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India raises hackles of Aussies

India’s boisterous celebrations after winning the World Twenty20 title did not go down well with Australia, cricket’s best team.

Australia might have suffered the odd bloody nose, but for more than a decade it has been head and shoulders above the rest of the cricket world. Whenever it has lost, ruthless revenge has been exacted at the next meeting.

Australia also does not like anyone celebrating a cricketing victory other than itself. India would have done well to look at what happened to England.

In 2005, England’s cricket team finally beat Australia in an Ashes Test series for the first time since 1986. It was a narrow 2-1 victory and all of England celebrated, with tens of thousands turning out for a victory parade in Trafalgar Square. The team was hosted by then Prime Minister Tony Blair and each member of the England cricket team went on to be awarded an MBE by the Queen.

England’s cricketers lapped up the honours, the press interviews and the adulation. The Australians waited for the return tour and when England arrived Down Under last year, the Australians gave them a hiding for the ages. The hosts swept the Tests, completing the first 5-0 whitewash in an Ashes series since 1921. England was humiliated at every turn and at the end of the tour there was no doubt about who was boss.

And so the Australian cricket team arrived in India complaining about their hosts’ extravagant celebrations over the World Twenty20 win. All-rounder Andrew Symonds was most vocal in his disdain, dubiously stating that the Australians were humble when they celebrated their numerous victories. India’s celebrations, he said, triggered a burning desire to bring them down.

It was in that charged backdrop that a confident India and a determined Australia clashed in a seven-match ODI series that wrapped up last week. True to form, the Australians gave India a sound thrashing, winning 4-2 with one match rained out. And Symonds put his money where his mouth is and walked away with the man-of-the-series award after a superlative display that saw him score a century and three 50s in his six innings.

The crowd not only booed Symonds, who is black, but also subjected him to what the Australians called “monkey chants.” The first time it happened, at Vadodara during the fifth match, authorities seemed confused that the incident was being categorized as racist abuse, given that many Hindus consider monkeys to be sacred and a manifestation of the god Hanuman. The police commissioner even suggested that fans were praying.

A seething Symonds responded in the next match at Nagpur by smoking India’s bowlers for 107 runs off only 88 balls, a gem of an innings that helped Australia to its fourth win of the series. The crowd was at its most boorish in Mumbai during the final match, but by then the larger issue of cricketing supremacy was sealed with Australia pounding into submission those who aspire to the throne.

There is, however, still the anomaly of an Australian cricketer suffering racist abuse. There have been incidents of cricketers on tour of Australia copping racist abuse, as England’s Monty Panesar, Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and any number of South African players could testify, but the Andrew Symonds affair is the first publicized instance of an Australian being on the receiving end.

One hopes that this does not mark the beginning of an unwelcome trend.

Categories: Cricket Article

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