It’s a genre of its own, steadily expanding: first, there was Adam Gilchrist, and all the revelations of an un-sportsmanlike Tendulkar. Then, there was Ricky Ponting, offering another account of the Sydney crisis. And now, the main man himself, Andrew Symonds, picks up the plume and begins to write himself. Where does this all leave us?
First: Gilchrist, I think, is an idiot. I can’t be sure, but I’m fairly certain of it. I never really liked the guy, because I thought he was so morally uptight about his “walking.” (The logic behind that sentiment didn’t apply to his appealing behind the wicket.) But he can’t even stand behind his own words: he writes that Tendulkar didn’t shake hands, or wasn’t around after matches. Tendulkar replies that he doesn’t know what Gilchrist is talking about. Gilchrist then says he was taken out of context. How that is possible is beyond me — the words seem clear enough:
Gilchrist also raised questions over Tendulkar’s sportsmanship and said he was “hard to find for a changing-room handshake after we have beaten India”. “Harbhajan can also be hard to find,” he said. “I guess it’s a case of different strokes for different folks.”
The tone here is very easy to hear, especially through the words “after we have beaten India.” Sore losers, those Indians. The last sentence about “different folks” does not undo the damage (and it certainly doesn’t make for good writing).
Second: Ponting and Symonds both offer different descriptions of what happened between Harbhajan and Symonds in the Future Cup. Here’s Ponting:
“He walked out of our dressing room, knocked on the Indian team’s door, asked to see Harbhajan, confronted him and said flatly, ‘Don’t do it again’,” Ponting wrote. “When Symmo returned to our room, he told us that after he explained how much the insult had affected him, while Harbhajan had not admitted that he said it, he did acknowledge that it was unacceptable, had apologised for any offence, and assured Symmo there’d be no repeat.
“The two men shook hands. On that basis, we decided that the right thing to do was exactly what our critics told us we should have done in Sydney: we gave him another chance. We just let it go.”
And here’s Symonds:
“India won the game, and afterwards the team had a brief discussion about whether a formal charge should be laid against Harbhajan. But I was keen to try to deal with it there and then and went along to their dressing-room and asked to speak with Harbhajan. I basically told him: ‘Look, the name-calling is fine with me, it doesn’t particularly worry me what you call me, but you know what is going to happen. One thing will lead to another and you blokes will end up going to an umpire and it will get out of hand’. I said that the word he used was offensive and hurtful and he apologised and said it wouldn’t happen again.
“We shook hands and I said: ‘That’s the end of it’. As it turned out, Harbhajan would later deny this conversation took place, but my recollection is about as clear as I can be on the event.”
Ponting is careful to write that Harbhajan did not in fact admit to calling Symonds a “monkey,” but Symonds isn’t — he insists that Harbhajan said “it wouldn’t happen again.” Notice also that Ponting writes that Symonds explained how hurtful the alleged monkey comment is, while Symonds takes a much more cavalier tone in his own account. He writes that he didn’t care much about the name-calling, and then adds that “you guys” — i.e., the Indians — would go to the umpires and complain (implying that they are a bunch of tell-tales and cry-babies).
Where does this leave us? I have no idea. Symonds seems caught in two minds: on the one hand, he does find the monkey comment hurtful. On the other, he says he doesn’t really care, but he thinks things will “get out of hand” because the Indians will make a big deal out of everything. Meanwhile, Symonds’s comment also contradicts Gilchrist’s, because, if Symonds is saying the truth, then finding Indian players after a match isn’t that hard after all. If you really wanted a hand-shake or a chat, Gilly, all you had to do, apparently, is knock on a door. Different strokes, I suppose?