Warning to India: antagonise Australia at your peril
IF EVER there was a case of a sporting team barking up the wrong tree it’s been the Indian cricketers in their current one-day series against Australia.
In the process they’ve not only made things difficult for themselves in the short term, but have set themselves up for some grief when they tour Australia in the summer.
For once the Australians can’t have the finger pointed at them about on-field shenanigans. Certainly they wouldn’t have been too impressed by the Indians knocking them out of the Twenty20 World Cup, but this situation seems to be entirely down to the undisciplined aggression of two Indian players in particular, pace bowler Shantha Sreesanth and spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Their antics will have played their part in the cat-calling of Andrew Symonds by sections of the crowd last week. It’s not a good idea to stir up fellows like Symonds and Matthew Hayden — they are imposing figures and they can play a bit, as Symonds showed again yesterday — and if they happen to be in something of a lull, as many of the Australians appeared to be when they arrived for the Twenty20, they are best left alone.
Sreesanth has been troublesome for months and needs to be hauled in for everyone’s sake. He is an overly hyped youngster with a lot to learn — he can bowl some good spells, but his temperament gets the better of him.
When he toured England in July and August he was a constant worry for his skipper Rahul Dravid. Inevitably he would lose his rag and bowl rubbish while his teammates at the other end used the conditions well and achieved a rare away-from-home Test series victory.
Singh is a different case altogether. Still only 27, he has been a terrific bowler for some time now and has over 400 international wickets to prove it — about 300 more than Sreesanth.
He’s always been a feisty competitor, but lost his place on that England tour and was no doubt less than pleased about it. The Twenty20 series thrust him back into the picture and got his competitive juices flowing again.
Buoyed by India’s win, he probably thought the only way to take these Aussies on was confronting them, but he’s struggled for support and has run into a ravenous opponent.
As a result he’s appeared to be an angry and frustrated cricketer. His frustration reached its peak when he lingered for what seemed an eternity after being given out stumped in the second match.
He was in a no-win situation with the Australians huddled in a pack, and it was no surprise to learn later that he’d been the subject of some rather pointed advice about his departure. It was a messy situation for umpire Steve Bucknor to sort out, and not good for the game.
Of course, the Australians have been no shrinking violets in all this.
Ricky Ponting must have been busting to get out there when he was sidelined with injury, and hasn’t stopped stirring the pot since he’s been back. When he’s making comments about the lowly batting position of the opposition captain, you know he’s up for a fight.
The Australians will always get up people’s noses with the aggressive way they play.
But in this instance Symonds and co have had the last laugh and given the Indians an inkling of their challenging summer to come.