New Delhi, May 28: Over the years, cricket has gone through irreversible transformation as the values of the once gentleman's game have been seized by 'ball tampering', 'betting and match fixing', 'sledging' while the unprecedented flow of money has further plagued the game.
To a great extent, players, who indulge in 'ugly and questionable tactics', are to be blamed for bringing ignominy to the noble game with Australians emerging as the leaders of foul play and nasty behaviour on the cricket field.Veteran sports journalist Kishin R Wadhwaney, in his book 'The Troublesome Test Tussle 2007-08', has pin-pointed many such disgraceful acts by the Australian players which projects the World Champions as the force responsible for the deterioration of the game. While Alan Border was known to be the pioneer in initiating sledging, current Australian captain Ricky Ponting has carried forward his legacy and his 'win at all cost' atitude has portrayed his team more as a team of free-style wrestlers than a champion cricketing team.
The author writes, ''Their (Australian players) abysmal fall in all-important traditions and high quality of etiquette are so noticeable that many keen followers, including veteran sporting Australians, are horrified and at the doings of Ricky Ponting and some of his players. The outcry is 'It is cricket'.'' Wadhwaney went on to write that Ponting along with all-rounder Andrew Symonds and some of their other misguided players, have sown the seeds of disharmony, discontentment and dissatisfaction.
However, retired Australian wicket keeper Adam Gilchrist and former pace spearhead Brett Lee have not been included in the book.
The author points out the incident during the India-Australia Test series when opener Matthew Hayden, without any provocation, called off-spinner Harbhajan Singh an 'obnoxious little weed'.
''His (Hayden's) out-of-turn utterances showed that aboriginal blood was still flowing in his veins. He deserved to be cencored appropriately. But he was let off with a reprimand.
''He should have been made to apologise and withdraw his comment.
After reviving the 'monkey-gate scandal,' he had the temerity to say that his observation was insensitive. His initial comment and subsequent clarification were both unbecoming a cricketer,'' he wrote.
Wadhwaney pointed out specific instances of wrong-doings and nasty behaviour by the Australian players which have damaged and damned the sport.
The auhthor brought to notice some of the issues that cropped during India's last tour to Australia and how the captains of the two teams behaved in contrasting styles.
In the second Test at Sydney in early January 2008, India had to digest a defeat which was inflicted not through recognised and traditional means but by dubious and mean methods.
To add insult to injury, Harbhajan Singh, was accused of 'racial slur'. As if this 'double whammy wasn't bad enough, the match referee slapped a three-Tset ban on the Indian off-spinner.
The Sydney fracas reminded of the bad and hostile England-Australia series in 1932-33 and the author has pointed out some similarities with the India-Australia 2008 series.
Then England captain Douglas Jardine, cricketing fanatic, was obsessed with winning while in the 2008 series, Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, was in order to overtake his colleague Steve Waugh's record of 16 straight wins, was no less obsessed than Jardine.
The 'bodyline bowling', initiated to keep run-getting machine Don Bradman under check, had played havoc with batsmen while ethics were given the go-bye. The Australian batsmen were hit 25 times in five bad-tempered Tests by Harold Larwood who was merely carrying out the onslaught at the behest of his captain. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were on the verge of a break down. Then two England officials - Warner and his deputy Richard Palairet had called on Bill Woodfull to extend their sympathy for his sustaining a nasty injury under his heart.
Woodfull spoke to the two England officials and said, ''Mr Warner, there are two sides out there. One (Australia) is playing cricket. The other (England) is not. The game is too good to be spoilt.'' 77 years later in Sydney, Ponting led his side to a victory over India and the visiting team captain Anil Kumble, who carried a mature and sober head over his sturdy shoulders, repeated exactly the same words that,''there was only one team out there playing cricket in the right spirit''.
The home teams appeals of catch, which were not to be, were upheld by the umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson, who helped the Australian team and brought bad name to the game.
The author has provided convincing reasons as to why umpire Steve Bucknor and three match referees, Clive Llyod, Mike Procter and Mike Dennis, have been hostile to India or indians.
Bespectacled Steve Bucknor's bias against some players was so well known particularly Indians, that his presemce in the middle became a cause for panic instead of spreading bonhomie and confidence, as was the case in his initial tenure.
''Our concentration gets battering when we are obliged to watch him standing,'' said atleast half a dozen players from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Sourav Ganguly, in his report - confidential of course - to the ICC awarded Bucknor zero.
For the first time in 133 years, a Test match (Sydeney Test in 2008) was won by two umpires, Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson. Both umpires pushed all other magnificent performances-five centuries and Anil Kumble's eight wickets- into the shade.
In his maiden Test series abroad as a captain, Anil Kumble showed all his maturity, judgement and sportsmanship, even under provocative situations, while Ricky Ponting, in the Test in his home country, further marred his reputation so much so that cricket journalist, Peter Roebuck and many other lovers of the game sought his dismissal as captain.
The author goes on to write, ''It is a fallacy to say that the game has changed. It has not changed; it remains the remains unaltered. What has changed is human behaviour, and human tendencies. Nobility of the game has been knocked out. Fair-play has been buried five fathoms deep. Etiquette is non-existent. What is practised is abuses, abrasive behaviour, sledging and unethical practices. In these traits, Australians are invincible.''