When the kettle calls the pot black and blue

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Although the verbiage is getting shriller and shriller, and should largely be ignored, the kind of words Mathew Hayden & Co are using, and getting away with, needs to be seen and studied in perspective.

This is where a little help from one of the greatest cricketers of the modern era, Sir Ian Terence Botham, will be useful to our team. As soon as the man who walked all over England to raise money for charity landed in Australia for the 1992 World Cup, Botham said: “I am happy to come here and want to know how my ancestors are doing in Australia!”

This led to wide condemnation of Botham, but why?

Google shows how right Botham was. If Harbhjan Singh is an ‘obnoxious little weed’ in Hayden’s estimation, historical documents show what Hayden and his countrymen and women have been down the ages. Australia was to England what Andamans was to India till 1947. Stealing sheep or wool or cloth in 18th- and 19th-century England could land you a minimum seven-year sentence at an Australian penal colony.

As the New Zealanders say, the only difference between us and the Aussies is, we chose to live to in New Zealand!

“The British government deemed transportation, as the practice was known, just punishment for a mixed bag of crimes from marrying secretly to burning clothes. Although “felony,” “larceny” and “burglary” described the overwhelming majority of crimes, a few records include juicy details, such as, “obtaining money by false pretences,” “stealing heifers” and “privately stealing in a shop.” The convict records typically contain convict’s name, date and place of sentencing, length of sentence—usually 7 years, 14 years or life—and, sometimes, the crime committed,” one document reads.

Such being the case, expecting civilized behaviour from the offspring of ‘burglars’, ‘heifer stealers’,’ felons’, etc is a little too demanding. If 165,000 convicts were sent to Australia betwen 1788 to 1868, if not all, at least most of them should know where they come from. At least 22 per cent of Australians are descended from exiles. Their sentences served, many convicts remained Down Under, becoming Australia’s first western settlers.

“By today’s standards, many of these crimes are minor misdemeanors or are no longer illegal, and the severity of punishments seem ludicrous,” said Megan Smolenyak, chief family historian for Ancestry.com. “No wonder Australians consider a convict in their family tree a badge of honor and seek to uncover the amusing, quirky and outrageous details in their family’s ‘criminal’ past.”

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ishant Sharma should call up Botham and get specific details. Sunny Gavaskar, Harsha Bhogle and Ravi Shastri could also help in this regard.

As for Andrew Symonds, the Indians should not get into any argument or fight, because ICC match referees will hold Indians guilty as a matter of rule. They should just casually ask him: “We know you did not come from England. But won’t your legs ache when you walk continuously?”