Category Archives: Andrew Symonds

The Danger Of Indian Cricket Nationalism

Everyone’s raving about Wright Thompson, the American cricket-stranger who wandered around India during the World Cup. Regular readers know I’m skeptical about non-cricket fans writing about the game, but tackling it from a foreigner’s perspective does bring out different tones among sources. It’s one thing to talk to another Indian about the game; it’s another completely to explain it to a (white?) American.

Read, for e.g., what Rahul Bhattacharya had to say:

“The aggression, the brashness,” says Bhattacharya, the cricket writer turned novelist. “It’s now something which Indians see that this is what we have to do to assert our place in the world. We’ve been f—ed over for thousands of years. Everyone has conquered us. Now we’re finding our voice. We’re the fastest-growing economy in the world. We are going to buy your companies. Our cricket team is like going to f—ing abuse you back, and we’re going to win and we’re going to shout in your face after we win. People love that.”

That’s just awful. It’s ironic that in our bid to express our long-suppressed voice, we end up sounding so much like our conquerors. Why is there such a fascination with the Australian way of playing, with all its talk of mental disintegration and toughness? Why must we lose our sense of play and of fun for the sake of winning? Why must we lose our own distinctive style?

Martha Nussbaum, another (white) foreigner has diagnosed this trend very well:

[As] I’ve noted, the traditions contain a wound, a locus of vulnerability, in the area of humiliated masculinity. For centuries, some Hindu males think, they were subordinated by a sequence of conquerors, and Hindus have come to identify the sexual playfulness and sensuousness of their traditions, scorned by the masters of the Raj, with their own weakness and subjection. So a repudiation of the sensuous and the cultivation of the masculine came to seem the best way out of subjection. One reason why the RSS attracts such a following is the widespread sense of masculine failure.


Yusuf Pathan Rides The Anger

After another blazingly fast innings in the IPL (this one against the Deccan Chargers), Yusuf Pathan explained his inspiration:

“When somebody from the opposition involves in sledging you are more pumped up to do well. When I went in to bat, Symonds said a few words and after that I was determined to perform with the bat,” Pathan said after Rajasthan registered a convincing eight-wicket victory to register their straight victory in the tournament.

This relates to one of my earliest posts about the use of anger and emotion in cricket. We often hear commentators plead for cricketers with a good “cricketing brain,” one that pursues shots with minimal risks and plays “smart cricket” (usually, hit a boundary and then sneak a quick single). Sometimes, you don’t need to stay calm in “pressure situations.” You need to let loose, hit out and make everyone — namely, Symonds — pay.

A Tale Of Two Australia-India Series

Back in 2007/8, Australia came to India after before a blisteringly controversial Test series to play what turned out to be an unbelievably tame seven-match ODI tournament. India lost 4-2 (with one game washed out), though it would have lost 5-1 were it not for an improbable partnership between Zaheer Khan and Murali Kartik (which ended with an ethical quandary about walking).

The current series has been far more entertaining. Back in 2007, the Australians had yet to be fully knocked off their pedestal, and they still a methodical way of dismantling opposition teams. It was a thing to behold, but not completely thrilling.

That’s all done with. If you look at the 2007 series stats, you’ll note Australia benefited largely from a solid batting line-up that has been subsequently shaken to the core. Symonds, Hayden, Clarke and Gilchrist were among the top 5 batsmen then, and all of them aren’t playing this series (and three of them won’t play internationally again). The new replacements are obviously handling themselves well (and Hussey, Ponting and Watson are in the top 5 in the 2009 series), but they’re clearly not as domineering as the 2007 foursome.

The worrying thing for India is how little it has changed. It’s been two years of “invest in the youth” strategy, and yet, the main players are still the veterans: Dhoni, Yuvraj, Tendulkar. Robin Uthappa is nowhere to be found; KD Karthik disappointed in 2007 (but may appear yet again in 2009); Suresh Raina has obvious potential but has yet to prove himself reliable; Rohit Sharma is gone, as is Irfan Pathan.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the current Indian outfit is better than the 2007 edition, but at this point, I wonder if Australia has proven better at finding and managing new talent. Let me know if I’ve gotten this completely wrong because I normally am the last person to give Australia anything by way of praise.

The Andrew Symonds Dismissal

I haven’t read everything about what happened in the run-up to Andrew Symonds’ dismissal, but it seems a bit strange. The man had a few drinks, even though he apparently promised not to. On the other hand, where were his teammates? Did they all go to this rugby tournament, sit at a bench and order drinks, and then watch uneasily as Symonds reached for one after the other as well? Or did Symonds violate the team’s no-alcohol policy and just order one out loud? 

Poor man. When the first Harbhajan-Symonds broke out, I tried to sketch a more complicated point of view. I argued a) that Singh did in fact call Symonds a monkey, which I thought reprehensible and deserved as much punishment as Symonds should have received for provoking the dispute, but also that b) Singh did not deserve the “racist” tag as a result. Continue reading

Australia Attacks On Indian Students Spill Into Cricket World

There’s been a spate of highly publicized attacks on Indian stuents in Australia recently. Pretty gruesome stuff — I think one student had a “petrol bomb” thrown at him — and another one was attacked with a screwdriver. The whole affair has received a lot of attention in the Indian media, especially after film star Amitabh Bachchan refused an honorary degree from a Brisbane university because of the fracas.

Things are getting even weirder now: apparently, a cousin of Harbhajan Singh alleges a Melbourne taxi driver killed his son and left his body on railroad tracks. I really don’t know how much credence to give this story, because the Deccan Chronicle — which published the charges — is fairly respectable, but its article does not quote any Australian sources (or any Indian police sources either).

But here’s my problem: Continue reading

Andrew Symonds’ IPL Sledging

Andrew Symonds’ talents were on full display during the IPL final between the Deccan Chargers and the Royal Challengers Bangalore, and I’m not just talking about his batting and bowling.

For what looked like a good minute, Symonds went after Manish Pandey, the 19-year-old batsman who briefly lighted the IPL world with some great late performances. I don’t exactly what Symonds said, but he just kept walking after poor Pandey, who did nothing wrong other than show up to bat. (You can watch the exchange here.) I completely agreed with commentator Harsha Bhogle, who said Symonds should pick on someone his own size. “He’s only a boy,” Bhogle noted.

It’s true that I don’t like Symonds. I started to think twice about him after his recent travails (alcoholism, bad form, losing place in the national squad, violence), but then came this latest unprovoked bout of bad temper. I don’t care for sledging all that much, even if it does yield exciting moments (like the infamous Venkatesh Prasad-Aamir Sohail clash). I think the much ballyhooed “spirit” of the game thing is important (even in Twenty20) and that verbal abuse should count as much against a player as physical abuse.

Don’t get me wrong: throw a glare to a batsman after you’ve just bounced him, or tease and prod if you must with a smile (as Brett Lee does), but don’t run around another player just because you think he might be vulnerable.

Cricket and The Crisis of Indian Masculinity (Or, Sydney Redux)

Rather convoluted title, no? Forgive me. I recently posted an item about the increasingly aggressive and militaristic themes used to advertise IPL teams, when I recalled another draft I never completed about the Sydney Test. 

Over a year having passed now, it’s clear that the Sydney Test between India and Australia was a seminal moment in the cricket world. You have the umpiring errors, which led to the referral system now widely in place; you had a near-split between the Indian and Australian boards, and you had the sledging moment between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh. While Singh went  on to bigger and better things, Symonds lost his way, bitter at his team and Cricket Australia. The Australian team itself also fell a notch; they lost the next Test at Perth, drew the last one in the series in Adelaide, and then enjoyed one of their worst years in a decade. 

I want to talk a bit more, though, about the Indian side. Continue reading

Defending Steve Bucknor

The Cricket Watcher’s Journal has a nasty post on Steve Bucknor, who has made some comments about his expulsion from the India-Australia Test series. I’ve defended Bucknor before, so I’ll do it again (if only because no one else will).

I’m not sure why TCWJ is so enraged, as Bucknor makes some more than reasonable claims: first, he thinks the BCCI may be disproportionately powerful because of its financial clout. Check. Then, he says his bad decisions — and he agrees that they were bad, which, as an umpire, he isn’t compelled to admit publicly — formed only a small minority of the decisions he had to make in the game. Check again. What’s the big deal?

TCWJ writes:

But when he goes on to say “So I was expecting these things to happen because on Earth … there are some people who are more equal than others. Because they are more equal, they seem to have more say. And what they say, especially influenced by money, they seem to have their way. So I’m not too surprised” – you wonder perhaps it hasn’t registered to him that he has consistently given poor decisions against India.

Again, I find this all puzzling. Continue reading

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and Indian Cricket

I haven’t been to India recently, so I’ve had to rely almost exclusively on Western accounts of anger in some Indian sectors about the now-Oscar-winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Apparently, some were angry about the word ‘dog,’ which they found particularly offensive. Note, again, how culturally specific insults can be: ‘monkey’ is not at all registered in India, whereas ‘dog’ — I know this from personal experience — goes too far (‘bastard’, as well, as Anil Kumble pointed out to Brad Hogg, also goes beyond the pale). 

Others, however, were angry that the film’s central characters and plot came out of Dharavi, the massive slum in Bombay. I’m not sure I understand their logic, because, as ‘slum’ films go, this one was far better a portrayal than City of Joy, a Patrick Swayze movie from the 1990s that relied on the savior-Westerner prototype as its main protagonist, and focused much less on Indian wealth. That film, of course, also attracted protests, but Slumdog is simply different, since it is not meant to be a “realist” portrayal; it is a fantastic romp through a series of bigger-than-life characters (see Anil Kapoor’s role especially). Continue reading

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A White West Indian Cricketer?

Peter English had a wonderful article about Brendan Nash, a West Indian cricketer of mixed heritage and often “accused” of being white. (Over at the Guardian, Paul Weaver also provides some interesting quotes from the man in question.) He’s something of a sensation in the West Indies: racially mixed, conceived in Jamaica but born in Australia, where he grew up, then a migrant back to Jamaica, which he now calls home, and, because of his fair(er) skin, called “white.”

A couple of things pop out for me: Continue reading

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