Monday, January 2, 2012

Sydney test - Monkey Gate Scandal revisited !!!

The 2nd test match of this series starts at the Sydney Cricket Grounds tomorrow 5.00am IST, as 2012 ushers in the 1st test match of the year. The match has huge historical significance, as its going to be the 100th test match on this ground...a long journey of 129 years, since Aussies battled England here in 1882 !!!

The beautiful ground with extremely picturesque surroundings, however, brings back dank & dark memories of the Monkey Gate scandal during the 2007-08 Indian tour Down Under, which led to some ugly spats between the two teams. Harbhajan, batting with Sachin in the middle on the 3rd day of the match got into a verbal duel with Andrew Symonds & other players too got into the muddle.....a major altercation, where Bhajji was accused of using racial language against Symmo....& the umpires on the field had to intervene. Subsequently, Harbhajan was banned for 3 matches by the match referee, Mike Procter, though the ban was later lifted after an appeal by India, as the charges could not be proved conclusively. He was however pressed for lesser charges & fined 50% of his match fees. The match was also marred by some rather poor & controversial decisions by the umpires, Steve Bucknor & Mark Benson, at critical stages of the game, which profited the home side more, as the Aussies went on to win the match by 122 runs.  Some of the controversial decisions in the match were :
Symonds was given not out three times at scores of 30, 48 & 148 & he went on to make 162 not out in the Australian 1st innings; Hussey was given not out on scores of 22 & 45 & he went on to make 145 not out in the 2nd innings; Symonds, again in 2nd innings was given not out at score of 0 & he went onto make 61 runs. For India, in the 1st innings, Laxman was given not out when on 16 & he went onto make 109; Sachin was given not out when on 36 & he went onto score 154 not out; but what effected India majorly was when chasing 333 for a victory in the 4th innings of the match, Dravid was given out caught behind at 38, when replays suggested deflection off the pads, & later Ganguly at 51 then given out caught by Clarke in the slips, & Ponting, the Aussie captain on being referred to by umpire Benson confirmed a clean catch, when replays showed the ball having touched the ground... Ponting had also appealed unsuccessfully for another dubious catch against Dhoni.....the spirit of the beautiful game lost, in the frenzy to win !!!!

Australians went onto register their 16th consecutive win, equalling Steve Waugh's record, albeit under dubious & questionable circumstances, as India collapsed dramatically towards the end of the 5th day's play. 
The post match aftermath, led India's skipper Kumble to comment, "Only one team is playing in the spirit of the game"...Media lapped up controversies, as the Indian team, bitter with the events, threatened to abandon the series & needed the intervention of ICC to continue. 
Umpire Steve Bucknor from Jamaica, having officiated for 120 test matches till then was, unceremoniously dropped from the series by  ICC, for erring in crucial decisions in the match. The scars of that match, probably have been dusted over time, as Symonds has already retired from international cricket & Harbhajan has been left behind for this series, & Ponting is struggling to secure his place in the Aussie squad. 

On form India are clearly struggling, as their much vaunted batting has been rather brittle. Having lost the opening test at Melbourne, they have to bounce back here to keep the series alive, else they are staring into the dark end of the barrel. Sachin's 100th century still seems to be the focal point, while most of the batsmen are struggling to counter the rising deliveries. Unless the likes of Sehwag & Gambhir at the top & Laxman & Dravid in the middle bat for long, India might struggle to save the test.
The Aussies on the other hand are buoyant & look committed & energetic, though the batting is still to settle down. The green top promises a lot for the pacers, though the pitch looks good for runs. 
Early morning wake up call tomorrow to watch a pulsating game.....

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