The decision by Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her recent visit to India to award the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) to Sachin Tendulkar can be traced to the historical and cultural underpinnings of colonialism. The decision has been met with cautious scepticism in various quarters of the Australian media. Indian newspapers basked in the glory and pointedly noted Australian newspapers had criticised the award. Prime Minister Gillard had three underlying themes: extending economic cooperation between Australia and India, changing the military partnership with the selling of uranium to India, and employing cricket to unite the ties between the countries. Clearly, the decision to grant a cricket icon an OAM is worthy in and of itself, but does the Gillard government seriously think that Sachin Tendulkar has contributed to the fostering of better understanding between the two democracies?
Cricket, a game of colonial legacy, acts as a common thread that connects the social and political histories of Australia and India. The game provides an interesting metaphor for the way the recent relationship between the two countries has evolved.
Australia–India relations and the economy of ideas March 14, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Maclean, Kama , Comment
At the Sydney Cricket Ground on 5 January 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke confidently about the upswing in Australia–India relations – which had been strained since the violent attacks on Indian students in 2009 – citing cricket as the ‘common language’ of the relationship.
In the closing days of 2011, Gillard had also helped to remove an important irritant in the bilateral relationship as she championed and pushed through a change to Australian Labor Party policy, which had precluded the sale of uranium to India.
Despite these developments, there is an urgent need to reimagine the Australia–India relationship, emphasising mutual exchange and collaboration as the means of engagement. The economy of ideas – of education, and of research and development – hold enormous potential here.
India struggling January 31, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , Comment
First published here on 28 January 2012
India’s test cricket defeat in Adelaide was arguably the very worst of the eight they have now lost in a row while playing away from home. Melbourne was a poor effort, Sydney worse then Perth was always going to be hard. Adelaide, though, is a batting track as the Australians demonstrated and as the Indians might have been expected to show. They capitulated, though. Their bowling attack was always going to struggle, and that was added to by the reluctance to bring in more spin. The batsmen were woeful, even if in a terrible showing Sachin Tendulkar had a reasonable enough series given everyone else’s performance.
Predictably, the Indian media is now in full cry with former players of all types (and varying success rates themselves) calling for wholesale change. As cricket writer and historian Boria Majumdar said in Melbourne before the series started, India takes this very seriously, and a 4-0 humbling will bring national wrath upon the team. That is because the dominance of cricket has been a sort of avatar for India’s increasing awareness of its rising place more generally in the world. Every country has used sport like this: New Zealand and rugby, Australia and cricket, Brazil and football are just some obvious examples. It is always difficult to pin down the nexus between sport and national profile, but there is a sussurus of sentiment that gives people pride in a victory, sadness running to anger in a defeat, especially in a streak of the kind Indian cricket is now in.
There is a curiously stronger than normal analogy between the cricketers and India more generally that is worth contemplation.
Sports, politics, prestige and power: the struggle over the new bill September 30, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , Comment
While Suresh Kalamadi and colleagues sit it out in Tihar jail, awaiting results of their post-Commonwealth Games charges, Sports Minister Ajay Maken is struggling to gain acceptance for his Bill that would reform India’s sports management and administration, one measure against many to counter both the suggestions of corruption and international criticism. This is no simple matter. An earlier attempt, before the full catastrophe of the Games emerged, was roundly defeated as several Government Ministers including Kalmadi and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar (better known as the Chair of the International Cricket Council and former President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)).
One of the central issues this time round is that Maken – a Delhi man with a trades union background – wants all sports bodies in India to be subject to the Right To Information (RTI legislation). This is being fought bitterly by many if not most of the sports bodies, and principally by the now extremely cashed up BCCI. Automatically, that leads many to think that the opposition emerges from the need not to have all or certain information emerge to full public scrutiny. The push for the RTI angle comes obviously in the Games’ aftermath amidst the revelations of alleged kickbacks, preferential tendering, bogus tenders and invoices, tampered bids and all the rest, but why the ferocious attempts to prevent the measure.
A good deal of this comes from the complex and intertwined social, financial, business and political roles played by leading sports administrators, as the cricket case reveals.
Gamini Goonesena, the unsung hero of Ceylon Cricket, passes away August 15, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Sri Lanka , Comment
This article first appeared in Critiquing Cricket on 6 August 2011.
How many can lay claims of having captained his native land, played first-class cricket in England and Australia, captained Cambridge University, M.C.C.? And, then, on top of that, how many other than the three Indians (Ranjitsinhji, Duleepsinjhi and the Nawab of Pataudi Sr. who represented England no less) can lay claim to being the only Asian who represented the Gentlemen of England? That was our own Gamini Goonesena (b.16-2-1931) who passed away on 1 August 2011 in Canberra, Australia, aged 80 years.
Pankaj Oswal and India-Australia business March 15, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , 3comments
When Pankaj Oswal arrived in Perth early in the new millennium, along with wife Radhika, the pair was immediately the focus of speculation, curiosity, envy and suspicion in about equal measure. They were young, obvious, ambitious and daring – he was aiming to create a $1 billion ammonia fertiliser factory on the Burrup Peninsular in the northwest next to Western Australia’s massive natural gas reserves. The gas would provide the considerable energy needed to create the product. Oswal swept aside the problem that his site just happened to be home to one of the world’s prime rock art concentrations, while Radhika moved towards creating a worldwide vegetarian restaurant chain. Together, they became famous for their parties and the general lifestyle of the rich and famous.
It was not all straightforward, though. There were immediate questions about how a twenty something had the $300 million that allowed him to leverage the huge loans needed to get his enterprise going. Diligent journalists in both Australia and India lit on the information that he was the grandson of one of the great Ludhiana textile magnates but, even more significantly, the son of Abhey Oswal who had moved from textiles to fertilisers. Suspicious minds thought the son’s stash might just have emanated from the father’s labyrinthine commercial deals from which some investors emerged much the poorer financially. Pankaj Oswal, however, consistently denied that source, instead usually citing rich investors/friends. (more…)
Pakistan, India and the World Cup February 9, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Pakistan, Stoddart, Brian , Comment
Just days out from the start of this year’s cricket World Cup in the subcontinent, Pakistan’s reputation has taken another beating. Last Saturday the International Cricket Council’s independent tribunal confirmed its belief that Pakistani players were again involved in match-fixing engineered by illegal gambling connections. The case arose from revelations late last year that during the Lords test match in which Pakistan was involved, there was evidence that in return for payment, Pakistani bowlers delivered deliberate “no balls” as part of a spot betting scam. The then captain Salman Butt has now been banned for 10 years with 5 suspended, Mohammad Asif 7 with 2 suspended and Mohammad Aamir 5 years. This last is a particular blow because Aamir had emerged as one of the world’s great young talents.
Adding complication, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service a day earlier announced it believed it had enough evidence to warrant the laying of criminal charges over the matter, and the players have been detailed off to appear voluntarily in Westminster court in a few weeks, or be extradited.
There will be some twists yet, though. The players have immediately announced that they will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport based in Switzerland with Aamir, interestingly, reportedly saying he had not expected such a severe penalty – that suggests, of course, he expected a penalty which, in turn, suggests substance to the claims and charges. That both fits but contradicts other reports from Pakistan that Michael Beloff, QC, the head of the ICC panel, thought the evidence underdone and was unhappy with the numbers of years that had to be handed out under the “minimum penalty” provisions. Beloff, son of Lord Max Beloff the historian and political scientist, and himself former President of Trinity Oxford, is also a key member of the Court for Arbitration for Sport, so complexities and networks abound.
All this has reverberations for cricket in several respects, but two in particular are important.
The CWG after-party October 20, 2010Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , Comment
Predictably, the actual athletic events in Delhi went off quite well, and better so in some cases. Australia won the medal count and, even allowing for its home advantage, India itself did exceptionally well in disciplines like wrestling, shooting and archery. Even in hockey, where the lead-up was especially troubled, India reached the men’s final only to be thrashed by Australia. England made up the trio of top performers, perhaps providing comfort for them in the rundown to the 2012 Olympics with Scotland having something to think about in its approach to the 2014 Commonwealth event. Very few athletes were done for doping, a few were done for being dopey, the closing ceremony was a triumph, the pinnacle of a couple of weeks where things went from bad to better.
The aftermath is still grim, however. The BJP and an array of minority groups are pressing for a quick investigation of CWG-related corruption allegations. Mani Shankar Aiyar, the former Congress Minister for Sport and a trenchant CWG critic, is adamant that the event was too expensive by a factor of several, and that the publicity that preceded the event has damaged India’s reputation deeply. He may well be right: allegations of fraud and malpractice are still emerging, various anti-corruption and tax agencies are pursuing a myriad of inquiries and there is general agreement that despite whatever success was eventually achieved, the cost was much too high in a country with more pressing social concerns.
All bets are off on Pakistan September 8, 2010Posted by southasiamasala in : Pakistan, Stoddart, Brian , Comment
Now that Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif have been formally charged by the International Cricket Council, and have allegedly admitted receiving money from a bookmaker, Pakistan now faces yet another serious set of investigations about the fixing of cricket matches.
It was alleged recently that these three players and possibly others had conspired to rig matches on the current tour of England where a series of inexplicable performances raised questions about the state of Pakistan’s playing commitment. That was a very polite way of suggesting that Pakistan had fixed the results and been paid off by the bookmakers who made a killing on the outcome. That very quickly raised suspicions about a string of similarly poor results on Pakistan’s tour of Australia last year, especially the Sydney test where the visitors managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Now doubts have been raised about and India-Sri Lanka result as well.
The deep problem is that Pakistan has form. In 2000, after an extensive two year investigation by a Pakistani judge, the then leading international player Salim Malik was banned from cricket for life after being found responsible for fixing results. The judge made a series of recommendations that included regular vetting of players’ bank accounts. Critics now are quick to point out that few if any of those recommendations were implemented, the implication being that Pakistani cricket officialdom was reluctant to recognise or deal with the problem.
Who should be Australia’s ICC representative? July 27, 2010Posted by southasiamasala in : Revo, Rohit , Comment
Fears of an Australian Indian confrontation were reignited again last month after John Howard’s bid for Vice President of International Cricket Council, as an Oceania candidate, was rejected. Had John Howard been elected he would have become the President of ICC after two years, when the current President and a powerful Indian cabinet minister Sharad Pawar steps down. However the controversy did not snowball into a media and a diplomatic tug of war, which partly showed how much John Howard is disliked these days even in Australia.
The Australian cricket board erred in its judgment by nominating Howard in the first place over NZ Cricket chairman Sir John Anderson who should have been the first choice as the Australia-NZ nomination for ICC. Howard’s criticism of Sri Lankan spinner Murali was too harsh. Prime Ministers in Asian countries don’t go about berating the sports persons of other countries. The image of John Howard using tough language after the Indian nuclear tests is more etched in Indian minds than John Howard’s decision to sell uranium to India. Remember John Howard’s treatment of Indian doctor Muhamed Haneef to get cheap votes. Howard also adopted an extreme hard line on Zimbabwe. No wonder opposition to John Howard was overwhelming and came from 6 cricketing nations and not just India. His political past would have never allowed him to be consensual candidate. There are just 10 countries which are qualified to play test cricket and a split amongst them would be disastrous for the future of the game. (more…)