So, a whole lot has been said/written about the Sydney Test. Enough that it made me come out of retirement to provide a clear, concise picture of it all.
The long and short of it is this: downright incompetent and one-sided umpiring. It’s not the Australians’ fault. They did not play out of the spirit of the game, and Kumble was wrong to say that (is he not always appealing for ridiculous wickets?). There were tons of other events that led to the emotional outpouring, but the only thing wrong with this game was the poor umpiring. If all the decisions had gone in India’s favour, they would have enjoyed it as much as the Aussies did. What do you think is going to happen in the next Test when Tendulkar nicks one, is given not out and stands his ground? Players don’t walk, claim catches they haven’t taken, and so on. It’s not new. It has happened before and will happen again. That’s not what was wrong with this Test.
All this talk about India discontinuing the tour, Aussies being ugly (as much as I hate their guts), or not playing in the right spirit, or bringing a charge against Hogg for using the term “bastard” is nonsense, and it would behoove all parties to not conduct, participate or pay attention to such frivolous and time-wasting matters.
Bad umpiring by itself is not that big a problem either, assuming both sides benefit from it. But this was by far one-sided, suspiciously so. And that’s what drove the Indians’ over the bend (along with the fact that the umpiring changed the complexion of a very crucial game in which they had somehow gotten on top even though they had lost Zaheer Khan). I have compiled a list of all the bad decisions (roughly in the order of gravity):
- Symonds’ caught behind given not out by Bucknor
- Dravid given caught behind by Bucknor on the last day when the ball clearly hit the pad
- Bucknor did not refer Symonds’ close stumping to the 3rd umpire (not whether he was out or not, but that one needed to be referred)
- Benson asked Ponting if Clarke caught Ganguly cleanly (rules say he has to ask leg umpire and if both are not sure, ask the 3rd umpire or give batsman the benefit of the doubt)
- Benson gave Ponting out LBW when on 55 in the first innings (which negated the decision below)
- Benson gave Ponting not out when on 17 in the first innings when he was caught behind (a very thin edge)
- Bucknor failed to spot the no ball with which Brett Lee bowled Jaffer in the first innings
- 3rd umpire failed to give Symonds out stumped even though his foot was in the air (and all 3 Australian commentators at the time agreed that it was out)
I have not included any LBW decisions because they’re usually in a gray area. I did read somewhere about a nick from Hussey (I think Peter Roebuck mentioned it), but I did not see it personally, so I don’t know what that was about. But the two wrong decisions at the top of the list above were enough to turn the game on its head. The first seized the initiative from India and the second handed it to Australia.
Bucknor has been ruling too much against India over the years for it to be entirely coincidental. I want to believe that he’s unbiased, but a lot of evidence to the contrary has piled up. I can’t recall when he’s made a huge blunder in India’s favor, but I can rattle off a number of absolute stinkers that have hurt India badly in important games. I don’t know what his motivation could be — perhaps he got poor decisions in India in his playing days. Or maybe I am wrong and he’s not really biased. Whatever the case, the Indians should raise an issue, furnish the evidence of his poor decisions against India for the past few years, ensure he never officiates in any of India’s games (or is fired permanently) and move on.
The other thing to do is, obviously, to bring in the appeals/challege system so such injustice cannot be done again to anybody. Downright wrong decisions will be avoided and just that will be a huge improvement. It’s time to usher cricket into the 21st century, and the sooner ICC does it the better. I have no respect for Malcolm Speed, but hopefully he’ll do one thing right while in office. Everybody talks about the appeal system after such poor games and call it the right time to bring in that system. The right time is before such games. I wrote about it a long time ago. Wake up, ICC.
As for the racism charges against Harbhajan. It’s difficult to say since we don’t know what exactly was said. Personally, I don’t think “monkey” is a racist term, but maybe in this case it was, and if that was Harbhajan’s intention he should be penalized. I do, however, think that the penalty given (3 Test ban) was particularly harsh, espeically given that there doesn’t seem to be enough proof to suggest a racist intention. Greg Baum argues the case well here. It’s important to note that, from the tv shots, Harbhajan seemed to immediately apologize. That makes me think he did use the “monkey” term, although the motive might not have been racist (aren’t both of them brown-colored? how can it be a skin color issue then?). Also, Darren Lehmann once called Murali a “black cunt” which is clearly more racist, and he got off with a 5-ODI ban, didn’t he? I am sure Harbhajan and the rest of the Indian team would prefer a 5-ODI ban to a 3-Test ban.
I would like to end by presenting my arguments against certain cases I have seen mentioned in a few places.
1) Didn’t visiting teams to India always get bad umpiring decisions back in the 70s and 80s?
I don’t know about back then, but if so, yes, that would be wrong. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s okay for it to happen now for teams visiting Australia. By this argument, you could say that it is okay for Indians to call racial slurs to other Caucasian teams because it was the other way around back in the day.
India was robbed in this Test. What has happened, has happened and can’t be changed. Australia has retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Let’s look forward to the series later in the year when Australia will visit India.