rather score a century, and hang the result.”

You can admire the searing honesty of that comment, or you can hold your head in agony at the attitude. Such a mindset is partly due to the cavalier manner in which selectors have treated players over generations.

The Sreeshanths and the Harbhajans have shown that they can meet boorishness with boorishness; now they will have to prove India can counter professionalism with something similar. And if India return from Australia unbeaten, there will be a welcome to bring tears to Symond’s eyes.

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