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05 Mar 2008 07:22
Indian media on Wednesday rewarded the cricket team’s conquest of world champions Australia with front page banner headlines, celebrating a victorious end to an acrimonious tour.
“Triumph against all Oz” screamed the mass-selling Hindustan Times a day after Mahendra Dhoni’s young Indian team completed a 2-0 whitewash of Australia in the one-day finals.
“The Men in Blue overcame insult and injury, hostility on and off the field from players, spectators and media, on the world’s toughest tour against the world’s best side,” the paper said.
“Australian captain Ricky Ponting admitted India outplayed them in the one-day finals. A more graceful captain would also have admitted that India had out-behaved Australia all summer.”
The one-day win followed an ill-tempered Test series that Australia won 2-1, but the tour may be best remembered for India’s stunning victory in Perth, regarded as a graveyard for visiting teams because of its bouncy wicket.
Most Indians are convinced the Test series scoreline would have been reversed had umpiring blunders not gone against the tourists in the second Test in Sydney.
Lavish praise was showered on Dhoni’s one-day team, whose average age of 22 was bolstered only by the towering presence of 34-year-old Sachin Tendulkar, who hit match-winning 117 not out and 91 in the two finals.
“We are the champs,” said a front page headline in the Times of India, which added that India’s win “signalled an impending change in the cricketing world order while wrecking the aura of Australian invincibility”.
The tour, marred by controversy and bad blood, looked in danger of collapsing after the Sydney Test when Harbhajan Singh copped a three-match suspension for allegedly racially abusing Andrew Symonds.
The International Cricket Council not only overturned the suspension following an appeal hearing, but ensured the tour went ahead by accepting India’s demand that West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor be sacked.
Controversy, however, refused to fade away.
During a one-day match, promising Indian seamer Ishant Sharma was fined for a verbal exchange with Symonds and the Indians countered with a complaint about provocative behaviour by the Australians.
Matthew Hayden then called Harbhajan an “obnoxious weed” on radio and the Indian spinner responded by saying the opener was one of the least liked players in world cricket.
The Australian media also accused Harbhajan of spitting at fans and making monkey gestures, which was again thrown out by the ICC due to lack of evidence.
Dhoni took a swipe at Australian journalists on Tuesday, telling the travelling Indian media that the hosts will have to search for a new scapegoat now that the tour was over.
“I don’t know what will happen to the Australian media without Bhajji [Harbhajan],” the Indian captain said.
“He was always there on the front page.”
Dhoni added that after almost three months of relentless scrutiny, the Indian team had grown immune to everything written about them.
“The Aussie media criticism worked in our favour and we got used it after some time,” he said.
Few failed to notice that Harbhajan dismissed his tormentors, Hayden and Symnonds, in both finals in Sydney and Brisbane.
“One Sikh is enough for 125Â 000 people,” the turbaned Harbhajan told the Indian media, quoting the revered Sikh saint Guru Gobind Singh.
“It’s not like all Australians were against me,” the spinner said.
“When I went out to eat or something, people met me nicely. But, yes, on the field there were a lot of unnecessary things spoken. I tried to ignore all of it, and it just made me stronger.” - Sapa-AFP
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