Last year, India marked its 60th independence anniversary. There was much fanfare, lots of boring speeches, and prayers in temples and churches and mosques across the country. But did India come to a standstill? Is the Pope Brahman?
The only thing that shuts down this powerhouse economy is a good old-fashioned religious riot. And this time, we poor Australians are in the thick of it.
Over the past week or so, Aussies have learned an important lesson in Indian religion. Forget Yoga, Kama Sutra, palmistry and that other new-wave stuff. India's biggest religion isn't celebrated with incense sticks and mantras, but rather with 15 boofy blokes on a large paddock playing with a pair of polished willow planks and a small hard round thing held together by stitches. And preferably not too much sledging.
Now we Aussies aren't the most religious bunch on the planet. The last Aussie Prime Minister to flirt with ultra-religious groups lost not only the election but also his own seat. He also fitted into that diminishing minority of Australians who show any interest in cricket.
And why shouldn't we be bored with cricket? I mean, we just keep winning match after match. Watching the sports news on TV has become so monotonous - "and in sports news tonight, the Wallabies get thumped by the Auckland High School Under-16s. And in cricket, the Aussies defeat Pakistan by an innings and 1098 runs".
Aussie cricket authorities and their patient sponsors have tried everything to increase interest. All in vain. Twenty20 has been a flop. Winter cricket under cover went down like a lead balloon. Most Aussies couldn't give a toss even about who wins the toss. Because we already know who'll win the match.
The Border/Gavaskar Trophy Series wasn't an exception. As usual, our cricketers were winning while the rest of us were busy joining the ever-present army of semi-clad Kiwi backpackers down at Bondi Beach.
But now something exciting has happened. And it doesn't involve Shane Warne, a cellphone and a pair of Kiwi babes.
The first stone was allegedly cast when Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh allegedly called Andrew Symonds a monkey. My God! How dare Singh insult Aussie Creationists with such Darwinian blasphemy!
Apparently Symonds' colleagues interpreted the remark as an attempt to poke fun at his mixed English-West Indian heritage. In fact, Indian crowds allegedly taunted Symonds by wearing monkey masks and making monkey sounds during the last Aussie tour of India.
The Indians have complaints of their own, blaming poor umpiring for their recent loss. The Aussies have been accused of triumphalism and arrogance.
Huh? Aussies being arrogant? Perish the thought. During the post-match press conference, one Indian journalist asked Aussie captain Ricky Ponting about a questionable catch he took. Ponting, showing all the humility and modesty our cricketers are famous for, responded: "If you are actually questioning my integrity in the game then you shouldn't be standing here."
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