>Normally, such statements might be reserved for large-scale violence or a terrorist attack involving numerous deaths but the act of ‘massacre’ carried out at Sydney has dented the optimism and hopes of many Indians and has indeed hurt the pride of the nation.
Cricket has evoked many emotions in me but probably this is the first time it has truly brought me out not just to back the Indian team through and through but to even support the clarion call for abandonment of the tour to uphold the spirit of the gentleman’s game. India went into the Sydney test after having suffered utter humiliation at Melbourne and they showed their ability to fight back in the first two sessions at Sydney. Having Australia on the mat at 134/6, the dream cherished by Dravid, Kumble, Sachin, Laxman and Saurav, in what would be their last series down under, of winning a test series in Australia seemed real. This was definitely India’s best chance to come back into the series, their best chance to create history by beating the best cricket team in their own backyard. What followed next was not just an umpiring error but also the complete dashing of hopes of a 19 year old youngster!! I remember Bucknor doing the same poor old Murali Kartik at the same venue 4 yrs ago when I bunked all classes to watch India win on the final day – a win which was not to be thanks to Bucknor!! Just imagine what confidence Ishant would have carried forward had he got the prized wicket of Symonds at that crucial juncture!! Australia went on to post a mammoth 463 runs in their first innings in which the umpires had decided not to give any stumping or LBW!! All hopes of an Indian resurgence evaporated then. Still, there was some hope in the Indian batting with the old hands of Laxman, Dravid, Sachin and Ganguly playing stellar roles to take India to a competitive total of 532.
From what I saw on TV, there is no way Harbhajan could have gone on his own will to speak something to Symonds as Harbhajan and Sachin were batting brilliantly with Harbhajan completing his first fifty against Australia in test cricket. Surely, something provocative was said to Harbhajan to make him react in that manner. The end result – Ponting and co have combined to give Harbhajan a 3-test ban. For me, this surely is the greatest testimonial of racism in cricket – where white skinned people get together to hand over punishment to a brown-skinned person!! If that controversy was not sufficient, what followed in the Australian 2nd innings was appalling. Mr. Cricket is given not out when he is on 45. He goes on to score 145 runs and Australia score 401/7 setting India a target of 333 runs in the last innings. Ofcourse, I happen to miss a few plumb LBW appeals where were very conveniently turned down!!
If there was one man on whom I would bet my life to bail India out of trouble, it would be Rahul Sharad Dravid and indeed, he lived up true to the nickname of ‘The WALL’ which he has earned over the years!! A certain Mr. Benson conveniently forgot to signal no-ball for over-stepping but thanks to Symonds’ drop catch, Dravid’s innings was not unfortunately truncated. 38 runs, 103 balls and over two and a half hours – Rahul battled on to save the test match – He is the most selfless cricketer I have ever known to have played the game!! And what we got was an absolute shocker from Bucknor to end the most hard-working innings by Rahul. Saurav’s glamorous innings was cut short with Ponting giving him out. Some say that even RP Singh was not out but that is very very insignificant for me in the larger context of the game.
The series should have been 1-1 at the end of the Sydney test but it reads in official records as 2-0 in favour of Australia. The series is long gone and there is not even cricketing pride to play for since even that has been snatched away by the umpires. There is only one thing left for Kumble and co – to return back to India. Forget Australia, forget the final frontier!! I know it’s hard to forget a dream which one has cherished since a long time!! But surely the dream cannot be pursued in the midst of such a ‘massacre’. If Kumble and co play at Perth, they have no shame, no pride in their nation.