Call the team back!

India must pull out of this series…for the sake of good cricket

The Catapult makes an important point about geopolitics in a post on how India was subject to all-round cheating in Australia:

In a way this is symptomatic of the way India approaches its foreign relations, trying to belong to institutions and abide by the rules of a world order shaped by other powers to suit their own agendas and hoping that its “good behaviour” will be recognised and rewarded rather than like China which threatens to undermine it unless it is satisfactorily accommodated in the global power structure. And no prizes for guessing who is getting the better bargain. [The Catapult]

The Indian cricket authorities have been content to try and exploit the economic opportunities that result from India’s market power. That they failed to ensure that umpires and referees didn’t cheat the India team says something about BCCI’s attitude towards the ‘politics’ of the game.

Queuing up outside the the ICC’s office with an appeal in hand is not the thing you do after something like this. It would serve the interests of Indian cricket (and that of cricket itself) better if India were to just call the team back and call off the rest of the series. Why?

Because it’s not merely about revoking the three-match ban on Harbhajan Singh. But because the BCCI must ensure that atrocious umpiring and match refereeing don’t recur in future.

Bad umpires and ungentlemanly behaviour are much better deterred by calling the series off. This is a far more credible signal precisely because it is a costly signal. So far, the BCCI has not distinguished itself in this episode—torn as it is between its role as the dominant controller of the Indian cricket market and the steward of the Indian cricket team. It issued half-a-threat and then half-retracted it. In doing so it revealed its intentions: that it is not really serious about backing its cricketers or ensuring that Indian teams don’t suffer in future. It just wants the dismal show to go on…

It is not for BCCI to worry about geopolitics. It is not the time to strike some “wishy-washy” compromises. If the BCCI cares for Indian cricket, it would do well to bring the players back home. [Update: As expected, BCCI tries and contents itself with a compromise]

Related Link: The Other Side on Monkeygate: Things BCCI can do

30 thoughts on “Call the team back!”

  1. BCCI has certainly carried out its deer in the headlights role to the hilt over this episode. But I am not sure that canceling the series at this stage will be helpful. ICC will forfeit the matches in favor of Aus and they will lead 4-0 anyway. Better go on with the tour under protest. And then threaten to call off the upcoming Aus tour in India on the pretext saying that India does not feel it will be able to play Aus on a fair platform etc. The latter will be scarier for CA, not to mention the Aussie players who earn huge endorsements from Indian companies.

    Finally, chuck Brett Lee out of that Bollywood movie they were going to make. 🙂

  2. I agree with your views Nitin.

    However, this will only remain a pipe dream because BCCI doesn’t want to jeopardize the highly lucrative IPL that they have been planning. Aussies Players have signed up big time with IPL and any withdrawl will hurt the personal pockets of BCCI owners. They couldn’t care less about all this bull-shit, when there is money to be made.

    However, I read somewhere that Arun Jaitley is involved in all of this, so there is a remote possibility of honorable solution for India.

  3. Kangaroo courts seem to come very naturally to the Aussies. Native to the soil what.

    If BCCI cannot have a dominant influence over ICC, given the economics of the game, it should consider pulling out of the latter as well.

  4. So, none of you even remotely entertain the possibility that Harbhajan Singh could have used the “monkey” word ? Is our sporting hero incapable of it ?

    For arguments sake, if he did use it – What do you want the Australians to do ? Just swallow it ?

    Surely we realize this is a big-deal-word in western countries. Try joking around with your african american colleague (“Wazzup monkey ?” ) and report your results back to this blog.

    The terrible umpiring is a separate issue. The BCCI signed off on Bucknor, remember ?

    If Australians are so evil and anti-Indian (like a commenters jab at Kangaroo courts), they would not have attracted hundreds of thousands of Indian and Pakistani immigrants. There are many columns in Aussie papers (like Roebucks) which support the Indian stand. So , lets take it easy on the Aussie public.

    Brand me unpatriotic, but consider all possibilities.

  5. Comrade RC,

    (Now don’t break into a sweat because I called you a comrade, like Comrades Cynic, Comrade Matt, and Comrade Joe Briganza do. Consider all possibilities.)

    The thing that should matter is the depositions made before the Kamgaroo court. Harbhajan denied that he insulted Symonds. Symonds claimed that he did. The court had no solid evidence one way or the other. It just went by Symonds claims.

    As for letting immigrants live: our record is better than the Aussies’. We have hordes of immigrants swarming all over West Bengal, Delhi and other places — illegally to boot. Some aliens just forced themselves on us, harrassed us, broke our places of worship, and even got a separate country out of us eventually. All this proves that Harbhajan could not have lied, just as Aussies letting their immigrants be proves, in your opinion, Symonds could not have lied.

  6. Incidentally, “monkey” is not a big deal word. I don’t know how friends react when called “comrade monkey”, but in my profession (software engineering) the word “monkey” is used in jest to designate certain roles that are (contextually) unimportant, eg: “test monkey”, “code monkey” etc. You should not get too hung up if someone calls you “blog monkey” or “comment monkey”. Likewise I think, when Symonds imagined that he was called money, he reacted out of pique than with a sense of humor. The ICC monkeys made matters worse.

  7. Oldtimer,

    I would gladly become a comrade if I could pull off an inside job, lol 🙂

    It all comes down to the evidence and the quantum of punishment. Maybe a fine or a one match ban if the referee was convinced.

    In most likelyhood, due to cultural reasons, Bhajji did not realize the nature of the word. Monkey chants are a big deal in European football leagues, but not here. I bet 99% of Indians dont even know Symonds is part black. He is as “gora” as Ponting, for all we care.

    Some time in the past tour, word got out that Symonds was easily pissed off by the Monkey word. This was interpreted to , “To really piss Symonds off, just use the monkey word”, “to really piss off ramesh powar use the fatass word”.

    In the course of the match, Bhajji smacks Lee’s bottom, Symonds steps in – and the stage is set. There is no issue of race here. I wonder if the Indian management pursued this angle. It is just a matter to saying the word that really ticks people off and makes them shut up.

    In school, I used to show no hesitation in pulling peoples legs, but when someone called me a broomstick (tall skinny with bad hair), that would really get me. Always.

  8. Comrade RC,

    >>Bhajji did not realize the nature of the word.

    You are not considering all possibilities. Monkey business is not a problem, but being close-minded is a dangerous thing. Not knowing what being open-minded is like and not given to consider all possibilities about, you have jumped — with simian alacrity, if I may jocularly add — to the conclusion that Harbhajan insulted symonds.

    Possibilities include

    #1 Harbhajan did not call Symonds a monkey, Symonds is lying since he is smarting from the insults thrown at him by the crowd in India
    #2 Symonds just imagined that Harbhan called him a money
    #3 Harbhajan called him a lion, and not being used to Indian accent, Symonds mistook that for monkey
    #4 Harbhajan said “okaydokey” and Symonds just heard it wrong, what with gusts of wind all around

    etc, etc.

    Possibilities, possibilities. That’s what you and the Kangaroos are missing.

  9. Oldtimer,

    “code” monkey, “test” monkey have qualifiers in front of them. Just like “grease” monkey refers to a mechanic. We are really talking about an unqualified monkey. (no pun). You may just be able to get away with calling your african american colleague a test monkey, but surely not with just monkey.

    I believe it was specifically agreed by both captains not to use the word to Symonds.

    I dont have much more to say about this game.

  10. RC,

    Contrary to your belief, most people actually understand that Harbhajan Singh certainly said something. We also understand that he is quite capable of saying a lot of things (he has functional vocal chords, as far as we know). However, most sensible people also understand that there is no way to be sure about what he said. There is simply no evidence whatsoever. Therefore, he can not be punished by any reasonable measure of justice.

    The rest of your comment seems to belong elsewhere (Rediff message-boards?) because I don’t see Nitin calling Australians (either the players or the populace in general) evil or anti-Indian. So, why the flame-baiting?

  11. Clarification: I was responding to Comment No. 5. My browser wasn’t displaying the newer comments when I started typing the response.

  12. Another thing I don’t get is: Harbhajan is supposed to have “racially” abused Symonds. Howazzat! Are monkeys a particular shade of white, what. I saw one a couple months ago in Bandipur that was kinda black and red-bottomed.

  13. I am slightly surprised at the call to cancel the tour. Could shift the ground towards Aus. Lets play under protest with black badges or something. Let also complain royally at anything the Aussies say on field.


  14. Hi all,

    It’s not merely about Harbhajan. [Although the alleged offence, the trial and the verdict suggests that justice was not done]. It’s about deterrence.

    The Second Test is over. India was cheated, and there’s nothing that can be done about the match result now. The record says 2-0, and statistics tables will never tell the story of how India was cheated out of the game.

    So what should India do? Well, BCCI must look ahead and ensure that such things don’t ever get repeated again. The question then is: what will deter potential cheats—from umpires, to players to referees—from trying? It’s impossible to completely prevent them from trying: but how can the costs of doing this be made as expensive as possible?

    BCCI had three options: (a) Do Nothing (b) Appeal Harbhajan’s ban (c) Pull out of the series in protest against the cheating and against Bajji’s ban.

    Which of these three would deter future cheats? Doing nothing would be asking for it. Appealing Harbhajan’s ban is par for the course (and the facts are such that he could be exonerated even without threatening to stop the series). The only option that would raise the costs of cheating India is one which is an extra-ordinary response: such as calling the series off. (Btw, I don’t believe in all that satyagraha type business Prem Panicker wrote about. Nor do I think black arm bands will cut it).

    Phrased differently: doing what BCCI did was not only a “cheap” signal, but also indicated that it would be content with Bajji being allowed to play on, and getting removed Bucknor. It does raise the costs of future cheating somewhat, but does not raise them high enough. BCCI’s “reasonableness” will work to India’s disadvantage.

  15. I dont favour calling off the tour especially now that national honour has been restored to an extend with Bucknor out and Bhajji able to play till appeal is decided on.

    Another reason why I want the tour to go on is because I love to wake up early in the winter mornings to watch the ODI triangular series.

  16. I agree that BCCI was reasonable but its not without reason. One cannot take absolutist positions when so much money is involved. And let me say that the best defence against typically Aussie sledging is to engage in it and by coming back from the tour we’d have lost a big chance to pay them back in the same coin and cut them down to size, at least with regards to ethics and behaviour, if not performance in the game itself.

  17. Weekday Grime
    Andrew Symonds has a nick name.
    Its Roy.
    Its based on a British comic strip about the life and exploits of a fictional footballer named Roy ####.
    Find for yourself, the last name of Symonds’ nickname

  18. Nitin,

    I don’t think the Indian team should have been called back. Personally, I’d not think that that’s how India could have thrown its weight about. Some could view a withdrawal as a strong statement of intent, while others would undoubtedly view it as a sign of Indian guilt over what happened, and perhaps even meekness.

    In this one instance, I think the BCCI has not done too badly rather surprisingly). The cards were laid on the table – you sack the umpires and allow Harbhajan to play till the time of the appeal, and we stay, or else we pack our bags and go home. Within one day, the ICC relented and Bucknor was sacked, and Harbhajan is free to play till the time of the appeal hearing.

    I’d like to see the tour continue. The next game is in Perth, and I’d like to see Harbhajan play (irrespective of the fact that the Perth track assists the quicks). The Australians are flustered. They have been since their T20 world cup defeat at the hands of India. India is (realistically) the only team which can beat them, and almost did at Sydney. They know it themselves. Cricket needs someone to stand-up to the Aussies, and India is in the best position to do so. Leaving Australia now would allow their team and it’s pathetic ways to continue…

  19. I think a lot of people are under the impression that BCCI has scored some kind of victory with the sacking of Bucknor and by “allowing” Harbhajan to play. This impression needs to be corrected.

    1. The sacking of Bucknor was necessary not because he was anti-India, but because he was pathetic beyond belief in Sydney. So were Benson and Oxenford. Strangely enough, there has been no action taken against them (none that I know of) so far. This is not a favour to India. Incompetent umpires deserve to be sacked.

    2. The second point is even more astonishing: the ICC has not done anything at all actually, while trying to appear conciliatory and magnanimous. Under the existing rules, every player is anyway allowed to continue playing while his appear against a disciplinary verdict is pending. Keeping the appeal pending till a later date is not a concession at all. If anything, the appeal should have been heard right away and justice done.

    But already it is clear the BCCI has struck a deal behind the scenes and we are probably going to be stuck with it.

    Regardless of that, people should not assume that BCCI has “won” in any sense of the term. If anything, it has lost the initiative and dealt a blow to the team’s morale.

  20. I would say the aussies were very clever in levelling charges against harbhajan. Racism and Nuclear bombs are the two words that catches the fancy of the western world like no other.

    Regarding pulling out from ICC and flexing muscles, most commentators have failed to factor in ICL. If BCCI gets out of ICC, it loses its only edge against ICL, that of being the official cricket.

  21. Vivek,

    Your facts need to be corrected as well 🙂

    Bucknor has not been sacked. He is just not umpiring the next test at Perth. And there is not talk of Benson and Oxenford because they were not officiating in the next two tests in the first place- only Bucknor suppsoed to, at Perth.

    The ICC has unilaterally removed an umpire from a test match because the BCCI demanded so. The rules of cricket state that teams can in no circumstances choose whether or not they want certain people as umpires. The ICC has gone out of its way and bent rules to accommodate India’s request. In keeping with the post, it IS a case of India throwing its weight around.

    And I’m just curious- you say the BCCI “has lost the initiative” — initiative to do what?

  22. siddharth,

    My sincerest apologies for the wrong choice of words. I was indeed talking about Bucknor not officiating in the next game. But that doesn’t change anything about my point that removing an incompetent umpire from officiating in the next match is not a favour to India.

    As to the charge of India throwing its weight around, I can do no better than point you to Prem Panicker:

    The initiative, that the BCCI had, was about taking a firm stand against all forms of abusive language that is used on the cricketing field, and – more importantly (from the Indian perspective) – against the discrimination faced by Indian players at the hands of ICC. It has happened in the past too, if you would recall.

  23. The problem is simple..Its Money, Honey. BCCI gets amounts which is not earned by even the biggest companies when compared to the efforts put up by it for the same. It at any cost doesn’t want to loose any part of it, National Pride be dammed.

    I believe enough has been said about as to whether India should withdraw or not. I will rather try to place any aspect out here. In 2003, Rashid Latif, the then Pakistan Wicket Keeper cum Captain was banned for 5 International Matches by the very same Match Refree, Mr. Mike Procter for unfairly claiming a catch he didnt catch. Now, out here in this match, we have had 2 Catches claimed where none is clean. Would be now apply the same logic here. I very much doubt it.

    Indian’s are hugely cricket crazy and this has been proved beyond doubt when we saw filled up stands even for matches by minnows. The advertising boards we see in any Internation Match are targetted towards Indian’s / Indian Markets. If even with this kind of grip on Cricket, if we arent able to defend our pride, when will we ever do it.

    Leaving aside Cricket, we dont seem to even try to assert ourselves even when our Jawan’s are killed. While much noise has been made about this match, I dont remember if there was even a air of protest when a couple (dont remember exactly) BSF Jawans were killed by Bangladeshi Solidiers and their bodies handed over the way Pigs are tied to a Bamboo Pole. So much for our un-dying spirit and National Spirit, My Foot.

  24. Vivek,

    By “throwing its weight about”, i did not imply india bullying or trying to establish its dominance over world cricket- i used the phrase to suggest that the bcci did use its massive influence to get the indian team’s grievance heeded to. i have not said that the icc has done india a favour- it was essential that bucknor be removed from the next game. but do you really think that the same would have been the case if any nation other than india was at the receiving end of the decisions? i think not. it is in this respect that i say that the bcci has not done as bad a job as is being made out to be.

    make no mistakes, i am not a fan of the bcci either. as a fan myself, i think the bcci is headed by asses who do not hesitate for instance to shame themselves, and if possible, the indian team. but i feel that there needs to be some perspective here.

    i have no disagreements about the initiative bit, now that i know what you meant. but honestly, i do not think pulling out of the tour would have helped in this regard. rather, i think it is by going ahead with this tour, that these objectives may be attained.

    you could say i’m biased in my opinions as well.. but then, i’d love to see india have one more crack at the aussies…

  25. What non-sense! Geopolitics in Cricket?!! And blimey, is it the BCCI which is taking things down? There is a saying “when a dumbo gets some money, he will use an umbrella at night (to shade from sunlight)”. That is what is happening to BCCI in Cricket and India in Geopolitics. Humility and reason are simply not in our lexicon.

  26. siddarth,

    No, I wouldn’t call you biased. Eventually, it boils down to our opinion about the action needed to be taken. We are all biased when it comes to that. We can agree to disagree easily enough!

    Leaving our opinions aside, I wish the BCCI would take the players’ opinions into account at least and not steamroll over them.

  27. vivek,

    yes, no doubt. they should take the players’ opinions into account and not steamroll over them. wonder what the players want to do though. as it turns out, sachin has said that he did not suggest to pawar that the indian team shouldn’t play at perth till such time that harbhajan is cleared…

    but you never know with the bcci…

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