SEVEN DAYS IN SPORT: If we can’t beat them, maybe we should ask them to join us, writes RON REED:
INDIA’S vast population and passion for cricket means they could probably field three Test teams capable of beating the rest of the world, according to Greg Chappell, who used to be the national coach there. Given that Australia got cleaned up by a virtual B team, he’s probably correct.
If they have so many spare stars and an endless assembly line of talent, maybe Australia should look at recruiting a few.
This might not be as silly as it sounds because there are so many Indians living here, and indulging their love for the game at club level, that it is surprising they haven’t made any real impact at the pointy end, as Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja has.
Unless I’m missing somebody, it seems limited to NSW and Tasmanian pace bowler Gurinder Sandhu, the Sydney-born son of immigrants from the Punjab, who played two one-dayers, the first against, yes, India in Melbourne in 2015. Promising batsman Jason Jaskirat Singh Sangha, also Sydney-born, is playing Shield cricket for NSW.
Indian Test and one-day batsman Shikar Dhawan moved to Melbourne to live with his family a few years ago but made no attempt to change his cricket allegiances.
Melbourne is the headquarters of the Indian diaspora, with about 200,000 of a fast-growing national total of about 700,000, according to the latest figures I could find on the internet.
That is clearly evident any time any Indian team turns out at the MCG – the distinctive blue garb often seems to outnumber the green and gold.
It was a major factor in the women’s T20 World Cup final pulling almost 90,000 people through the gate, which would have been unlikely if the Australian girls had been playing any other country.
But the Victorian Sheffield Shield team is yet to benefit from this.
Indian cricket’s vast depth of resources – personnel, money, political clout – and the massive impetus generated by the amazing triumph just completed suggests that they will be the logical winners of the first Test championship final in London in June, and once that is achieved a dynasty could well be founded, as suggested by English cricket writer Simon Briggs in The Age.
On the cricket field, India are showing the talent and the attitude to run off with the game for a generation,” he wrote. “Is this the day when the sheer demographic weight of India lands like a meteor on Planet Cricket, wiping out the dinosaurs of the Anglosphere? Could we be witnessing the start of a dynasty? It feels like time.:”
This is a difficult proposition with which to argue, even if dynasties in cricket – or any other sport – are rare beasts. The West Indies certainly enjoyed one in the latter part of the 20th century and so did Steve Waugh’s baggy greens a few years later.
India’s next two assignments are both against England, at home and away, which will be a revealing measurement of whether Briggs’s – and the rest of the cricket world’s – worst fears are about to hit home.
The applause they received for what they achieved over the past month will be a long time dying down, and rightly so. Their courage, resilience and calmness under all sorts of pressure resulted in what fans of all ages agreed was the best Test series in memory, and the one of the finest victories. What it showed, again, was the importance of having a crack no matter how the odds are stacked against you, in sport and in life generally.
AS FOR the shell-shocked Aussies, they suddenly have a plethora of questions on the agenda if and when they get to South Africa next month, the most important of which is Tim Paine’s grip on the captaincy. Given his age and uncertain form with the wicketkeeping gloves, his time would probably be up now in most other circumstances – but the lack of any obvious alternative means he will get at least one more crack. He cannot afford to stumble again, personally or from a team perspective. If not him, it should be Pat Cummins, the most inspirational player in the team. The theory that it would be too arduous for a fast bowler to take on extra responsibilities has never really been tested in Australian cricket so it might be time to bite the bullet and find out.Embed from Getty Images
CRICKET Australia has run itself out by declaring that the upcoming Big Bash triple-header will be played on January 26 and not Australia Day. This cultural meddling is as unpopular as it is unnecessary, as are pretty much all the other attempts to change or do away with a celebration of what we have in common, not what divides us.
UNLIKE many, I’m happy for the Open tennis to go ahead. Yes, there are risks with the virus but that’s going to be the case in various ways for a good while yet, and getting life back to as close to normal as possible should be a priority – and in Melbourne, that means big-time sport. If the footy doesn’t get going on time, there will be uproar – or at least profound disappointment.
A handful of tennis players aren’t doing their collective image any favours by complaining about their quarantine circumstances, and they should zip it. It’s not compulsory to be here.
What is really getting on people’s goat, I suspect, is how well looked-after these tennis players, many of them little-known also-rans, are. Their air-fares, accommodation and meals are all taken care of and the minimum they can earn, even if they don’t win a game, set or match, is $100,000 – a year’s pay for a lot of fans.
It multiplies rapidly if you do happen to score a win or two – or seven.
Good luck to them – it’s not easy to get into that position. But a bit of perspective wouldn’t go astray when things are not entirely to your liking.Embed from Getty Images
Nobody is better paid than the man at the centre of this debate, Novak Djokovic, who is worth well north of $200 million according to a cursory internet check.
Whether he is a tool, as his nemesis Nick Kygrios would have it, or just a misunderstood would-be helping hand is not something I’m going to waste much time contemplating – but I do like watching him play, and will happily do so when the whips start cracking.
RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.