Convict culture on display

‘India v Australia: Local fans relish home team’s aggression against Steve Smith, touring Aussies’, James Bennett, ABC News, 12.03.17

India’s Test players reacted angrily to Australian captain Steve Smith’s illegal glance to the dressing room last week, and while the BCCI has now dropped its official complaint, club and junior cricketers see Australia getting a dose of its own medicine.

“If Australia will do like this, then India will not give respect to them,” says 14-year-old junior cricketer Anish Kumar Rao.

He is talking about Smith’s controversial ‘brain fade’ explanation for illegally seeking the dressing room’s advice on challenging his second innings dismissal in Bangalore.

Across town, at another of Delhi’s cricket grounds, an amateur team calling themselves the ‘weekend cricket enthusiasts’ are padding-up for their regular Saturday fixture.

Captain Sanjeev Ananthakrishnan is chatting with his players, about the same incident.

“What about that consultation?! Checking with the dressing room and all?”

“That is not acceptable,” is a team-mate’s immediate reply.

The BCCI has withdrawn India’s official complaint, but the incident visibly riled Indian captain Virat Kohli, and clearly still rankles among ordinary cricketers.

Akhil Sethi, another of the weekend enthusiasts team, describes the moment as ‘full of controversy’, but he is smiling as he does so.

Ananthakrishnan agrees. “We love a bit of spice,” he jokes, in reference to the heated atmosphere the incident created. “That’s part and parcel, and we love it,” he grins.

Indians can thank their captain, Ananthakrishnan says, for his willingness to take the verbal fight to Australia.

“Virat Kohli happens to be the main pillar, behind not only the confidence levels that the team has come up with, but yeah, maybe that aggression,” he says.

The willingness of India’s new skipper to take on Australia on the field and off has won him plenty of plaudits, young and old.

“Australia have always been a very aggressive team, and India being that, the fans don’t mind it at all,” says Drun, an 11 year old batsman.

Madan Lal, a former Indian fast bowler who is coaching this group of juniors, thinks he might know where the ‘mongrel’ in Kohli might come from.

“He is very aggressive you know, he is like Australians,” jokes Mr Lal.

Most Indian cricket fans see Kohli as giving back to the Australians what Indian teams had endured, particularly from Australian teams past.

“On the field and off the field, he likes to empower his players to give back,” says Akhil Sethi.

Madan Lal says he teaches his juniors respect for their opponents “as a matter of principle, and good education”.

As the weekend enthusiasts team wrap up their Twenty 20 match, captain Ananthakrishnan says its important for amateur players not to get carried away.

“As long as nobody gets into fist fights, everything is OK,” he laughs.

“We love the spirit of the game, that is very important to us.”

The behaviour of the Australian cricket team and management in the current Test series in India and how it is reported in the Australian media (The Sydney Morning Herald [the paper of the Oh-so-‘decent’ Aussie]: ‘Steve Smith cheated – it doesn’t matter’) is utterly consistent, in so many ways, with my experience in this convict culture.

It is not only what Smith did but of more interest, what he said afterwards, how he instinctively played on the Aussie myth (‘me ‘n the boys’, green n’ gold etc. – I could see the jacaranda flowering over the old bungalow and the kookaburra laughing in the ghost gum next to it as I listened to him) and how others on his team and the Australian media commented. The Australians make the game mean and nasty. India to win!

‘Steve unleashes the mongrel!’

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