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Friday, January 1, 2021

barefoot at Sydney ......... ‘telephone manipol sirippaval ivala' !!

In the popular Shankar film “Indian” –  ‘telephone manipol sirippaval ivala – Melbourne malarpol melliya magala” song was a big hit – factually not right  as though the lyrical reference was to Melbourne, it was elsewhere !!

It is a bridge that is  equipped for tidal flow operation, permitting the direction of traffic flow on the bridge to be altered to better suit the morning and evening rush hours' traffic patterns.  The bridge has eight lanes in total, numbered one through eight from west to east. Lanes three, four and five are reversible. One and two always flow north. Six, seven and eight always flow south. The default is four each way. The bridge has a series of overhead gantries which indicate the direction of flow for each traffic lane.   It is the Sydney Harbour Bridge,  one of Australia's most well known and photographed landmarks.  The dramatic view of the bridge, the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera House is an iconic image of both Sydney and Australia.   It is the world's largest (but not the longest) steel arch bridge with the top of the bridge standing 134 metres above the harbour. Fondly known by the locals as the 'Coathanger', the Sydney Harbour Bridge celebrated its 70th birthday  on  19th March 2012. 

Sydney  located on South east coast of the Tasman sea, is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. The site of the first British colony in Australia, Sydney was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip, commodore of the First Fleet as a penal colony. The city is built on hills surrounding Port Jackson which is commonly known as Sydney Harbour, where the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge feature prominently.   Sydney has hosted major international sporting events, including the 1938 British Empire Games, the 2000 Summer Olympics, and the final match of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The main airport serving Sydney is Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport.

Way back in 1978 with series 2-1 in their favour, Australia batted disastrously and were dismissed for a paltry 131.  BS Chandrasekhar was the wrecker-in-chief with 15-3-30-4 and Bedi taking 3 for 49.  Karsan Ghavri bowled 7 overs; while Mohinder took one wicket in the same no. of overs conceding only 6 runs. When India batted, it was a remarkable team effort.  Gavaskar 49; Chetan Chauhan 42; Vishwanath 79; Vengsarkar 48; Kirmani 42; Ghavri 64; Prasanna 25 all made runs enabling India to declare at 396/8 !!

For a change Australians were under pressure in a turning track.  Dyson was out cheaply and at draw of stumps on day 3 Gary Cosier and Kim Hughes were at the crease with score 40/1 ; the 4th day was the rest day in the Series which had 8 balls per over.   On playing day 4, Australians lost wickets regularly and at end of day, they were 243/8 still struggling to make India bat again, but had pushed the game to the fifth day of the match.   The hero was Peter Toohey who was unbeaten with 77.

On the 5th day morning (early morning in India) the commentator screamed when Madanlal covering lot of ground got under the skier at long leg catching Toohey off Ghavri for 85 enabling Indian win by an Innings and 2 runs.   Madanlal was a substitute fielder and those days there was the restriction that a substitute shall not stand in close-in positions or in any specialist  fielding positions !! Strange rule considering that substitutes, later,  were allowed to bat or bowl also in some Onedayers.  That day, the commentator remarked that given his abilities, Madanlal should not be allowed to be inside the field at all as he appeared to be a specialist in any position !! Really great appreciation for the die-hard cricketer Madanlal.   Prasanna took 4; while Bedi, Chandra and Ghavri captured 2 apiece.

For many of us – walking barefoot was nothing.  Many of my colleagues in 1970s would come to school without a slipper or would wear a hawai ! chappal – and we have played Cricket in hot summer afternoons getting roasted on the sands running without a footwear !!   ~ but this barefoot was a major event !

The barefoot circle is a cricket centric way for players and teams to take a moment prior to matches to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, connect to each other as opponents and pay respect to the country (land). This is done barefoot as a way to connect to country, but also a moment to reflect that we are all common ground, we are all human beings and we need to stand strong with each other, for each other ..

Cricket Australia, planned and took the  unique step in supporting the anti-racism movement. A month before the start of the India series, Cricket Australia announced the barefoot circle movement. This statement was created broadly to connect with Aboriginal culture and the land on which matches are played. Pat Cummins had said that it was the team's way of demonstrating an anti-racism feeling as well as celebrating the indigenous culture of Australia. Before the start of the Sydney ODI, both Indian cricket team and Australian cricket teams stood around an Aboriginal mural and stood barefoot in support of the indigenous people of Australia. The ‘barefoot circle’ is one of the symbolic statements made by Australia as they look to grapple with the injustice committed on the Aboriginals in early times. 

Australia's first match of a Covid-19 international summer that might have begun in Perth, Brisbane or Adelaide before finally settling upon the grand old SCG was fitting in that it was both bracingly uneven and also a commanding victory for a home side that was as organised as the logistical efforts that had allowed the series to get underway in the first place.

Playing in Australia is difficult ~ and it was no surprise.  Players who had not made a great mark in IPL were different.  A backbone century from Aaron Finch and a blistering one from Steven Smith, coupled with characteristic contributions from David Warner and Glenn Maxwell, vaulted Australia to an imposing 6 for 374, before India's chase was unable to maintain the runaway momentum of a beginning that benefitted from a rare case of Mitchell Starc losing control of the ball. The hosts were concerned primarily by a side problem that afflicted Marcus Stoinis - in a tight schedule his injury may open a path for Moises Henriques or Cameron Green.

In chasing a tall score, after a good start, Indian batsmen faltered – Shikhar Dhawan could not force the pace.  The man who has returned after lower-back injury,  Hardik Pandya was playing as a pure batsman and he silenced all his critics with a great innings.  He top scored with  90 off 76 from 101 for 4,  and there is a hint he might be ready to bowl come the World Cups. There are three of those in the next three years. 

Their bowlers and fielders let India down – and India has been fined 20% of their match fee for their slow over rate during the first ODI in Sydney. The match ran an hour beyond the scheduled finish, and techically went past the SCG's curfew limit for lights, but no one flicked the switch as the contest finally ended at 11.10pm.  Tomorrow the teams meet again at the same venue.  The second game of a three-match series is by default a must-win for one team and a chance to sew up the series for the other. More than losing, or winning, the series though, this will be an opportunity for several of the players to continue the adjusting phase to a format longer than 20 overs.  

Not pertinent to the result of the series, but not insignificantly either, the first ODI was also the first international cricket match post the Covid-19 pandemic to have spectators in the stands.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar



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