Ban The Punter

Former Australian captain Steve Waugh started the mental disintegration of international cricket a decade ago with his brand of sledging, a strategy that has been taken to the very depths of dirt by his successor Ricky Ponting. For years the Aussies have been abusing players and intimidating umpires. Strangely the ICC has kept mum. Very few Aussie players have been banned or even warned. It gets even curiouser with the fact other players doing a fraction of the same get summarily banned, Harbhajan Singh being the latest victim.
The Sydney Test fiasco was just waiting to happen, a result of years of bad blood. The only way to end this sordid saga which threatens to get worse and worse is to issue a warning to Cricket Australia to rein in it’s “pack of wild dogs” and ban Ponting for life.

Here’s why Ponting should be banned based on the Sydney Test alone.

1. He broke the captains’ agreement with Anil Kumble
Before this tour, Ponting and Kumble agreed that in clase of a doubtful catch, the fielders word would be taken. Despite giving that in writing, Ponting still backed Michael Clarke’s controversial catch against Sourav Ganguly. Worse still, he was later shown vociferously claiming a clearly grounded catch. Pakistan captain Rashid Latif was banned for five matches for claiming a catch he didn’t take. The match referee then was, surprise surprise, Mike Procter. Why didn’t Procter ban Ponting for doing worse?

2. He has been proved a liar
You can argue that a lot of things happen on the field in the heat of the moment. But if you stick to your lies and argue with everyone (including a senior Indian journalist at a Press Conference) long after the end of play when the TV replays have shown you a liar, then where does that leave your integrity? The result is that no international player trusts or respects Ponting anymore and the least Cricket Australia can do is remove him from captaincy.

3. The sledging stalwarts can’t take sledging themselves
By Ponting’s own admission, if Harbhajan called his player a monkey he deserved the three-match ban. Then what about all the F*** and other swear words that the Aussies have been using for ages? In the last couple of years they’ve used words more offensive than monkey hundreds of times. By the same logic, all Aussie players deserve bans of atleast 10-20 matches. How can you sit and qualify a swear word? This is less offensive and that is more so? Or maybe ICC should come out with a dictionary of swear words and define which are acceptable on a field and which are not. Any swear word can be deemed racial or non-racial depending on how you judge it. The whole issue smacks of sickening double standards.

4. Bringing disrepute to the game
One image stands out in the Sydney, that of Ricky Ponting raising his finger arrogantly to the umpire to claim the dubious catch. If any Indian player had done the same, he would have been banned for sure. Coupled that with his refusal to walk and Andrew Symonds brazen public admission that he knew he was out on 30, their final celebrations without even waiting for the umpire and many others. What kind of a trigger-happy team is Ponting leading?

5. Take a look at Ponting’s past
Ponting has used an illegal graphite bat, hurled abuses at the England dressing room in Trent Bridge, been fined for dissent many times and rudely told BCCI chief Sharad Pawar to leave a victory podium. How much more can the cricket world take? The Sydney Test was the last straw. His personal life has been no different. He has brawled outside a pub and been thrown out of a night club.
Look at legacy that Ponting is sitting on. Who can forget Michael Slater’s showdown with Indian umpire Venkatraghavan over a catch he didn’t take cleanly? Or Justin Langer’s tipping of the bails of Hashan Tillekratne and then appealing. (He was amazingly cleared of the charge) Aussie greats have called sledging a cultural issue, but which individual likes to be sweared at in the first place? It’s high time Australia was shown its place starting with the ban on Ponting.

(This article appeared in Metro Now newspaper on January 11, 2008)