"If bowled deliberately there cannot be a more cowardly action on a cricket field; if bowled accidentally it is still potentially lethal. Either way it should incur an immediate one-match ban."
That's an unusually riled up Athers. Mukul Kesavan, in his tongue-in-cheek comparative statement of a post on cricinfo's "Men in White" blog, unveils to his readers that a 'Gimme the name and I'll give ya the rule' persona exists in even as impartial a bloke as Michael Atherton. Apparently the former England skipper had taken a far more lenient stand on Brett Lee's beamer in the Natwest finals 2 years back than the one he has now taken on Sreesanth's head-hunter during the Trentbridge Test last month.
But then who amongst us isn't like that? We all love to extend leeways, pun intended, to our favourites. In harsher terminology they call it nepotism, and people generally offer uncalled-for explanations for those acts [the Slater reference]. At least Athers chose his man well. Brett Lee must be the one player in this world beside Sachin Tendulkar that can induce even his greatest foe to swear about his inability to harbour physical ill will for ANYone at ANY point of time on the field. I, for one, am sure Brett Lee was unwitting.
Lee's sportiness aside, our interest in Mike Atherton's two comments on the beamer issue in the space of 750 days stem as much from the contrasting moods of the pieces as from their remarkably bipolar views. They came from two separate Athertons.
The Athers of 2005 was a big brother ready to trivialise an aspect of cricket that is considered 'dangerously unfair' and was relieved that Lee, a bowler not belonging to the English squad, was not punished for his beamer. The current av-ather, though, rates a largely similar beamer incident as a matter of life and death and is enraged by the inaction of ICC against the bowler. Is it all a matter of 'looking genuinely sorry after bowling it' as Mukul puts it? Is it all about personal liking for glorious individuals as I mentioned above? Or is it an expression of a still-existing white-brown divide? Maybe it is one of them, maybe not.
For there is a 4th possible reason. I remember a few occasions when certain dubious acts of Sachin - a good samaritan - had passed off without a question (his reaction to Rahul's declaration at Multan being the most prominent, in that it even received some support) even as far more frivolous acts of Sachin's then skipper would see observers, commentators and writers come out venting spleen at the latter, country and skin colour irrespective. It was not just the act but the audacity / nonchalance of it that seemd to irk the majority, as if they were unable to digest the gall of this guy who dared to be comfortable in the knowledge that cartloads of people were dying to see him falter.
This guy Sreesanth elicits starkly similar responses in many quarters. Strangely, and familiarly, he is quite okay with all of it. Time will tell if India have unearthed their Backwater Dada.
'Dada's can get under the toughest skins and build a house there.