This weeks Peter Roebuck award*

Well, Gideon Haigh may be the embodiment of “self-loathing leftism”, but at least he’s been known to buckle on the pads – photo by Rae Allen on Flickr

…goes to Gideon Haigh. Last Sunday was the first episode of Outsiders on ABC and of course the first topic of discussion was Monkey Business in cricket. You can listen to the segment HERE.

Gideon Haigh is usually a knowledgeable, articulate and entertaining journalist. Especially in the written form. But there is something about the ABC that prevents a balanced stance on anything that touches on race. On this occasion, his display of self-loathing leftism nearly made me choke on my muesli.

Gerard Whately began tangentially to the core issue (of racial vilification), by describing the whole debacle as a case of posturing from both sides, which morphed into an examination of how Australia play their cricket. He pointed out the contradiction of Indias rush to grab the moral high ground while simultaneously bullying and blackmailing CA with the threat of canceling the tour. And he finally commented that the ICC had been exposed as a failure in all aspects of the dispute.

The camera then swung to bespectacled Gideon, looking relaxed, slightly unshaven and even academic. The whole problem, according to him, was that the Australians didnt think the issue through. They accused Harbhajan of racism and it should have been obvious India were never going to wear that.

On the BCCIs behaviour, he advised us to to get used to their power and suggested that complaining about it is as pointless as those who complain about Australia being too good on field. Unless I am misunderstanding, he is condoning a system whereby economic power is exploited to sack and demonise umpires and have tribunal decisions reversed under duress. Using economic power to advantage is equated to using skill on the field to advantage.

He opined that Australia were the ones who brought the game to a standstill and so they were disingenuous to now say they want to get on with cricket. Well he was inadvertently correct that the Australians are being disingenuous but not for the reasons he says. The Australians would indeed like to talk more about the saga, but they are gagged by Cricket Australia through the Soviet style restrictions their contracts impose. Sport is part of our cultural conversation, and such contracts restrict an essential part of this conversation. This is yet another demonstration of the problem of business being involved in sport.

Gideons final word in his opening barrage was that Symonds started it. While this is partly true, it is hardly the point.

There ensued a discussion about the extent to which cricket is a sport apart and whether the Australian captaincy is about more than winning games. I happen to disagree with this view though I know many hold the notion dear. They are misguided.

As far as I am concerned, cricket after the body-line series is about winning. In other words, it is just a normal sport. The body-line series revealed the gentlemanly airs of cricket for what they were a class convention to be dropped when convenient. English captain Jardine, representing the entire tradition of English fair play, was prepared to, quite literally, kill Australian players rather than see England beaten by a team of convicts and Irishmen. And when Australis suggested this was unsportsmanlike, we were threatened with a trade boycott.

Ponting is not at all comfortable with the baggage that comes with the Australian captaincy. Nor should he be. Roy Master said it best. Isnt there a bit of snobbery about all of this Ponting being a working class boy from Launceston? Quite.

Unfortunately, Gideon was still not finished. His analysis of why the conciliation process about Harbajhan failed was that Kumble asked Ponting to just drop it and Ponting wouldnt and this precipitated the crisis. It was all Pontings fault because he had abdicated the old Australian nostrum that what happens on the field stays on the field.

Gideon even said that saying chit-chat on the field is racism trivialises racsim.” No worries. Next time I feel the urge to call my squash opponent a black c, I will make sure it is just part of the chit-chat between points. It is then not racism. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what Gideon is talking about?

Gerard bravely took him to task. The Australians thought there was a racist comment, he pointed out. There is a clear line. The Australians were obliged to raise it. But are we even slightly unclear about whether such comment was made? Surely there can be no dispute after hearing the recording; when accused of calling Symonds a monkey (again), Harbhajan responds: No listen, he started it! An innocent man responds: What the hell are you talking about. I didnt call him a monkey. The NZ judge did not consider this sufficient evidence, but this hand-picked silk also thought it was all Symonds fault too.

Harbhajan’s offense was not that serious and he is the kind of feisty player that I love to watch, especially when he is bowling to Ponting or Gilchrist. Like the Watergate saga, it is the refusal to accept that the rules apply to you which dwarfs the original offense. The rules of international cricket no longer apply to India. And in Gideon Haigh’s judgment, we just have to get used to it.

* In a week of apologies and assasination attempts, I am loathe to post on such a relatively trivial issue. But if I waited any longer it would lose its topicality. Sorry…

This entry was posted in Politics - international, Sport-general. Bookmark the permalink.
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
16 years ago

I just received the following email from Outsiders. I am not sure if it is Barrie or a producer:

Thanks for your e-mail. Your points are good ones and many other people feel Ricky Ponting was too harshly criticised, and actually misunderstood. Much has been said and written about the issues arising from the Sydney Test and the fire has to some extent been fuelled by media coverage. After the dust eventually settled, one thing appeared to be glaringly obvious (and ominous for the future of cricket): that the ICC is a toothless tiger, and well out of it’s depth in being able to handle and control the changing power bases of international cricket.

Ken Parish
16 years ago

Not trivial at all, Chris (and even if it was, we love trivia here at Troppo. You can mount a fairly cogent argument that blogging is trivial per se). Your points are well made.

David Barry
16 years ago

That was a good summary, and I’m also disappointed that Gideon Haigh lost the plot over racism, because I agree with him so often on cricket matters.

Cricket’s history (even before Bodyline) is not one of uniformly high virtues. WG Grace’s gamesmanship was well known (once he nodded to an Australian batsman to suggest that he could leave his crease, and then ran him out; Spofforth was so angry that he produced one of the best spells of fast bowling ever, and his 7/44 won the Test for Australia). But it goes back much further than that. Cricket in the early 19th century was full of gambling and gamesmanship. One of the two stand-out all-rounders of 1800-1825, Lord Beauclerk, was said to put an expensive watch on his middle stump while batting. He was a clergyman who made hundreds of pounds a year from betting on cricket. He was foul-mouthed and generally repulsive. He was made president of the MCC!

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
16 years ago

The “Outsiders” email is instructive. Media commentary crossed the boundary in Bollyline. Commentators moved beyond commentary and became to a significant extent, the story. And the ABC and Fairfax led the way. Roebuck’s absurdly overblown opening piece – the Australians were “wild dogs;” Harbhajan an impetuous (yet deeply empathetic), proud Sikh warrior; Ricky Ponting by implication a boorish incompetent who should resign – was followed by a next day apologia focussing on the “over-reaction of the BCCI.” So it went for two long weeks. Roebuckian zig-zagging that would have done credit to a neurasthenic mosquito on speed and entirely reflective of the fact that the guy got it horribly wrong from the get go and was too gutless to own it.

His initial piece triggered an avalanche of online comment support from the Sub-Continent which the ABC’s “Grandstand” commentary team – apparently unfamiliar with the concept of India being a significant part of the World Wide Web (“they have computers in India? Wow! They know how to get to the Sydney Morning Herald website? Amazing!)- put down to domestic revulsion at the vileness of Ponting and his thugs. It was happening on Australian media websites so……….obviously it had to be Australians commenting.

Led by “Grandstand” luminaries like Tracey Holmes – whose forced laugh resonates like a herd of baby harp seals being machine-gunned – the commentary zeitgeist was all about Bollyline being long overdue payback for the ruthless, mind-gaming in which Australia has apparently singularly engaged. Never mind that the BCCI was embarked upon a mind game of Herculean proportions.

And so, the whole sorry saga unfolded. Indians can not, by definition, be racist and in the unlikely event that they ever are, it is completely unacceptable to point it out let alone penalise them for it. “Monkey” is a term in widespread affectionate use in the Sub-Continent and any African with an alternative experience is presumably just resentful of the fact that he doesn’t have the “wheat-coloured” skin much desired in prospective romantic companions sought via the classifieds in the India media.

It was all incredibly unedifying and Gideon Haigh’s contribution is depressing confirmation.

16 years ago

I can read Gideon Haigh, but I cannot watch him speak. He reminds me of a private school ‘bush poet’, trying to channel Banjo Paterson and then popping off home in his beamer. If anyone was going to join Roebuck, it was him.

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
16 years ago

let me see,

Symonds sees Singh playfully tap his bat on Lee’s behind and then Symonds gives him a full volley of expletives.
No comment here on Symonds rasther pathetic explanation of why he did this and REPEATEDLY does this

We have the little Master obviously knowing whst is going on here and warn Sing what the Aussies are up to.

We have no evidence that Singh actually said monket rather the contrary. please note where Tendulkar is in all of this.

It is rather surprising not to have heard the word.

We have evidence that hindi was spoken.

What is blatantly apparent was an attempt by the Aussies to goad Sing into saying monkey.
anyone notice on how quickly the word is brought up and it is the second time?

It failed .

It is the case that all forms of abuse should be banned.

A person who swears like a trooper to someone for sometime must surely expect a retort back.

I have no sympathy for such a person whatever that comeback is.

They have fully deserved it

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
16 years ago

BBCLB: I agree that Symonds is unpleasantly aggressive on the field. You are claiming that this was all a plot by the Aussies to get into a scrap with Harbs and then concost the Monkey accusation. That is quite a conspiracy theory, which I have not heard put before.

If it were true and Tendulkar “knew what was going on” you would expect an immediate denial wouldn’t you?

I agree that all forms of abuse should be banned. They should have mikes everywhere (obviously not broadcast) and review the tapes after each day. Once again, the problem is that the ICC are a sad joke.

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
16 years ago


There was an immediate denial.

Indeed Tendulkar, who possibly has the best reputation in the game, said so.

I didn’t say cconcocted it I am quite sure they thought they heard the word afterall that is what they were wanting to hear.

Having said all that the Indian reaction re BCCI was as disgraceful as the affair preceding it.

Tony T.
16 years ago

I don’t know about “an immediate denial”. Here is what Tendulkar said at the press conference after play on the day of the incident:

Harbhajan charged with offensive behaviour

Tendulkar was asked about the incident at the press conference following the day’s play and said he thought it was not an issue. “There were a couple of lines exchanged,” he said. “It keeps happening virtually every day. As far as I’m concerned [as long as] the game moves on and the players don’t cross their limits its fine. It’s good for the spectators too. Sometimes it’s humorous and sometimes it is funny.”

16 years ago

It seemed to me from what the writer said that Gideon was trying to be realistic, instead of idealistic. He’s aware that the mess that journalists call the ICC has about the same strength to stand up to the BCCI as the proverbial house of straw.

I do agree, however, that it’s depressing that he did not point out the complete farce of the BCCI producing various excuses until they found one that would exonerate a “proud Sikh warrior” (which is ridiculous, too. He’s a flaming cricketer).

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
16 years ago

Tendulkar completely denied any mention of the word monkey at the hearing conducted by Proctor. This does not contradict what he said at the press conference.

Remember, it was Tendulkar who pressed the BCCI over this issue.

He thought the way the matter had been handled was to be euphumistic, badly as it was.

ICC step forward, Once we had a person of a legal background, we got the result which most impartial observers thought was always the case.

16 years ago


Judge Hansen was not brought in to find the truth. He was brought in to give legitimacy to the compromise agreed to by Cricket Australia, the ICC and the BCCI, in the face of the BCCI’s brinkmanship.

Here’s how it worked: Cricket Australia got its lawyers to heavy the Australians into presenting their evidence as “an agreed statement of facts”, in which the direct accusation of the use of the word monkey was watered down to “we heard monkey, but there may have been some Hindi”.

(The stump cam recordings are circumstantial and possibly hearsay, but the reactions of the Aussies are spontaneous and very clear – and Harbhajan’s “no, he started it” is extremely instructive, but I digress)

Now that the evidence is watered down enough, an agreement can proceed to reduce the charge from a racist comment to an offensive one. The suspension can be downgraded.

There’s just one problem – Harbhajan’s appalling previous record. Suspend a sentence there and no-one outside Hansie Cronje would ever be banned. Step forward the ICC and their magically lost records. Judge Hansen waits a day and then announces how angry he is that these records were lost and how lucky Harbhajan is not to be suspended, but alas, he can’t re-open the case, because … well, the ICC appeals process has so much integrity … or something. Apparently Judge Hansen has never heard of sentencing appeals.

The fact that Harbhajan was found guilty of something is also instructive. If he really did say “teri maki”, there’s no context in which that’s offensive to a non-hindi speaking, all-swearing, straight-up-and-down-fishing and solo-drinking having-a-shower-in-an-industrial-car-wash bloke like Symonds. But in the absence of some sort of “conviction”, it’s doubtful that Cricket Australia could have heavied its players into watering down their story.

Like Sir Humphrey says, you don’t start an inquiry until you know the answer.

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
16 years ago


It was quite apparent that once a person was brought in who had an inkling of legal expertise what the judgement would be particularly given 9 was telling anyone who inquired there was no monkey on the tape.

You also appear not to have read the judgment very well otherwise you may have understood why has was charged thus.

It is Symonds who has got off scott free from his behaviour. In essence without Symonds intervention nothing would have happened.

You also ignore Tendulkar’s behavour in this. He was so incensed he texted the BCCI over what they should do. He recogised what was going on quite quickly and ensured it didn’t eventuate.

He was quite emphatic about what was NOT said.

It wasn’t an inquiry perse but an appeals proceedings.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
16 years ago

Homer, Is there really any need to involve “legal expertise” for enforcing the rules in a sport? The notions of burden of proof, beyond reasonable doubt, and plea bargaining are not appropriate here. Nobody is being hanged.

Contrast this with the process in the AFL. They do not require audio proof to convict a player for racial vilification. You also did not address Haiku’s reminder about the farcical lost record of Harbs. Surely, you do not deny that the whole appeal outcome was pre-arranged.

You seem touchingly respectful of Tendulkar – a convicted ball tamperer as I remember. (I really wonder whether he would ever be convicted these days). Apart from being a pretty handy bat, why this fawning, why is his testimony holy writ? What exactly did he recognise was going on quite quickly. Your comments on this topic consistently suggest some bizarre Aussie conspiracy. Could you perhaps carefully set out what you believe the Australians conspired to do? The only obvious conspiracy I can see is between the BCCI, ICC and the NZ judge.

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
16 years ago

Chris,like a lota people you are unawarethat Mike Denness withdrew his allegations on inspection ofTV coverage whic showed Tendulkar doing exactly what he said he had been doing. So was DRavid by the way.

Do not rely on Wikipedia!

Of course youneed legal expertise otherwise you get the absurd decision we got in Sydney which Mike Proctor clearly thought he was qualified to do.

Bizaare conspiracy nothing. They were baiting Singh plain and simple which is why the retorts were so quick. They were out to get Singh suspended.
Hence Symonds pathetic explanation of why he engaged in swearing at Singh in the first place.
Hence why Tendulkar why was warning him.
Hence why Aussies ears were so pricked to hear monkey.

In the end they were outsmarted in being ….heads

In all few people come out of this well except Tendulkar.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
16 years ago

…that’d be the same Tendulkar who put the BCCI up to blackmail. Your deification of Tendular is becoming embarassing. You have no evidence for your conspiracy theory. Please jump onto another thread where you can make a contribution. And try proof reading your comments before hitting submit in future.

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
16 years ago

That would be the same Tendulkar who in 14 years of test cricket hasn’t even been known to cuss a player. They very same who complained long and hard about the injustice about the original decision. What did the Judge say?

What did the Judge say about Clarke and his evidence? Did you notice how far away he was from the Umpire who didn’t hear anything?

Did you notice how quickly the Aussies were about to say twice?

Did you notice Symonds rather pathetic excuse for why he started swearing like a trooper at Singh?

Try thinking about the episode in a dispassionate way rather than as an Aussie apologist.

It was transparent what the Aussie team was attempting to do to anyone who has ever been involved in team sport.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
16 years ago

“And try proof reading your comments before hitting submit in future.”

Chris, as Im sure Homer would tell you, proof-reading is only for people who need proof.

Homer’s schtick is to eschew namby-pamby discussion in favour of endless repetition of the same unsubstantiated – yet inevitably, infallible – points, delivered over and over again with mind-numbing, metronomic regularity.

So, I quite look forward to the dash of colour offered by his heroic disinclination to engage with the conventions of syntax, grammar and spelling. Who but Homer would observe that “…..the Aussies were so pricked to hear monkey?” Or, “In the end they were outsmarted in being heads?” And in relation to his stern injunction – “Do not rely on Wikipedia!” – you’d have to think twice, wouldn’t you?

Go with the flow. Attempting to engage will result in raging frustration and possibly the sledge-hammering of your PC. Worse, I understand that therapy involves an eternity of exposure to bad punning in a darkened room.