THE Australia captain Ricky Ponting has brushed off pleas from politicians, including the Australian Prime Minister, to improve his team’s general behaviour on the field after the unpleasant Test series against India. It seems Ponting has no sense of history.
Perhaps the most worrying episode was at Sydney where Andrew Symonds remonstrated aggressively with Harbhajan Singh for a friendly acknowledgement to Brett Lee — a fine yorker had nearly bowled him — as he completed the resultant single. ‘You’ve got no effing friends here,’ was the giste of Symonds’ comment to the Indian . That triggered the whole shooting match about ‘monkeys’.
Yet Cricket Australia should immediately notice that Ponting and his team are in self-denial, cocooned from the consequences of their actions. There are echoes of the infamous Glenn McGrath bust-up with Ronnie Sarwan in Antigua in May 2003, entirely of the bowler’s making.
Governor-General Michael Jeffery and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for more civility on the cricket field, with Jeffery pleading for a return to “fundamental courtesies and good manners”.
Ponting denied any lack of sportsmanship and retorted in a radio interview on Fairfax Radio Network: “I think one thing that a lot of people overlook is that we are not playing cricket in the 1950s and a lot of people, I think, are still living in the 1950s. It’s now a fully professional game. It’s not a game of just going out there and having a bit of a bat and a bowl and having a laugh and giggle with the opposition.”
He added: “This is fully fledged international sport played by fully professional athletes, and we are trying to do the best by the game and by the Australian public and the on-field umpires and everyone involved in the game.
“Sometimes tempers can get a little bit out of line but the challenge for us now, as I’ve said to the guys over the last few weeks, is just to take a little step back and have a little think about your actions before you actually act.”
Prime Minister Rudd thought people expected better from the players. He said in The Australian
newspaper: “In politics, we are, shall we say, less than civil to one another so I’m very cautious about preaching from glass houses here, but I think the nation would expect of us in the political sphere to be more civil towards one another in the future. With the history of the game of cricket, I think people would like a bit more civility as well. Cricket is a tough and competitive business, but you can conduct it with a bit of civility.”
CHARLIE SAYS: I am shocked that Ricky Ponting, a man I’ve met many times at press conferences and who impresses me a lot, should brush off criticism with the 1950s jibe. The Australians were totally out of order, especially at Sydney, and they should be ashamed of their boorish behaviour.