Greg Chappel today mutilated memories. Of a game, of victories, of celebrations, of a culture, of Australia. His disturbing comments on Indian psyche, Indian culture was uncalled for and coming from a sportsman - known primarily for physical prowess and 'effective hand-eye coordination' or something like that - reflected a lack of intellectual capacity. Unfortunately, his comments take us back to a time when we were discussing in India about 'White Australian' bias against people of color, including Indians. This was just after a spate of violence against Indians in Australia. Sons of Australia, it seems, rarely do their country proud. Maybe their parents would do well to exercise more control.
Chappel's dismissal of the colonial experience of India as something inconsequential was really alarming.
"Poms really taught them how to keep their heads down"
This is Chappel's sense of history of one of the most brutalizing experiences in human history. The indigenous population of Australia too were victims. Of Chappel's ancestors. The British violated every principle of the rule of law and gentlemanly conduct they tom-tom about to colonize through craft, not might. They did it again, just before the Iraq war, shamelessly lying to the world. They only understood force, and blood; they did not understand non-violence. They left.
What does Chappel or Australian cricketers think is the ideal way for Indians to conduct themselves? What is their frame of reference? Who has given them the right to do it for us?Why should we? No, we will not sledge, no, we will not behave like juveniles in a cricketing field. Remember two of our most mild-mannered and gentlemanly cricketers crushed your team at Kolkata in 2001? Maybe its not required. Maybe its not the Indian way. We have won two World Cups, been the number one Test team, won the T20 World Cup, we have done it all following the Indian way. Why should we be like you? Why should your way be the only way?
This actually smacks of aversive racism and an attempt to redefine the narrative. Trying to understand the native through your own prism and getting the 'other' to become like 'you' so that subjugation and superiority is complete. Yes Mr Chappel, British did that too and I am sure your ancestors did that in Australia, but hey it is 2012 not 1850. In your mind we are still the subject. You came on a civilizing mission as the coach of the Indian team only to realize that times have changed. Not on a professional assignment. Maybe there was a conspiracy against you, maybe you were being taken for a ride, but for you it was unfathomable that 'natives' do not listen to you anymore. I hope I am proven wrong, your remarks nonetheless, brings to my mind thoughts such as these. Of you, of Australia. It also brings to my mind an Australian verse. Yes, Australian,
No more woomera, no more boomerang,
No more playabout, no more the old ways.
Children of nature we were then,
No clocks hurrying crowds to toil.
Now I am civilized and work in the white way,
Now I have dress, now I have shoes:
‘Isn’t she lucky to have a good job!’
Better when I had only a dillybag.
Better when I had nothing but happiness
(*Noonuccal, ‘Then and Now’, in My People, (Milton, 1981), p. 91.)
When it comes to being respectful of cultures, Indian cricketers have behaved nearly impeccably in public glare, thanks to Indian parenting that Chappel scoffs at. Parents do and can teach a thing or two, including sensitivity and good behavior. Chappel apparently learnt nothing. Wonder what Chappel taught his kids?
Regarding the mental toughness of Indian cricketers, Chappel is very well familiar what it takes to make it to the final playing XI in a country of 1 billion, where everyone aspires to become a cricketer. The sacrifices, heartbreaks, difficult playing conditions, lack of cricketing facilities, opaque systems - you have to really overcome all. Ask a Sehwag or a Munaaf Patel or an Irfan Pathan or a Dravid. They have all gone through that. I might be wrong, but I don't think any Australian cricketer can survive that.
Isn't it time the Australian cricketing establishment clearly lay down rules of responsible conduct for current cricketers and ex-cricketers like Chappel, and, 'hammer' it into their heads (apparently they are all thick headed) that they need to behave responsibly because they represent Australia? 'Its just the Aussie way' doesn't help because Chappel's rants can be just dismissed as the 'Indian way' that he either takes or leaves but do not whine. Media loves the culture of sound bytes, do not feed them because they are only around until someone else comes up with a better one.
Chappel's book launch was a PR disaster for letting the press conference go out of control. India, today has a population of nearly 350 million English speaking middle class out of which even if there are 1 million 'readers,' that's a market you do not alienate. Indians are a proud lot when it comes to their culture and way of life and controversies like these can get you ink but trust me Mr Chappel, not the money. Should we call for a boycott of your book and exalt you to the status of a Rushdie? I don't know much about your writing abilities but what you have done is definitely Satanic. Have you, Mr Chappel, forgotten that the buyers of the world are now in India? Have you, Mr Chappel, forgotten that cricket and English language are two things we snatched away from your colonizing ancestors in England?