Tuesday, 30 December 2008

New sights and centuries

It looks like the South Africans won't have any trouble wrapping up the series today. This result is a great tribute to some fine performances. It's been great to see Duminy at the start of a very promising career. Steyn has been around a while longer, but with the strange nature of international cricketing scheduling, hasn't been seen playing tests against Australia before.

But there was something else we hadn't seen for a while - from Ricky Ponting. First the batting performance we'd been missing for a while, and then some captaincy of the level I'd never associated with him. It was a good move to give Siddle the new ball. Unfortunately, Lee didn't benefit from sharing it, and Ponting did no better than any other captains employing a depleted attack the next day. Whatever form Johnson and Siddle are in, Hauritz and the part timers are not serious support at the MCG.

However, captaincy worries didn't seem to bother Ponting too much, and he came out with another big innings, only almost upstaged by Mitchell Johnson. He fell just the other side of the century mark this time, and that's a strangely fitting place to end this, my 100th post on this blog.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Where to from failure?

It's been that sort of day - Australia's bowling failed yesterday, I failed to catch the train, the usual escalator from platform 6 failed, the train home failed to be on time and missed the connection (as well as being super-crowded due to two carriages out of action), and so on... Thankfully it ended with a great "fair dinkum" carols night, putting any failure in a bit of perspective.

Yes, it's definitely that time of year now. Christmas, and then the Boxing Day Test. The Saffers will definitely feel like celebrating, while Ponting and co will be a bit worried. Some are saying Lee's position is in trouble, but Peter Roebuck seems to agree with me that he bowled reasonably well, though not outstandingly or successfully. He also says the batsmen were as culpable as the bowlers. They didn't do that well, but I don't think improving the batting will lead to winning any more matches.

Which takes us to Melbourne. Hauritz has been brought back to NSW, and back to Australia. The same questions remain. It hsa been said that he is more defensive, which might be necessary in the absence of Clark. As for pace, will Hilfenhaus replace Siddle? And while the batting isn't the vital problem, I think there are definitely options ready to replace Hayden. In the meantime, and as we go on, back to Christmas.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Feeling the blues

It's hard to know just where New South Wales cricket is at the moment. Over in Perth, the first day of the First Test has lived up to all the expectations I had for a thrilling series. The story was a familiar one this summer - Australia's batting rescued by Katich and/or Clarke. Fellow Blues player Brad Haddin continued his form, the only news being Queenslander Symonds finally putting some runs together. (All in all the runs were scored at a cracking pace - I suspect the Saffers could benefit from a more cautious approach today.)

With Brett Lee taking wickets, the only problems for NSW at the top level are Phil Jaque's and Stuart Clark's injuries. But what's left of the state team? Last year, when Haddin and Katich were still regularly available, the non-Test players did well enough to make the "Shield" final, where a full strength team put Victoria away (despite a solid performance by Siddle). Now, they're struggling to win a match in any form of the game, and the selectors are making big changes.

Captain Dominic Thornely was upset that fives changes were made to the team for the next Shield game (SMH). The selectors seem to have come in line with their national counterparts on the question of Nathan Hauritz. Henriques, who looked so good against New Zealand, is out.
It's pretty normal to have 5 changes for NSW whenever the national team becomes (un)available for state matches, but should the young guys left holding the fort get more of a chance when that isn't going on? Obviously the best team should be chosen, but I'm not sure constant chopping and changing helps anyone. What do you think?

But that's the Test players of the future. For now, I'll just sit back and watch the Australian bowlers hopefully make a good match of it in Perth.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Another country?

According to The Age:
The use of recycled water for drinking purposes already occurs in many parts of the world, including Australia and Victoria.

Just as I suspected...

More seriously, it's a good article about our attitude to drinking water.

Friday, 5 December 2008

From sea to sea

There are often interesting comparisons to be drawn between Canada and Australia. In Canberra, the parliamentarians have had to extend their hours in order to get through all the Government legislation before Christmas. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the Prime Minister wishes it was time for summer holidays, and has managed to have parliament suspended until 26 January, in order to avoid (or postpone?) a no-confidence motion.

It's interesting to see how the unprecedented consitutional issue been reported. The BBC refers to the Canadian Governor(-)General as the "acting head of state", which would presumably ruffle some feathers among both sides of the Australian republic debate, such as it is. The SMH includes a report sourced from AFP using the same wording, although the standard warning that spelling, currency and measurement units follow North American usage might be considered to cover the possibly controversial terminology.

They also include an AP-sourced report, which describes he as the "unelected representative of the head of state" (emphasis mine). I wonder why the writer thought it was necessary to include "unelected", even apart from the fact that the Queen she represents is also unelected. On the one hand, some weren't too happy when an unelected John Kerr dismissed the elected government in Australian in 1975, and forcing the elected parliament to take an unplanned break could be seen in the same light. On the other, the fact that the GG is unelected goes some way to explaining why she followed the advice of her Prime Minister, and an elected official may have felt more able to to make a different response.

Stuck going nowhere

"Cricket's unique selling point is the passion for cricket by Indians - cricket is the most popular sport by a factor of about 30 in the second-most populous country in the world. This should be seen as a major positive. The game needs to find ways to use that unique selling point. There is too much fear of an Indian takeover and the power of the Indian administrators."

Malcolm Speed, who once had one of the positions most likely to attract hatred in the cricket world, speaks to the SMH. However well or otherwise he and the ICC performed when he was in charge, he seems to be speaking some sense about its future. Unfortunately, there is more politicking than sense involved, so most of his statements end with something like "I do not expect to see it happen."

The Tonk has also got the low-down on Bucknor's travel problems. It wasn't airline trouble, but US Immigration, which is more fussy than immigration anywhere else I've been. While some would still try to implicate various cricket boards in the incident, perhaps some diplomatic pressure to should be brought to bear to avoid a repeat. I'm sure that at this stage of his career noone is particularly desparate to have Bucknor in particular, but it should doesn't sound like Rudi was in the best state to umpire a Test match. More importantly, the very idea that a Test umpire should be held up displays a lack of proper respect for cricket on part of the Americans! ;P

Monday, 1 December 2008

Smiles for some

The first day of summer... it's a long time since I've been able to say that. I think I've forgotten how to cope with hot weather, but I'd rather have it than the heated events of the last week in Mumbai.

As terrible as they were, they didn't disrupt the continuation of the Trans-Tasman Trophy series. Once again, the selections were interesting. Shane Watson doesn't approve of the "horses for courses" philosophy that saw him dropped - but surely it was the main reason he was in the team in Brisbane anyway?

I can only wonder what Nathan Hauritz thought, going from opening the batting for Randwick-Petersham because he couldn't make an almost second-string NSW XI, to playing for Australia, only to suffer a similar injury to the guy he was replacing. In the meantime, Beau Casson, on the other end of the conflicting messages from different selectors, has injured his hand and might have trouble playing for anyone.

As for the game itself, it was enjoyable. It was more a case of a NZ team below full strength looking not quite up to the task, than anything spectacular from the Australians. It was a good chance for several to put in solid performances, get over the last tour and prepare for the South Africans. Lee and Haddin in particular should have smiles significantly less clouded than the one in the sky tonight.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Straight on the plane

I mentioned that my experience with Emirates was mostly good. It was my first ever flight, and the fact that the luggage got delayed in Dubai was perhaps balanced by the fact that they didn't charge us for quite a bit of excess baggage! Apart from that, it was definitely good.

Now I'm having quite a new experience - I'm about to board a plane without a passport or any checked-in luggage. My only previous "domestic" flight was from Beijing to Shanghai with plenty of fuss at both ends. Mind you, this first one within Australia is longer than the flight from London to Geneva, which was the last time my flight was paid for by "work".

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The storm starts in Brisbane

Watching a Test match at the 'Gabba has the feeling of a much anticipated event, just like the start of a storm after a hot summer day. For quite a while now, Brisbane has hosted the first Test match of the Australian summer. As a result, even though the Aussies have been playing in India so recently that they didn't fit in any decent preparation for this match, there are enough memories to build up an electric atmosphere.

The 'Gabba has answered my anticipation and that of the nation in many ways over the years. One big memory is listening at midnight as one of the most waited for series of recent times satisfyingly began with a wide going to second slip. The match has abandoned as draws, with the highlight being the amazing images of electric storms over the ground. At other times, a result was achieved only because the bowlers were able to use the conditions to take 20 wickets in a fairly short time.

The big storms that have been hitting Brisbane this week, damaging one of the stands at the ground have had an impact on the pitch and conditions. The batsmen haven't coped well. But it's actually fairly common for the 'Gabba Test to be interrupted more than this one has been. Obviously, scheduling is a tricky business in these days of so much cricket, but there was much more reason to start in Brisbane when the first Test was held in October. On average, the city has half as many rainy days in that month as it does in November!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Let it begin...

At last! This summer's international cricket in Australia is about to start, no thanks to the weather. It all seems familiar - once again, the selectors have decided that the Gabba pitch requires a banana-bending seamer (especially after rain?), and once again, a visiting captain decides to bowl first. Will it actually pay off this time?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Putting the power in the play

Scorpicity has written a nice piece on the effect of the new powerplay rules in limited overs cricket, where the batting team chooses the timing of the third poewrplay. Soulberry raises a good point which I had been wondering about myself - will it all be predictable once the concept has been around for a while and the players/captains have got used to it?

In the game going on now at the SCG, Queensland look like they might have had a predetermined idea of when their powerplay should be taken. If the bowling team generally prefers to take it as soon as possible, then as the batting team, they should leave it to the last five overs, right? But being 9/146 after 45 overs, I can't help thinking that they missed an opportunity somewhere. (As an aside, the NSW second string bowling attack seems to have done pretty well in their last two matches. Are NZ and Qld good enough for that to mean something?)

Could Queensland have done better? The new rules are quite a departure from anything previously seen in cricket, in the sense that they give the batsmen control over what the bowling captain is allowed to do. They might take some getting uesd to. But they also make more sense in a way. Now a team is choosing when they might benefit from a powerplay, rather than deciding when they might be least bothered by being restricted. For that reason, I think it just might not be quite so predictable.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Turning green?

I'm not sure I should really read over people's shoulders on the train, but in doing so, I discovered that the Daily Telegraph is reporting that the state Labor Party is worried. Worried that any Labor seats with a margin of less than 15% are "under threat". That's a lot of seats. But I'm interested in the Tele's inclusion of the traditionally safe seat of the deputy premier - Marrickville (and the neighbouring Balmain). Their two party-preferred margins are low because the Greens have become the second party, and aren't quite the same as the other seats mentioned. Are they more or less "under threat" than the seats held by similar margins over the Libs/Nats?

Official flying

It was interesting to see that the umpires appointed for the Trans-Tasman series were the two West Indian former soccer referees. But now it seems Bucknor is to be replaced by Koertzen.

The reason is "travel difficulties". With the ICC, the real reason could be anything, but I can certainly imagine travel difficulties if the umpires are still forced to rely on Emirates. I'm not criticising the airline (my experience with them is mostly good), but they, or any other airline, are not exactly in a position to offer the best routes between the different cricket nations.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Crazy performance

It's definitely cricket season - I've got more to say about Jason Krejza. He more than proved he is ready for Test cricket. But hasn't his performance been hyped up a bit? Taking 12 wickets is great, but at the cost of 358 runs, we see that he bowled a lot of overs, with some good spells. What it should also tell us is that noone else was taking the wickets they needed to - an issue more important than whether Krejza has done enough to keep Casson out of the team.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Slow and steady doesn't win the race

It looks like the Aussies might have let the trophy get away from them in the last session yesterday, and I put the blame firmly at Ponting's feet. Not because he tried to keep the over rate up, though, but for letting it slip to start with. Bowling the appropriate number of overs in a day is a requirement of the playing conditions and code of conduct. Deliberately wasting time can and should be considered cheating. Those who have observed the Australian team's fondness for other "sharp practices" would reach the conclusion that he bowled part-timers not for the sake of the spirit of the game, but so that he would not be banned. But surely such motivation is the point of the penalties in the first place. Would we be happy if players decided to run on the pitch near the end of a game, because the series was in the balance and the next game didn't matter?

So, some questions, firstly for the Australian selectors:
Can we please keep Ponting as a batsman, and choose a captain who doesn't spend an eternity making each (usually bad) bowling or fielding decision? The over rate issue might suddenly disappear!

And for the ICC:
Why aren't other dodgy practices mentioned in the code of conduct punished as rigorously as over rates?

And for the MCC with the ICC:
Is there a way to sensibly implement penalties in a way that affects the match in question, to avoid any conflict between following the rules and winning the game? It hasn't been done with over-rates, and the ball-tampering rule suggests that it can't be done well.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Cricket team again

Not having Casson is bad enough, but picking White ahead of Stuart Clark?? Clark was a big missing ingredient in the second test, and took quite a few wickets "from the other end" in the third. The selectors have a lot to answer for.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Customer service

Words heard frequently in office conversations:

Coogee Bay Hotel
Melbourne Cup
gelato
cancer
faeces
36 degrees
waste

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Sydenham Dash

You can't have a real trip from Town Hall to Marrickville without it. It probably makes the trip even quicker than the direct train in the morning. Especially when the train gets stuck in the flying crossovers. Particularly when it avoids getting stuck by suddenly taking the City Circle via Museum...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Australian cricket team

It's looking quite different to previous years. They might regret not taking Beau Casson.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

In a glasshouse

As you may be aware, there is a problem with the air-conditioning...

It would be hard not be aware! At least the building overheating when it's hot outside is a change from my office in London, which usually overheated in winter and required gloves in summer.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Disenfranchised

A year ago, I was enrolled to vote on two sides of the world, one where I wasn't a citizen and one where I didn't live. This year, there's no voting for me at all. Whatever the state of the electoral roll, I had left London by the time the city elected the wacky Bozza Johnson as Mayor. Now, with local government elections in New South Wales, tomorrow, I find that I moved into my council area after the rolls had closed. Even if I were inclined to vote at my previous address, I couldn't, since the current council has been re-elected unopposed.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Because it's high jump...



...stay out of the bar.

Not catching the train

In mathematics, cancellation refers to methods of simplifying an equation or expression resulting in fewer terms. In commuting, cancellation may be applied by CityRail at any time, resulting in more congestion.

Friday, 5 September 2008

A (nearly) empty office

Silence.
Ring ring - unanswered phones.
Silence.
Whirr whirr - the monorail.
Silence.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Catching the train

In mathematics, A and B commute if AB=BA. In commuting, the order does matter. The Town Hall train (that's the one via Town Hall, or is it the one with destination Town Hall?) is not the same as the Museum train (the one to Town Hall, or the one to Museum?)

Changing sides of the world makes a difference, too. Now I'm in Sydney, I no longer need a dog to carry on the escalators. However, I'm having trouble satisfying the request to keep hold of children while boarding the train. At least I am not asked to keep a firm grip on a pram unless it is mine and I am travelling with it.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Not gritting my teeth

So the Škoda is now on Australian shores.


I prefer the British version:


Sand doesn't taste that good.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Topics of conversation

I'm not sure I belong in Sydney any more - I talk about the weather more than about house prices.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

...and on, and on.

Sunrise: before 5am China Standard Time (2100 GMT), somewhere several hundred km south of Beijing.
Sunset: 21:09, British Summer Time (2009 GMT), Bow, London.

That's what I call a long day!

Beijing was good - I definitely could have spent more time there.

I managed to read my thesis a bit somewhere north of Novosibirsk.

London is still grey, and still a very long way from Sydney.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Do not pass word, do not transfer $200


The problem with being able to do so many things online is that everything needs a password. Now, I think I'm reasonably good with passwords and could remember a few different passwords, pass codes and memorable words, and even which one goes with which account, if I could simply choose a strong password for each account.

But these days, half the accounts require particular versions of password strength. This one needs letters and numbers; that one upper and lower case. This one must be more than 8 characters; the other 6-8 and case doesn't matter.

I end up putting in a 11 character long word, when I was only allowed to use 8 to start, or something equally silly. Then, I start trying other things that I know aren't right, and of course each attempt is like rolling a double - have another go, and after three goes I'm in jail, or rather, locked out. Unfortunately, another double can't get you out again. It might not cost $50, but if it's a serious account, it's at least a phone call, not necessarily to the same country and/or timezone.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd find it much easier if the login screen told me what restrictions had been placed on the magic word to start with. If I didn't have to stop and think "Was this the one that had to have two digits, or was that so-and-so", I just might get it right.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Never mind the cold

Speaking of the weather, my mum says that winter really started with the first cold snap of the year on the day I was born. It seems to have happened on or very soon after that date many times since, as well. This year was no exception, although thankfully it didn't happen quite as drastically as predicted.

Mind you, after five London winters, I can handle the "cold" temperature. I just wish a similarly named virus hadn't come at the same time. Hopefuly it will go before I have to catch a plane!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Always take the weather with you


Yesterday we nearly had four sesons in one day, but the rain didn't really take off. Apart from that, the last week or so has been full of gloriously sunny autumn days. Of course, exactly what this looks like depends on how many English trees there are around, but in any case it's quite nice.

In contrast, during the two weeks of school holidays, there were 14 consecutive rainy (mainly drizzly) days. Being the first time this had happened in Sydney in at least 15 years, it was more familiar to me than most. The London-style weather even went with us when we headed to Albury for a long weekend, even though it hadn't rained there since time immemorial (for months, at least). It rained nearly all the way back up the Hume Highway, and while the land clearly needed it, it's only natural to wonder how we managed to have the rain with us for all 16 days of the holidays.

Anyway, I'll keep enjoying the autumn until I fly off, landing in a London summer. I might have to find a way to kill eight hours in a Beijing transit lounge, but I'm told I'd better be home soon.

The photo is from the one day in London when the camera came out despite overcast and rainy weather. Five points for the name of the tallest building, ten for guessing where I was standing (unless you were there). Five points for counting the references to song titles, too.

Friday, 18 April 2008

New trees

Eastern Avenue at Sydney University is looking a bit bare at the moment. In years gone past, it was lined with maple trees that would be turning all sorts of colours at this time of year. Now, instead or trees turning bare, there are two rows of gum trees. They are beautifully Australian and evergreen, but it will be many many years before they are anywhere near as large as the old trees that have gone.

Anyway, it was good to catch up with a heap of friends from Sydney Uni days earlier this week. For some reason at all these reunions we end up at the same Chinatown noodle place.

Monday, 14 April 2008

What's in a name?

KR: So, Julia, you're going to be acting PM for the next few weeks. While I'm in the Old Dart, should I ask the Queen if she'd mind a woman acting for her?
JG: She's a woman herself.
KR: Good point. But are the people of Australia ready for so many women?
JG: If you choose someone with a name that sounds like a boy, perhaps noone will notice.
KR: Great! Any excuse to appoint another Queenslander!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Plain football

Although I said a second AFL team in Sydney would have more serious difficulties than choosing a name, the idea has now received the (sensible) backing of the Sydney Swans, and at some point a name and nickname will have to be chosen. The "Blacktown Bogans" probably won't quite cut it, so our thinktank got stuck into the question.

Sticking "West" in front of "Sydney" is, at the very least, a bit boring. Using a more local name such as Blacktown, Liverpool or Parramatta would be more attractive, but wouldn't do much to gather support from the whole region. If anything, it wouldn't hurt to spread the net and appeal even to places that wouldn't typically associate themselves with the term "West Sydney". That's why we turned to the name of a highway and a railway line, the name applied as a county to the whole metropolitan area, but particularly to the plain covering most of the west. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the

Cumberland Emus



I've just realised that I'd suggested the nickname emus in the last post, even before we came up with it. There are many more possibilities for the nickname than the geographical name, but emus have so far been neglected by our sporting teams, and I can't see why. A team of fast, up to 2m tall, emus should make fans proud from Homebush to, well, Emu Plains.

Cumberland running the pants off the Kangaroos? I'd like to see that!

10 points for the best alternative name and nickname!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

East meets west on the football field?



Richard Hinds doesn't seem too positive about the AFL's plan to win the west (of Sydney) by establishing a new team in 2012. As a Swans fan since the years when the only thing rarer than a Swans fan was a Swans win, I don't really like the idea, but it makes a lot of sense.

Of course a new team in Sydney's west will struggle at first. With no support base to start with, it won't find things any easier than Sydney did from the early 80s, or the Bears a few years later. Whether they are the West Sydney Emus or the Blacktown Bogans is hardly relevant (what's the obsession with alliteration, anwyay?) - the difficulties have nothing to do with that sort of detail.

It's hard to imagine the team really taking off without serious success, which can't be guaranteed. But no matter what happens, the difficulties facing a second Sydney team in 2025 will be much greater if they haven't slogged it out on the big grounds and local parks for thirteen years already. It will be easier to start now than later, and settling for Sydney remaining a one-team city forever isn't an option if anyone is serious about growing the game.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Daylight Robbery

I'm not sure why we are still on "summer time" in the first week of April. Perhaps saving daylight instead of spending it is better for the inflation rate. The change in spring from the end of October to the beginning is a better idea, but it's still a couple of weeks after the equinox. Surely it should be symmetric?

Monday, 3 March 2008

What makes a city?

It's good to be back in Sydney. Whatever else you can say about it, it's where I grew up, and it's familiar. Today's SMH has two contrasting articles about Sydney:

On the one hand, the most recent Anholt City Brands Index has rated Sydney the world's best city in terms of "presence, place, potential, pulse, people and prerequisites".

On the other, another article speaks of an exodus, with a Nielsen poll finding that 21% of Sydneysiders are thinking of leaving.

The contrast probably says something about the nature of cities.

Getting colder?

After only 3 months, it is autumn again! This autumn should involve a lot fewer fallen leaves. I really don't understand how anyone could have called the last few days cold, though. Not to mention having heaters on...

After all, the cricket is still dragging on. The season doesn't seem to have been well organised this year. Apart from anything else, they really should have had at least two days between the last preliminary game and the first final, to avoid giving one team four times as much rest beforehand. Not that that's an excuse.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Unhealthy numbers

Yesterday, the SMH published a letter from Dr Glenn Pereira, Forbes, which started with:

I had the pleasure of being involved in the birth of an Aboriginal baby in our small rural hospital just after 9am on Wednesday, as the Prime Minister delivered his address to Parliament. My wife is also due to deliver in the next few days. It struck me that, statistically, the child born on Wednesday is about three times more likely to die in her first years of life than my child, and can expect to live 10 to 20 years less, even though they will have been born just days apart in the same hospital.

While the sentiments in favour of reducing the health disparities can only be a good thing, I suspect the doctor's mathematics/statistics is not so good. The much-quoted infant mortality and life expectancy figures that he seems to be using are national estimates. Applying them to children born in a particular hospital assumes that the situation there is like the national average, so they definitely can't be used to suggest that having been born in the same hospital doesn't make a difference!

I'm no expect on life expectancy and so on, and don't even know if anyone has figures for siutations this specific. Knowing how the disparity for kids in Forbes compares with the country as a whole might give the government a bit of an idea what health policies could actually help.

If only writing a thesis were as interesting as finding mathematical errors in the news...

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Sorry

It is good that the Australian parliament is apologising to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities for their legally sanctioned removal through much of last century.

As you would expect from politicians in parliament, the apology was accompanied by a lot more talking, with both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader rambling on for a full half hour each. They spent some time speaking on behalf of the Australian people as whole, indigenous and non-indigenous, but both seemed to a greater or lesser extent to even then still talking very much from the whitefella's perspective of what that means.

I suppose things happen one step at a time, and so saying less would probably be more.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Spoilt rotten

Is what we are, having so many wonderful caring friends on both sides of the world!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Sport and honesty, or national honour?

On Monday, the president of the United Indian Association was quoted saying,
Considering that the Monkey God is one of the revered idols of Hindu mythology and worshipped by millions, it is surprising it was considered a racist term. Even more surprising is that the word 'monkey' is considered by the match referee serious enough to slap a three-match ban on Harbhajan Singh.

Tomorrow's SMH publishes this response from me:
The president of the United India Association, Raj Natarajan, says "monkey" is not a racist term in India ("'Monkey' not racist: Indian Aussies", smh.com.au, January 7). This is very easy to believe - it is not commonly used in that way in Australia, either, probably because the racial group that it is most often used to abuse is not a significant part of the population.

I can easily accept that many Indians would not think of the term as racist. However, if any player used the word to address Andrew Symonds, just months after spectators in India had been arrested for similar behaviour, then, at the very least, their actions were incredibly stupid.

It is ridiculous to suggest that placards referring to Symonds were comparing him to the Monkey God. It is equally ridiculous to suggest that the Indian team were not aware of these incidents and the subsequent commitments to clamp down on racism in cricket crowds.

This is all true, but I think the point was in what I also wrote, but was not published,
In this context, it is hardly surprising that a ban was handed down by a match referee from a country where these issues are now taken particularly seriously.

Perhaps a suspension was not the best solution, but we should also consider the possibility that one of the factors damaging relations and leading to these incidents is the way that supporters and others on both sides immediately leap to the defence of their team and accept any excuse, however unbelievable. We should acknowledge that our star spinners are not perfect, whether the issue is drugs, a hot temper, or racism.

It seems to me that there are several people in cricket administration, as well as supporters, who are quite happy to throw around accusations of cheating and racism, but go quite mad if similar accusations are officially laid against (a member of) their own team. It is one thing to appeal an decision that you think was wrong, it is another to say, as the BCCI secretary did, that "we will not tolerate" any accusation of racism.

I am still not sure how to respond to our culture's emphasis on racist actions at the expense of any other wrongdoings,1 but it is there, and the Indian team had plenty of reasons to be aware of this. True, Symonds didn't seem to think it was a big deal and Ponting seems to have made it one out of a desire to make a point or have some sort of revenge, but you would have to have your head in a hole to think that the match referee would not take this sort of allegation extremely seriously. There's nothing "surprising" about that! The only question is whether the allegation about what was said is true.

Neither Ponting nor Kumble come out of the recent exchanges looking good at all, but I'm more disturbed by the mass of irrational defenders on both sides. As long as that goes on, it will always be about nationalism, not a sporting contest.

1Remember the judge who said "fat bastard" is ok, just don't mention his colour?