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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Australia's magic potion runs out

Australia's magic potion runs out

December 22, 2003 11:26 IST

The seven dwarfs in the fairy tale had it pretty good; all they had to worry about was keeping Snow White safe from the wicked stepmother doubling up as a witch (or was it the other way around).

The thought probably occurs to members of the Australian team as they envy Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, Dopey, Doc, and Happy for not having to deal with a VVS, Dravid or Ganguly. For the Indians, the venues for the first two Tests might well be renamed as "Aussie-Bane" (Isuldur's bane, anyone, since the final installment of LOTR just released) and "Duck-Laid" (you know ... Bombay Duck and all that tomfoolery). The magic potion has run out and now apart from the only fear of the sky falling on their heads, the Indomitable Aussies have suddenly realized the dangers of the Wall falling on them instead. It is reliably learnt from sources close to the team management that along with deciding a new team theme for the third Test, at the end of it, there are plans to rename that venue too; from "Mel-Born" to "Stinker-Gone".

Stinker (Grumpy is an equally good name but Disney has the copyright) was looking to go out on a high. Instead, his "mental disintegration" seems have backfired with the Australian team seemingly mentally disintegrated with thoughts of whether giving him a good send off is more important than winning the series. He might get a standing ovation from the crowd every time he walks into bat, red hankies waving and all, or walks off after being dismissed, but after having run out the well set Next-MarkWaugh-Wannabe with his bull headed calling and treading on his stumps soon thereafter to supplement his panicky handling-the-ball dismissal in Chennai three years back, all of India would be looking forward to the next match-gifting gaffe from the supposed Iceman of Australian cricket. His claims of his impending retirement not being a factor affecting the focus and concentration of the Australian team in the current series can be answered with the answer to one question - Would the Next-MarkWaugh-Wannabe have walked if a Langer, Hayden or Katich had refused to understand a simple "No" call for the third run and continued to blunder on?

For all the good things Stinker contributed to cricket in his playing lifetime (and it doesn't end for another two Tests as all of Australia has been reminded every two minutes for the past month or so), his contributions to cricket in terms of "mental disintegration" (Synonym - Freedom to abuse and in general, show off a lack of class and use jargon to make it stick) tactics will see many genuine cricket fans rub their hands with glee at the thought of his taking down a peg or two. He has generally been pampered in the media because of his team's performance, his own brand of toughness and his good deeds off the field over the years; he wouldn't be used to the kind of bashing he is taking currently both from the Indian and the Aussie media.

Indian media trains its cricket Captains much better - If Ganguly had been in Stinker's shoes when the latter righteously commented about Tendulkar's punishment in Denness's Menace two years back "If he's picked the seam (of the ball) then he has got to pay the penalty like everyone else" while admitting in the same breath that he hadn't seen footage of the incident yet, surely the media would have given him hell. The guy hasn't seen anything yet but he has an opinion; surely he has to be an Aussie.

Gentleman Jim shook hands with all the Indian batsmen after their centuries in the two Tests, didn't talk filth and was generally a very good boy. What he didn't do, however, was show the amazing stroke play that has made him the world's best No. 7 today. With the dropped catch off Dravid in the second innings, Jim would do better to pay more attention to his cricket than his manners. He seems to have taken the tag of "Gentleman" too seriously; many of the Indian players, past and present, regularly walk when they snick the ball and the amount of hoopla when Jim walked in the World Cup just goes to show the depths to which Australian cricket has fallen in the eyes of the world; someone gets praised to the heavens for being honest as everyone who plays the "gentleman's game" should be. Sheesh! I pay my taxes every year. Could someone praise me to the heavens and reward me, please?

Creepy's words might sound dirty over the telephone but as an analysis of upcoming cricket, his recent comments of "Sweet Chin music" et all have ended up looking rather silly. Why a guy banned from cricket for popping an illegal pill, whatever circumstances, and who ended up as the Indians' favorite bowler at the end of the last series between the two, should open his mouth at all is not completely clear; but saying what he did knowing the depleted bowling strength of the Australian team is baffling. Stick to the telephone, mate! Tip to Indian fans - For laughs, someone going to Melbourne can hang around the drinks stand and when Creepy makes an appearance (as commentator on some TV / Radio channel, he is bound to be there) to have a pint or two, drop a visiting card having a woman's name and phone number where he can see it. Reserving the aforesaid phone number for a short duration and talking on it with a falsetto, high-pitched voice might just prove to be hilarious.

The second best leg spinner in Australia must be wondering at Creepy's brilliance in missing the current series. True, it wasn't planned but just like the best spinner became fodder for the Indians in the last series they played, the second best guy seems to have become the Indians' best friend on the current tour. With the amount of long hops and full tosses the guy provides, the Indians might well be preparing a petition to the Australians selectors to give him one more chance at Melbourne. Even as I write this, I hear rumors about the Indian team management asking for Bangar's services for use in Melbourne.

Unconfirmed rumours (to be taken with a pinch of salt) from sources close to the team management revealed that if they get Second-Best's services in Melbourne, they would be willing to withdraw their petition for Bangar; the offer, it seems, has been forwarded to the Australian camp and is under consideration. See it this way - Second-Best bowls two good deliveries every twenty balls; the Indians mostly defend them and once in a while (defined as ranging from rarely to never) get out to them. He bowls about 10 hit-me balls in those twenty; the Indians oblige most of the times. The rest is the "chalta-hai" types of deliveries; the Indians nonchalantly "chal" their ones and twos.

Heck, we have Tendulkar who can do all of that and in addition, score some runs too. Stinker and Wannabe will testify to the first part of that statement; they both aren't having a very good series, are they? Weird run outs, treading on stumps, nicking part timers to slip; what next? Finally, on Second-Best – Is he really? How many people competed anyway?

Really, the Australians' troubles are more with the bowling than the batting; Admittedly, the Incredible Hulk at the top of the order looks pretty much ordinary currently (and hoping this doesn't change in the near future) and can't-wait-for-old-man-to-retire-and-be-captain Punter needs a helping hand or two from the umpires before compiling an absolutely brilliant innings; but overall, their batting looks solid. However, with respect or lack of it to the bowling, with Incorrigibly-Filthy-Aussie already ruled out of the last two Tests with his ankle injury and Chucky (my nickname too though not for my bowling efforts) making a comeback after injury, the presence or absence of the Dizzy one might make a big difference to whether the series goes to Sydney decided or otherwise.

Dizzy has been a good bowler even in the current series - probably the only one - but the Indians can take comfort from the fact that his returns to cricket from injury generally don't last very long and his groin strain in the second test could turn out to be a pain in the frontals for the Australians.

Source close to the Aussie team management reveal that Dravid hooking him for six almost immediately after getting mentally dis-integrated had a very negative effect on him; combining this effect with the effect of remembering his lousy bowling partners of the second test isn't helping. These too are rumours and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Personally, I want Dizzy to play; the way he imitated a big bird flying with his hands flapping as he ran up to bowl during the Calcutta test three years back (yep, the same; VVS 281, Wall 180; nothing else was working so try something weird) was pretty entertaining. Though he didn't do it in the Adelaide Test, he might at Melbourne.

Lastly, the Indians who suffered from a barrage of insults and "duck jokes" last time around have come up with some of their own. A leaked sample is presented –

Stinker thought announcing his retirement before the series itself would be quite a lark. The idea turned out to be a dead duck.

While giving his vague reasons for announcing his retirement before the series began, on being accused by a member of the media of ducking the issue, Stinker snapped back – I would prefer u said, "skirting the issue". Reports are that Creepy ran into the interview hall shouting "Skirt … Where, where?"

When India last toured Australia, five months into my first job, I bought a 14-inch TV with my miniscule savings, wiping my bank balance clean. What followed prompted me to vent my frustrations thus. Just before the current series, I dented my bank balance once more with a 29-inch flat screen TV; as fans know, watching India play Australia in Australia is worth a few sacrifices and the knowledge that no Australian umpires would be officiating added to the confidence. Two tests down in the series and I feel I reclaimed my investment; anything more would just be "Bhagwan jab deta hai ...." types of return on the investment. While apna Dil maange more, a message to the Indian cricket team irrespective of what happens in the future - "Doston, Khush kar diya".

Comments can be sent to me at sriram_ranga@hotmail.com

Sriram Ranganathan