When it comes to the sporting arena, Scotland is not well known to set the imagination of fans on fire.
However, I was strongly praying for them to acquire an unexpected life in their opening World Cup game and hoped that they manage to give the Australians a crash course in the funniness of the game called cricket.
In the last five years, I have had only one agenda when it comes to cricket. I want the Australians to be thrashed, beaten, bullied and plummeted. The ultimate cricketing sight for me is to see Glenn McGrath’s shoulders droop and his arms hanging low and his mouth clenched tightly and his eyes unable to meet the batsman’s eyes. I don’t really care who the batsman is, it could be Henry Olonga for all I care, or any team that produces this effect.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is the most epiphanous moment that can come my way from the cricketing field. I don’t know when this happened, this dissociation of the healthy patriotism, which informs every cricket fan’s involvement with the game, but there was a point. Sometime ago, when I ceased to be an Indian fan and became an anti-Australian one and have maintained this disloyalty, ever since.
You can imagine then, how happy these preceding few weeks have been for the cricket fan in me. I can go further and say, I have already had the finest moment of my World Cup simply because Australia entered this tournament as the number two team, having been licked not once not twice, but all five times in a row. I love New Zealand, for sure.
Perhaps this visceral connection arose when they defeated the West Indies, in the West Indies, in 1994 to become the reigning world champion. Perhaps in that case my prejudice against them began with the Indian team’s tour of Australia in 1991-92 where they had been made to look like fools by a still not dominant Australian team.
At any rate, from that dreadful Australian series on I began to relish the moments of their fall. I had a pretty good time in the 1996 World Cup, where despite India’s ignominious exit, my delight knew no bounds when they were defeated, roundly, by the little Sri Lankans at Lahore. Australia defeated, and that too by Sri Lanka, a country they had refused to tour, oh my God!
Perhaps this ill will was exaggerated by the behaviour of their umpires. We know about the Darryl Hairs and Darryl Harpers and what they have done to the Sachins and the Muralis and some Pak players. Or because of the way they would turn their supercilious noses-and oh those gum-chewing and chewing-at our players and our administrators and even, our countries.
I was not alone in this irrational angst. It was building up during the years of 1999-2000, when they beat Pakistan and us in succession, in a whitewash 3-0 series, one after another. I had heard many a cricket fan cluck cluck about the way they play their cricket. They played with aggression and with passion and won all the time, but still they failed to win our admiration.
Something crucial was missing. What it was became totally clear to me during the two back-to-back series they played against us, first when they were Calcutta-ed by Lakshman and Dravid and next when they narrowly avoided a series defeat at home in the following season.
I felt a sadistic pleasure that this professional team, this best-run cricketing system in the world could be licked by players, who have rarely shown any keenness for anything other than making money. They were mere bullies, talented bullies no doubt, but they seemed to need and depend on bullying where their skill itself would have sufficed. They were mean winners and bad losers and that is why they were not enjoyable.
So, I am totally with Sunil Gavaskar when he says, Australia may be the champion, but they are not popular. They are positively unpopular. A champion team does not have to be the best-liked team, but woe befalls a champion who is disliked. So I loved the Ashes, the year before last, and I love that ground where South Africa defeated them by outscoring the above 430 total.
I am not alone in this desire to see the Australians bite the dust. It may be an ignoble desire, but it is not an unworthy one. And this has nothing to do with my love of the underdog either, I had no problems with the West Indian domination, I would like Brazil to win all the World Cups there are.
It is just the way they are as a team and the way they come at you with all their schoolboy aggression that gets my goat. I don’t mind sledging, even in general, but would like some display of wit when it comes to it, like that rare one from Steve Waugh about Gibbs dropping the World Cup, not the juvenilia about s******g wives and licking a**** that one has heard them dropping.
So, I said that if Scotland did it very good, a team from the subcontinent does it, even better. And if any one of New Zealand or South Africa or England put them out, all to the good. Should Kenya or Bangladesh batter the Aussies, ah that would be a special treat!
[First published in Mid-Day]