Here on Samizdata we quite often give a mention to sport, having paid attention to the Soccer World Cup of 2002, the recently concluded Rugby World Cup, the University Boat Race, and cricket matches between England and Zimbabwe if only to keep on reminding the universe of the ghastliness of the current lunatic government of that unhappy country. Jonathan Pearce also writes here from time to time about various interesting and diverting sports. Most recently, we have featured a denunciation of the Olympic Games, only last Tuesday. We even occasionally mention Football of the American variety.
But for a true clash of the titans, you need look no further than the contest taking place right now in Melbourne between Australia and India.
The game? Cricket. Yes, cucumber sandwiches, more-tea-vicar, cricket. Cricket in England is in a sad state of eclipse, with the national side having just been beaten by Sri Lanka (in Sri Lanka) amidst massive English excitement, about the Rugby World Cup.
How different are the fortunes of cricket in Australia! Michael Jennings began his talk at my place on Boxing Day by telling us that for an Australian like him, Christmas Day is Christmas Day as celebrated in England – with its snowy Christmas Cards and midwinter English feasting (in temperatures of around 35 centigrade), but that Boxing Day, December 26th, means the beginning of the Australian summer and day one of the Melbourne Test. Cricket is the game in Australia nowadays, as Michael has also been tells everyone who will listen. Their recent defeat in the Rugby at the hands of England is a trifle in Australia compared to the prospect of defeat by India in the cricket series currently in progress.
Australia versus India is the biggest national rivalry in cricket right now, having replaced Australia versus England, now that England are not a match for the dominant Aussies and been losing to them since the nineteen eighties. And in India also, cricket is the game. As I’m fond of telling anyone who will listen, India now contains as many cricket fans as Europe contains people.
Australia versus India. It’s an enticing rivalry. A great sporting nation (despite not bothering about it they’ve still won the Rugby World Cup more often than anyone else) playing a great nation (never mind about sport), and what is more a greater nation with every decade that now passes, both of them slugging it out for the top spot at the sport they both take most seriously of all.
Both teams have great batsmen. The Indian Sachin Tendulkar is a genius, even if he’s going through a bad patch just now. And the Aussie batting line-up is the strongest it has ever been.
For the last few years, the real Australian edge over India, in fact over everyone, has been their bowling, which has also been superb, and at a time when great bowlers have been rarer than great batters, and merely good international bowlers in pretty short supply.
But not right now. McGrath, Gillespie, Warne, are all unavailable, the first two because of injury and the great Shane Warne because of he is still serving out a drug mis-use suspension. So this is India’s chance. India are already one up in the current series, and in the match now in progress they batted first and had a great first day. However, Australia skittled them out on the second morning, and replied with characteristically dominant batting of their own. So Australia are now in a position to win this game and to level and maybe even win the series.
Day three starts at 12.30 am on Sunday, in other words in about an hour’s time as I post this.
But the man to read about all this is not me, it’s Michael Jennings. Michael also writes for the Aussie sports blog Ubersportingpundit, and his latest posting there really gives you a sense of what is at stake in this truly epic confrontation:
I have said before that I think it is only a matter of time before demographic and economic factors in India take charge, and India generates a great, and probably internationally dominant cricket team. …
… If they could push on to 500 or 600 then Australia were likely in a position from which they could not come back to win the series. However, Australia were clearly underperforming, even beyond being without their best bowlers. Could Australia come back and punish the Indians? Australia have a history in recent years of coming back from a loss to absolutely smash the opposition. Could they do it here?
Well, after day two it looks like the answer may well be yes. …
So Australia may be in the process of coming back to smash India. But of course, India can fight back again. While I think a very big score from Australia is the most likely possibility, India have played well in the series so far and the possibility of a fightback must not be taken lightly, even if India have been written off by the Indian press. In their second innings and in Sydney a big contribution from Tendulkar would be really useful. The rest of this series should be something special. But I think tonight may be the key moment. Dominance in world cricket may well be at stake. Winning this series will not be enough for India to say they are the best in the world, but if they win and if they are the best in the world in five years time, this may be the key moment that they look back to.
Great stuff. Both the writing and the contest being written about.