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    December 12, 2005

    Flintoff wins BBC award

    Andrew Flintoff has been named BBC Sport's Personality of the Year in recognition of his feats during the 2005 Ashes series where he picked up 24 wickets @ 27.3 and scored 402 runs at 40.2. Shane Warne won the Overseas Personality award and he relives moments of the series in his column.

    Apparently he is the first cricketer in 24 years to win the award. Ian Botham was the last such winner in 1981. It isn't hard to guess what happened then. But I really do find this "fixation" in the English media/public that beating Australia was the sole barometer of success unhealthy. Admittedly there is a lot of history behind England-Australia contests. But Australia were a side on the decline in 1981. They were stuffed and down for the count in 1987. Why were the achievements of England's cricketers in 2000/2001 when they won in Sri Lanka and Pakistan not recognized thus? What next, a knighthood?

    Perhaps England and Australia should start playing each other less frequently, in order to downplay the importance and criticality of these series. England would certainly not be considered as the best team if they fail to win in India early next year or against Sri Lanka and Pakistan at home next summer. Australia certainly needs to ensure that it wins home and away against South Africa to hold on to the #1 spot.

    There is a frightening parallel with India's fixation [and vice versa too, I am sure] with beating Pakistan. I can only obviously write from my perspective.

    India-Pakistan contests for much of the 1990s were so one-sided that in spite of the result being fairly obvious (World Cups aside!), we all used to hope that somehow India would manage to win the game against Pakistan.

    Performance against Pakistan was what really mattered. The other teams could go take a hike. People rejoiced when India beat Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup and even after being bundled out of the semi-final lineup, they felt happy because at least the team had beaten Pakistan. At least the side fared better in the 2003 World Cup. Even then the jingoism persisted, with a lot of folks probably mentally switching off from the larger goal of winning the tournament the moment Dravid pulled Waqar for four in the 46th over at Centurion.

    I suspect that over a period of time, with the improved fortunes of the team, especially in the last 3-4 years, the fixation with Pakistan disappeared. It was also perhaps helped by the reduced frequency, for political reasons. Instead of getting whipped by Pakistan every two months or so in some one-day series or the other, Indian cricket fans could be happy in the knowledge that the frequency of thrashing was reduced because of the Indian team becoming better and India-Pakistan games becoming rarer. The fact that the side started performing better meant that successes in Australia, England etc. were cherished. The 'icing' on the cake was winning in Pakistan, but I'm fairly sure the side would never have performed so well in Pakistan if it had been thrashed in Australia.

    So just as a win against Pakistan stopped being the 'be all and end all' for Indian cricket, England really must ensure that winning against Australia isn't the sole goal. Becoming the #1 team is a process and it happens when you beat other sides. This isn't a boxing contest where you can lay claim to being #1 because you knocked the top guy out cold.
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 12:30 PM |
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