Why do Australian cricket fans behave as they do?

March 5th, 2008 - 7:42 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, March 5 (IANS) As emotions spilled over and cricket pierced the seams of civility, ceasing to be an on-field sport and becoming a war of words outside, Australian-Indians and Australians reflect on the emerging realities of this new world cricketing order. “This triumph was a long time coming. The good thing was that when it came it was full of confidence and vigour not seen in the Indian team for a while”, a keen Australian-Indian cricket fan who has watched most matches this summer told IANS.

“I always felt Indians in India looked up to the Don’s country and gave a lot of undue credit of sportsmanship to Australia, though the Australian media used to be quite one-sided. However, this time the Indians put their foot down, saying enough is enough and Australian media is not used to it.”

Rosie Mathlin from Greenwich, who was quite close to the spectator Craig Woodbury, whose comments were quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Sport section with the provocative headline “Weed Poison” on March 3, writes in the First Word column of Wednesday’s paper: “When it comes to drunken insults, you can’t beat the SCG crowd.

“Neither me nor my 13-year-old son noticed the monkey gestures that Harbhajan is alleged to have made. We did see him spit towards a section of the crowd after being called a ‘winker’. He was also booed loudly by that part of the crowd and subjected to other racial and homophobic abuse by drunken boors.

“I hope people who were affronted by Harbhajan’s behaviour and worried about its impact on impressionable young people in the crowd are equally concerned about the impact of sitting all day with racist homophobes who swill beer throughout the eight hours of the game, then shout abuse at members of visiting teams. I wish I could call it un-Australian.”

That gives an insight into cricket fans’ behaviour on the ground. Ashutosh Misra, a research fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in Brisbane, was in the stadium at the Gabba on Feb 3 and March 4, and watched how a large section of the Aussie fans constantly abused and booed Indian players on the boundary.

“I think like the Aussie team, the Aussie fans and the media were finding it hard to digest that their era of total domination was being overthrown by an inexperienced and youthful Indian team. That was perhaps the catalyst for all these controversies and tensions which we saw post-Sydney test,” Misra said.

So will these hostilities invade the realm of trade and people to people exchanges? Australian Trade Commission’s Chief Economist Tim Harcourt said: “I believe the Boll line (one clever sub-editor called the Sydney Test ‘Boll line’) controversy will bring Australia and India closer together in terms of trade and as a people. I think it’s a great result for cricket.”

“Given the importance of cricket as a way of building Australia’s ‘brand’ in the emerging Indian economy, there has been some nervousness that Boll line could adversely affect Australia economically (particularly those Australian cricketers who receive endorsements in the thriving Indian retail market),” Harcourt added.

As passions cool and reason creeps in, fans will wonder why they allowed cricket to slip into murky alleys.

What has touched many fans like Kerala-born Sabu John is the ‘can-win’ attitude of the Indian team. John says: “M.S. Dhoni, I believe, was pivotal in settling this belief in the Indian team and his leadership should be admired. And Tendulkar is a timeless cricketing gem. All who watched him will feel privileged to have seen him display his sublime masterful skills.”

For Australian-Indians here, John says: “We feel privileged to have seen the two best cricketing nations (presently) do battle with each other. Keeping aside the earlier on-field skirmishes, I believe both teams have a healthy respect for each other.”

Seeing the young Indian side win the ODI finals was heartening for Sarmistha Bannerji from Melbourne. She said: “The lesson from this win is to encourage the youngsters, enthuse them and provide the consistent performers with opportunity to prove them, but media and sponsors please don’t spoil them with riches and star status too soon in their careers. Team spirit and disciplined behaviour is to be commended and rewarded by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.”

Shilpa Ganatra, who works for an airlines here, says: “I feel very proud of the young Indian cricket team though there is a deafening silence amongst my colleagues, which was not the case until last week!”

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