ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: India’s loss to South Africa in Nagpur on Saturday didn’t bug me one bit.
The hosts’ implosion after a great start, and the Proteas’ last-over assault after it seemed a win was in the bag, was reaffirmation of all the usual clichés. That cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. That it isn’t over till the last ball is bowled. Etc.
But if there was something that really, really bugged me on Saturday night, and still does, it was the manner in which the Indian team went about defending the target of 296.
And by manner, I don’t mean the way they bowled, caught or fielded.
I mean the way they behaved.
At the end of the match, I was wondering: are the Indians the worst behaved team in the tournament?
Don’t mistake me: several key players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, not to mention captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are admirable ambassadors of the great game, impeccably gracious in their on-field and off-field behaviour, despite their sky-high achievements.
But the behaviour of the rest of the twerps leaves much to be desired.
As it is, their body language is no different from that of cricket’s tri-colour smeared neo-literates who watch the game on giant screens at the stadiums.
In the obnoxious way they carry themselves—the testosterone-rich swagger, the arrogant chewing of gum—you would think that by some divine right, India is destined to win always, no matter what, and the other team is only there to help them do that.
But if there is anything worse than their body language, it surely must be their awful bawdy language?
Take Saturday’s match, for example.
Opener Hashim Amla walks—walks, mind you—after he edges a sharply rising delivering from Harbhajan Singh into the gloves of Dhoni. But what do we get from the bowler? An urgent intimation of what he would do the mother and sister of the departed batsman.
MC-BC, if you don’t get it.
Take another example: After reverse-sweeping ferociously for four, A.B. de Villiers ferociously sweeps down the throat of Virat Kohli at deep square leg. But what do we get from the fielder? An urgent communication on what he would do to the mother and sister of the departed batsman.
MC-BC, if you still don’t get it.
Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Sreesanth, you name it, the language of Indian players is, to put it in a language they will understand, assholic.
Like a Ganga in spate with all its effluents, expletives seem to effortlessly trip off the tongues of some of the Indian cricketers, without provocation, and without any questions asked by the captain, coach, board or the TV companies bringing these images into our homes and lives.
Such behaviour passes off in many people’s books as “aggro” alias “killer instinct”. Their logic is, this is a big tournament, there is a lot at stake for “India”. This is the way players let off steam and, anyway, don’t other sides do it too?
Some others will argue that it is easy to pounce on the Indians because we can read their lips and identify what they are saying. What if the Kenyans and Dutch are doing it in their own lingo?
Point taken, but Dhoni and his boys have an added linguistic responsibility.
Because their actions are closely watched by millions of young men and women on television, their lips are closely read by all who can.
On current evidence, they are giving a poor account of themselves.
On current evidence as gathered from TV, I would unhesitatingly call them the worst behaved team in the tournament.
In fact, on current evidence and at this rate, I would unhesitatingly recommend that they change their preferred song at the stadiums from “Chak De India” to “Fuck De India.”
Photograph: Harbhajan Singh celebrates with Virat Kohli after taking the wicket of AB de Villiers in Nagpur on Saturday (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)