“El Classico” in modern times

In modern days, nothing excites more than a sporting rivalry that hinges on the edge with more than sporting skills and expertise. A ‘classico’ involves lot of passion and honour at stake on the trapeze of too much war-like rivalry that engulfs not just the players in question, but the entire nation. This years India vs Australia cricket series Down Under promises more than cricket – it symbolises the retention of supremacy of India vs the never-say-die building of a new Australian team.

The first things that strikes us is the ugly banter, strong sledging and the arrogance of a Ricky Ponting team, planning for a win at any cost, even at the cost of insulting the spirit of the game. If that’s modern era, well let that be – let the players duel it out at the cost of sledging and mental dis-integration to the extent of almost physical slug fest. But to be fair, if somebody throws a fire-ball, let there be no “rules” stopping the other team of throwing it bat with a lot of spicy Indian curry. The ICC has been racial in many instances in the past – a similar “crime” on a field has led to more severe punishments to players of Asian origin. While a McGrath, Langer or a Lee gets away with some match fees, a Ganguly or Murali gets match bans. Racism exists in a different form and cricket is no exception. A “monkey” sledge becomes racial while questioning parentage is just a test of mental strength. Let ICC respect all cultures or make it a free for all – I don’t think Asian teams are afraid of slogging it out. Only thing that should not happen is dual standards, specially by bringing in some special umpires. By the way, it is good for the cricket that some ‘greats’ like Daryl Harper have gone – we can live without them happily.

Now let’s come to some reasons strictly on cricketing terms why this series can be a classico in real terms:

– This will be the last series for the Indian Fab Three in Australia – Sachin, Dravid, Laxman. And Aussies will be going all out to stop them – whether be Sachin’s 100th 100 or Laxman’s feats, does not matter.

– This might be the last of Ponting’s greatness. Who will account for him is a question but I have a hunch that this time he might be Ashwin’s bunny

– Michael Clarke can be a chocolate boy of international cricket, but whether he will be a good tactical captain remains to be seen

– The unknown factor of a raw Aussie pace attack might cause some surprise. Even though Indians are always susceptible to the rising delivery, whether the new Aussie attack can keep up the pressure relentlessly, ball after ball still remains to be seen

– This series might be the defining or oblivion series for Rohit Sharma – a batsman who was compared to Sachin with so much potential, but whose records do not suggest greatness

– This series can make the Virat Kohli’s, Suresh Raina’s make a solid statement in test cricket. Need to see whether the pressure or banter gets better of them or not.

Finally, this will be a series between a nation who are ‘tigers on home, but a duck overseas’ vs ‘I was a champion few years ago, but now playing to prove the same point’. Hence the stakes are too high – you can expect hot Indian curry against the know-it-all attitude of the Aussies and I am sure it will be a mouth-watering series.

My prediction is that by 28th Dec, the tone of the series will be set. The tone might bring in putting the nails in the coffin and the desperate fight-back when the back is against the wall. My only hope is that this time at least, let there be a spirit of the game on the field – if it’s again lost, let’s remove the biasness of the rules – we are ready to give everything back with interest – if that means some bloodshed, let’s call this a war !

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