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- Why Indian cricketers need to be taught Shakespeare

Perhaps Harbhajan Singh should have called Andrew Symonds a “malevolent macaque”. There’s no way Symonds, Ponting & Co. would be able to crack that! But then, the spinner has been playing cricket from too young an age to have time for lessons in Queen’s English. Maybe the conditioning camps should hold compulsory lessons in Shakespeare from now on. That way, you pick up the bawdiest in English language, sounding surprisingly like high literature. Imagine Sachin Tendulkar whispering into Ricky Ponting’s ears, “Get thee to a nunnery”? (On second thoughts, who would teach Shakespeare to Indian cricketers? The Last Lear, Amitabh Bachchan? Just think of the flashbulbs.)

The joys of digression are endless, but I must stop here and try to be serious. Political correctness has made the world pretty dull already. It has cost people their jobs, as Dean Jones will have no reason to forget in a hurry. The most unfortunate part is that India is probably one of the PC-est teams around, the players almost numbed by their fear of being caught on the wrong foot. When was the last time you heard an Indian captain say anything other than “the boys played really well” or “everybody goes through a bad patch”? But even for a team like this, it must be truly difficult to be perfect gentlemen when up against eleven of the world’s most ill-behaved sportsmen, who happen to think that such behaviour is their birthright and a part of their nation’s august sporting tradition.

But were the Indian players — meaning Harbhajan Singh primarily — really nasty at any point during the Sydney Test? For a team having nothing going their way, the Indians were an admirably restrained lot through the length and breadth of the match. But before this starts reading like an earnest defense of Harbhajan and the ‘boys’, here’s a little exercise.

Take a look at these pictures of Andrew Symonds and play the game you must have played as children — “Which animal do you resemble most?” Alright, so the picture on the right reminds you of a leaping tiger? Fair enough. This game can be tried on as many cricketers as you can think of. Graham Gooch and Merv Hughes resembled the walrus, Muralitharan looks like a marmoset, Paul Adams a toad, Inzy a grizzly bear, Shoaib Akhtar a cobra — but I shouldn’t be suggesting all of them, or the fun of the game will be lost. If I get too carried away though, PeTA might get angry. Some of the animals are surely more likeable than the cricketers.

If Harbhajan really called Symonds a monkey — there is no evidence of this yet — then one can only conclude that the spinner is rather fond of the jumping jack. Bandar, after all, is almost a term of endearment in Harbhajan’s part of the world, something you call your friend with a slap on the back, or your truant child with a pinch of the cheek. Besides, with such a colourful repertory of vernacular expletives (which Harbhajan must surely be more comfortable with), why would he use English? (There is a theory, though, that Turbanator used Hindi, but it sounded unfortunately close to the animal-name.)

But it is still important that Indian cricketers learn Shakespeare. Just as it is important that we do not bowdlerize cricket.

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