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Bhajji On The Breach

Bhajji On The Breach
I hold no brief for Andrew Symonds or racism or swallowing post-imperial insult. But this monkey business is getting badly out of hand. National honour notwithstanding, the media coverage and the cricket fan’s anger has been totally disproportionate. Our TV channels seem to be thirsting for unqualified revenge and driving the story to the pitch of hysteria. What do we want? Should Ponting, Procter, Symonds be hung from the gallows and their bodies fed to the vultures? Should they wear sackcloth and ashes and beg for mercy? For Ram’s sake, let’s move on. India has made its point and scored a magnificent public relations victory. Surely, that should satisfy our lust for vengeance.

When, on our television screens, I see some enraged expert or cricket lover tear his hair out screaming "black man-white man", I begin to wonder whether we are talking cricket or race hatred in Harlem. The stream of loaded words has reached an absurd intensity. We need to take a deep breath and drink a glass of cold nimbu-pani, otherwise we are in danger of validating George Orwell’s dictum that sport is "war minus the shooting".

Indian cricket won the first round in Sydney comprehensively. Alas, in the second round, we shot ourselves in the foot. The BCCI should have used its formidable money and muscle power with more grace and subtlety. In the end, we behaved like street bullies. Throwing our weight around seemed to satisfy some deep Freudian need to compensate for violated self-respect. We should have quietly waited for judge Hansen’s verdict without resorting to public blackmail, without keeping an aeroplane ready to bring the boys back just in case.

Harbhajan Singh may be the Lion of Ludhiana but to paint him as a union of Mother Teresa, Don Bradman, Garfield Sobers and M.K. Gandhi is a little over the top. Bhajji doubtless is a learner when it comes to Aussie sledging, but he is no novice in the use of Punjabi swear words. In this race row, he is not completely innocent. We can argue about the quantum of blame, but we cannot absolve the Turbanator of all responsibility. He may be more victim than villain but he is not all victim.

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