That is simply not cricket

The Australian `dead rubber syndrome' continued with the team's loss to West Indies in the final Test of the four-match series.

SUNIL GAVASKAR

The Australian `dead rubber syndrome' continued with the team's loss to West Indies in the final Test of the four-match series. For a team that is rated as the best in the modern game and often compared to the other champion teams of the past, it is a record that does no credit at all and in fact diminishes its claim to be called the greatest side in the history of the game.

Have a look at the record of Clive Lloyd's team and then Viv Richards' team and you will find that though they did not always have a clean sweep of a series, they did not lose a dead Test in a particular series. Waugh's men have invariably lost the last Test of the series, after having dominated the opponents earlier on, and that's why the `dead rubber syndrome' is how their defeat in the final Test is referred to. It was quite a fantastic win for the West Indies. It proves what Brian Lara has been saying about his side being an improving side with a future. This is very much true.

Though Stuart MacGill picked wickets, he is not the match-winner like Shane Warne. In fact, he is nowhere near Warne. There's no doubt that Warne would have never allowed the West Indians to get anywhere close to the target that the Aussies had set on a wearing and dusty pitch.

For the millions of followers of West Indian cricket, the victory must have been sweet indeed. This win renews their hopes in the side, which is loved all over the world. That unfortunately cannot be said about the Australians who once again showed their worst colours when they were in a tight spot in the final Test.

That they got away with it is one of the main reasons that they carry on the bad behaviour when the going gets tough. The manner in which Hayden confronted the West Indian captain as he came out to bat and then the ugly face-off between the two captains is bad for cricket, not to mention the finger-wagging that took place between McGrath and Sarwan later in the Test.

What is saddening is that they got away with it and that will only encourage them to do so in the future. To say that it made Test cricket exciting is to take the escape route, for nobody likes to see grown men eyeballing each other and mouthing off.

Tell me, is it a good example for the kids, watching on TV, to see their heroes doing that? To say that it's been part of the game since time immemorial is to tell an untruth, for, though there's been talk on the field, it has never been personal and abusive and nasty as it has been in the last decade or so. This has happened only because the authorities have turned a blind eye or made excuses like the one we heard this time. If Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe were pilloried by the media and fans alike for their tantrums on the tennis court, then how is the behaviour of some of the Aussies cricketers, on the field, different from that?

The fault also lies with the modern-day cricketer who is a victim of sledging and who thinks that he would be called a wimp if he complained. In fact, by not bringing it to the umpire's and match referee's notice, he is helping to lower the standard of behaviour even more.

The common excuse is that what happens on the field should be left on it and forgotten once the players are back in the pavilion, but why should someone who has abused a player get away with it? Would that happen anywhere else in any other field of activity, leave alone sporting activities? Does it happen when umpires are abused? Why is a batsman who lingers at the crease or gives the umpire a long look when he is given out is charged with dissent and hauled up? If there's protection for the umpires then why is there no protection for the players against abusive misbehaving players?

What happened in Antigua are disgrace and a blot on the game but it will be forgotten or buried under the carpet in the euphoria of a great record-breaking win. The disappointing part about it is that there are some who are blaming Brian Lara when in fact the West Indian skipper was himself at the receiving end. That some of these non-Australian people, who blamed Lara, have a job of writing for Australian newspapers.

The ICC formed an elite panel of umpires and match referees, particularly to ensure that bad behaviour is a thing of the past. But when referees themselves start looking the other way, then how will it help? The idea of having younger referees and umpires was because there was belief that the earlier generation referees were far too strict. But then these modern umpires and referees seem to be too lenient. Sure, there has to be passion and the great desire to win, but not by abusing your opponent.

That is simply not cricket.