India's performance on their cricket tour Down Under is providing much fodder to the Aussie media to ridicule, rubbish and rant about Indian cricket. The latest example being a piece by established journalist Robert Craddock, who says Virender Sehwag has caused a divide in the team and the opening batsman is causing headaches for coach Duncan Fletcher.
For an Australian, who is definitely not on every tour the Indian team undertakes, Craddock's deep contacts in the team are enviable. Not for a moment am I ruling out the possibilities of sporting teams being split. But what must be emphasised is that a team can be that way during their days of glory too.
Language no bar: Cricketers speaking seven languages in the dressing
room did not hinder the Indian team from winning the Perth battle in 2008
Shane Warne couldn't get along with Steve Waugh while the master spinner was not exactly friends with mercurial wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist. That's what the Australian media reported. Yet, the Australian team enjoyed unparalleled success when these great players figured in the same team.
Craddock is a hard-working journo and if you watch him at work in the press box, you'd fear for his health. He reports for a big media group in Australia and his work pressure is immense. But he can go over the top at times and that is what's disturbing to read -- not as an Indian, but a cricket lover.
These are his words in the piece which has earned him notoriety in India: "India's team harmony is brittle at the best of times because their dressing room is a unique ensemble of vastly contrasting characters, cultures and cliques. "There are times when there are more than six different languages -- apart from English -- spoken in the Indian rooms."
The spirit in the team could well be at rock bottom, but it need not be because seven languages are spoken in the dressing room. Seven languages did not stop the Indian team from winning the Adelaide Test of 2003 and the Perth battle in 2008.
On the face of it, someone's impression (yes, I call it Craddock's impression because he cannot prove his claims in a court of law) or opinion shouldn't prompt the Indian media to report what he says. But Indian readers got to read it as they sipped on their cup of coffee first thing last morning.
Greg Chappell's new book Fierce Focus has become a handy tool for the trigger-happy journos to have a go at their 'favourite' team. With due respect to Chappell's knowledge and intentions as India's coach from 2005 to 2007, the fact is, he is yet to be considered a successful coach. John Buchanan, whom Craddock quotes as saying, "they (India) need that system which can provide consistency in terms of talent identification and selection," has been a failure when he was not coaching Australia.
Sure, Indian cricket needs to do a lot of things that can make it stronger. Indeed, their administrators need to appear less arrogant. But the BCCI and the Indian team's commendable performance in some spheres must be acknowledged too. In fact, Australians should be the last people to complain too much about India's clout. They are the ones profiting. Their players, good or mediocre, crave to play the Indian Premier League, which can be a contributing factor to riches. Also, Australia's T20 Big Bash is inspired by BCCI's IPL.
Australia have had some fine cricket writers... Jack Fingleton, Ray Robinson, Bill O'Reilly, Peter Roebuck (all deceased) and Mike Coward, the celebrated writer who must get credit for his work in pushing for more India-Australia cricket encounters. The war of words between players adds spice to the India vs Australia cricketing rivalry, which only comes second to the Ashes. But when the media takes sides the rivalry is cheapened, if not jeopardised.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY's Group Sports Editor