Tempers are frayed in the board-room of the Australian Cricket Selection Board. An unnamed source told us that the entire team was summoned today and given a dressing down by the Chairman of the Selectors. Captain Ricky Ponting took the brunt of the assault and later tearfully admitted to the unnamed source that he was powerless to do anything about it. The Chairman of the Selectors later played down the incident and promised that his team would be turning around soon and that they would learn from the mistakes of the past.
At the heart of the trouble is the crushing defeat that the Aussies inflicted on the Indian cricket team, visiting and currently playing a test series. As is well known, the immense popularity of the game in the Indian subcontinent is what is paying everybody's salary. Worried that frequent defeats of the Indian team might lower viewer interest and thereby hurt the board's advertising revenues, the Australian Cricket Board had specifically instructed their team to lose to the Indians or, if for some reason they can't, as often happens to teams playing chronic losers like India, at least win by extremely slender margins.
This, the board felt, was completely ignored by Ponting and his men. First, they pounded the Indian bowling attack all around the field on the flimsy grounds that it was ineffectual. Ponting's sarcastic remark, that if the board wanted batsmen who could lose their wickets to the Indian attack, they had better recruit blind players, did not go well with the selectors. Ponting later apologized for it, though he privately told our source that he was not sure that even blind batsmen could manage this.
The meeting broke for lunch, in an attempt to cool tempers, but when it re-convened, the bowlers came in for a bit of stick, as they say in cricketing terms. It has been decided to enrol them for the crash course on bowling half volleys, a regular course being conducted by the advanced training program of the Indian Cricket Board. The Indian cricket board have been informally sounded out about this and have graciously agreed to impart the necessary skills to the Australian bowlers. A sports psychologist's services have been sought, to "de-competitise" the Australians. India has some of the best in this field.
When this reporter contacted the Chairman of the Selectors for his comment, the official reply was that there was no problem and the situation was under control. Privately, an unnamed source assured this reporter that the team has been instructed to lose by an innings. The idea is that even if they goof up, they could still lose by a narrower margin.
What will happen is something that only time will tell, but there is no doubt that the Australians are serious this time. The national coach of Australia is reported to have told the Indian batsmen Dravid and Jaffer that the rules of the game permitted a player to actually hit the ball with the bat, something which they reportedly found shocking and heretical, but being the fine players that they are, are actually considering it.
The situation, in short, is hopeful.
Special Reporter on Global Cricketing Matters