Most of us sports-freaks know how the Aussie press targets visiting cricket teams and some of the individuals who they consider to be a threat or who, like Arjuna Ranatunga, get up their noses. This time Harbhajan Singh is the whipping boy, and from all reports, a whole slew of Aussie papers are going to town with their views and commentaries – most of which are horribly biased and obviously partisan.

We’ve all heard about the absurd ‘monkey’ allegation – found to have no basis after a review of footage in search of evidence and questioning the players. The most recent incident was the one where Harbhajan is reported to have motioned to scratch his armpits and to have spat towards taunting spectators. The Match Referee, Jeff Crowe responded as follows: “I have investigated the alleged incident with Cricket Australia’s ground security officials after reading newspaper reports and viewing related photographs that have been published. After reviewing all available information, I conclude that there is no need to take any action against Harbhajan Singh.”

Allan Border is reported to have praised Harbhajan for his behaviour as he was being taunted and baited by sections of the crowd, saying: “I was over that side of the ground and Harbhajan was copping a fair bit of stick from the crowd. I didn’t notice any gestures at all and I thought he handled himself pretty well.” Yet, The Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times screamed: “More Harbhajan monkey madness” and “Harbhajan in hot water again, up to his armpits”.

So what do we make of this provocative reporting? Is it a blatantly biased view with no ulterior motive, or could it be that it is a ploy to demoralize visiting teams in general, or maybe it has to do with attracting readers? Whatever the reason may be, it is just ‘not cricket’.

The sooner the Aussies realize that, with just three players under thirty years of age and a dearth of spinners – with Brad Hogg retired and Stuart McGill aging fast – their options are limited and it looks like the team is on the decline, the better for them. The recent losses to Sri Lanka and India, as well as to England before that must also bring about a sense of desperation to Cricket Australia and to the cricketing press.

We haven’t seen any of the Aussie press reports since the loss, but it would be interesting to check out the reactions.

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