Aussie tempers rise over Gavaskar criticisms

Published: Saturday, March 17, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Melbourne:Tensions between India and Australia have risen at the World Cup after two Australian players revealed their anger towards Sunil Gavaskar over his criticisms of their team's behaviour, reports said here Saturday.

Former India captain Gavaskar hit a raw nerve here by linking the death of former Test cricketer David Hookes, who died after he was punched outside a Melbourne hotel, with the treatment the Australians could expect if they behaved as boorishly in a bar as he claimed they did on the field.

Batsman Brad Hodge, who was coached by Hookes in Victoria and is a member of Australia's World Cup squad in the Caribbean, was stony-faced when asked about Gavaskar's comments.

"Pretty disappointed. I'm disappointed about comments made about my former coach David Hookes," Hodge told Saturday's The Age newspaper.

"That's all I'm going to say about it."

The Age said the Australian players are anxious not to turn the feud into a World Cup distraction, but have found it hard to conceal their dismay, which has been conveyed to International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed.

Australia and India are seeded to meet in a potentially volatile Super Eight match in Antigua on March 31, a repeat of the 2003 World Cup final that has been given extra heat since Gavaskar escalated his attack on Ricky Ponting's team.

Veteran paceman Glenn McGrath said Gavaskar's standing with Australian cricket could be damaged and, although he was entitled to his opinion about the team's conduct, the Hookes' analogy was "crossing the line".

"It's very disrespectful. Sunny was an amazing cricketer, but I think this time he's gone beyond," McGrath told a Sydney radio station.

"The comments in themselves are very disappointing when he's mentioning David Hookes and you really feel for Hookesy's family.

"With it being the World Cup I think Sunny sees Australia as the main threat to beat India and he's trying to put us off our game."

McGrath said Australia's on-field behaviour was no worse than any other sides.

"It's fine to say that but at the end of the day I think the Indian team does it as well as every other team."

The Age cricket columnist Greg Baum said that after 20 years of reaching out in cricket, Australia and India seem as philosophically remote from one another as ever and perhaps the gap can never be bridged.

"As ever in slanging matches, no one wins. Gavaskar's lament about Australia is an old one. Doubtlessly, it is heartfelt, for he was a stickler for the game's proprieties," Baum wrote.

"Still, his attack is problematic. Gavaskar is chairman of the ICC's cricket committee. Perception matters; Australia will remain suspicious that one powerful voice at the ICC is intractably against it.

"Gavaskar invoked the late Hookes' name needlessly, carelessly and tactlessly. It did not belong in this dialogue."


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