Well, Gideon Haigh may be the embodiment of “self-loathing leftism”, but at least he’s been known to buckle on the pads – photo by Rae Allen on Flickr
…goes to Gideon Haigh. Last Sunday was the first episode of Outsiders on ABC and of course the first topic of discussion was Monkey Business in cricket. You can listen to the segment HERE.
Gideon Haigh is usually a knowledgeable, articulate and entertaining journalist. Especially in the written form. But there is something about the ABC that prevents a balanced stance on anything that touches on race. On this occasion, his display of self-loathing leftism nearly made me choke on my muesli.
Gerard Whately began tangentially to the core issue (of racial vilification), by describing the whole debacle as a case of posturing from both sides, which morphed into an examination of how Australia play their cricket. He pointed out the contradiction of Indias rush to grab the moral high ground while simultaneously bullying and blackmailing CA with the threat of canceling the tour. And he finally commented that the ICC had been exposed as a failure in all aspects of the dispute.
The camera then swung to bespectacled Gideon, looking relaxed, slightly unshaven and even academic. The whole problem, according to him, was that the Australians didnt think the issue through. They accused Harbhajan of racism and it should have been obvious India were never going to wear that.
On the BCCIs behaviour, he advised us to to get used to their power and suggested that complaining about it is as pointless as those who complain about Australia being too good on field. Unless I am misunderstanding, he is condoning a system whereby economic power is exploited to sack and demonise umpires and have tribunal decisions reversed under duress. Using economic power to advantage is equated to using skill on the field to advantage.
He opined that Australia were the ones who brought the game to a standstill and so they were disingenuous to now say they want to get on with cricket. Well he was inadvertently correct that the Australians are being disingenuous but not for the reasons he says. The Australians would indeed like to talk more about the saga, but they are gagged by Cricket Australia through the Soviet style restrictions their contracts impose. Sport is part of our cultural conversation, and such contracts restrict an essential part of this conversation. This is yet another demonstration of the problem of business being involved in sport.
Gideons final word in his opening barrage was that Symonds started it. While this is partly true, it is hardly the point.
There ensued a discussion about the extent to which cricket is a sport apart and whether the Australian captaincy is about more than winning games. I happen to disagree with this view though I know many hold the notion dear. They are misguided.
As far as I am concerned, cricket after the body-line series is about winning. In other words, it is just a normal sport. The body-line series revealed the gentlemanly airs of cricket for what they were a class convention to be dropped when convenient. English captain Jardine, representing the entire tradition of English fair play, was prepared to, quite literally, kill Australian players rather than see England beaten by a team of convicts and Irishmen. And when Australis suggested this was unsportsmanlike, we were threatened with a trade boycott.
Ponting is not at all comfortable with the baggage that comes with the Australian captaincy. Nor should he be. Roy Master said it best. Isnt there a bit of snobbery about all of this Ponting being a working class boy from Launceston? Quite.
Unfortunately, Gideon was still not finished. His analysis of why the conciliation process about Harbajhan failed was that Kumble asked Ponting to just drop it and Ponting wouldnt and this precipitated the crisis. It was all Pontings fault because he had abdicated the old Australian nostrum that what happens on the field stays on the field.
Gideon even said that saying chit-chat on the field is racism trivialises racsim.” No worries. Next time I feel the urge to call my squash opponent a black c, I will make sure it is just part of the chit-chat between points. It is then not racism. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what Gideon is talking about?
Gerard bravely took him to task. The Australians thought there was a racist comment, he pointed out. There is a clear line. The Australians were obliged to raise it. But are we even slightly unclear about whether such comment was made? Surely there can be no dispute after hearing the recording; when accused of calling Symonds a monkey (again), Harbhajan responds: No listen, he started it! An innocent man responds: What the hell are you talking about. I didnt call him a monkey. The NZ judge did not consider this sufficient evidence, but this hand-picked silk also thought it was all Symonds fault too.
Harbhajan’s offense was not that serious and he is the kind of feisty player that I love to watch, especially when he is bowling to Ponting or Gilchrist. Like the Watergate saga, it is the refusal to accept that the rules apply to you which dwarfs the original offense. The rules of international cricket no longer apply to India. And in Gideon Haigh’s judgment, we just have to get used to it.
* In a week of apologies and assasination attempts, I am loathe to post on such a relatively trivial issue. But if I waited any longer it would lose its topicality. Sorry…