How often have we come across the cockiness of certain Indian cricketers when it comes to judging an opposition’s ability to win matches! Even after the many humiliating overseas losses last season, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag refused to shed their arrogance. While Gambhir loudly proclaimed something on the lines of ‘let England come to India’ (which fell flat miserably as England won in India too), Sehwag trotted down memory lane and came up with India’s 2-0 ‘whitewash’ in a 2-Test home series against Australia in 2010-11 (where the Aussies were only a wicket away from winning the first Test) as defence for India’s horrid show Down Under.
Harbhajan Singh has joined the bandwagon ahead of the home series against Australia. Never one to shy away from publicity, the off-spinner, who is a veteran of 99 Tests, recently foresaw a 4-0 whitewash victory for India. This silly prediction is in line with recent statements by his team-mates, and if he thinks that such banter is a step in playing ‘mind games’ with the opposition, he should bear in mind that Michael Clarke is as tough as an Australian can be – both as captain and batsman, as shown in the year gone by. Before giving his feeble forecasts, he should introspect on his form, and focus on how he can get back into the team to face his most-favoured opposition.
Harbhajan’s comment possibly reflects on the mindset of many Indian players nowadays. It is clearly well-known fact that the Indian board, the extremely cocky BCCI is the undisputed force when it comes to controlling world cricket, what with their recurring tendency to use arm-twisting tactics with the ICC to meet its selfish demands. Also, the IPL, that circus of a tournament is the preferred ‘holiday option’ for most of the world’s top cricketers, thus inflating the BCCI’s ego further. Ever since India won the 2011 World Cup, their Test performances at times have been worse than lower ranked teams, but that is apparently of little concern to the money-minded powers-that-be. It is the knowledge that ‘India effectively owns world cricket’ that is resulting in such pompous behaviour from many of India’s (limited-overs) stars as well as officials.
Besides Gambhir, Sehwag and Harbhajan, there were instances like Suresh Raina’s politically incorrect tweet about Pakistan’s World T20 semifinal loss last year (when India did not even reach the semis), or Ravi Shastri’s laughable rant in the commentary box in England in 2011 when he said that ‘India’s is the richest cricket board in the world’ while heatedly arguing with Nasser Hussain on the matter of DRS. That during a series in which India could not even draw a single Test. What does one make of such false pride? In the eyes of the world, it is indicative that since India are no longer the world champions (and by this I mean the Test champions), they are falling back on things like past history, IPL, cash-rich coffers and hypocrisy to remind the world of its ‘control’ on the game.
Even after Glenn McGrath’s 5-0 prophecy in the lead-up to the 2005 Ashes resulted in him eating humble pie, cricketers continue to give their expert predictions, irrespective of their own form or the skills of the opposition. Coming back to Australia’s tour of India, it is true that the visiting squad looks ordinary on paper after the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. But then even England were expected to be rolled over in India, especially after they lost the first Test three months back, following their tribulations against Pakistan in the UAE. One really needs to think hard while trying to remember when India last won a home series against an officially higher ranked team. And this Australian team is not only ranked higher than India, but has also been in far better form – it took a spunky debutant Faf du Plessis to stop them from being champions again in December.
Thus, even after taking into consideration Australia’s seemingly thin batting and inexperienced spin-bowling, Harbhajan’s prediction is definitely nowhere near what the scoreline might be on 26th March. Moreover, Clarke’s Australians will be least bothered by what he has said. Instead, he should focus his energy towards impressing the selectors when he turns out for Rest of India in the Irani Trophy in three days’ time, because an in-form Harbhajan against Australia will only be of benefit to the team. Hopefully he will let the ball do the talking from here on.