New Delhi:Dear Ricky,
Humility makes men look twice as honourable.
As an impressionable youth who started following cricket in the early 90s, your team found a fan in one for the resilient brand of cricket it played under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh.
As someone who appreciates cricket played the hard way, nothing gladdened one's heart more than the sight of a brave Steve Waugh scoring two hundreds on one leg in the Ashes of 1997, or the punts Taylor took to inject life into dead games, often thinking more about cricket's interest than winning or losing.
Allan Border made your team courageous. Taylor made them consistent, and Waugh took them to invincibility. Yet, these three eras had one thing in common: the will to win wasn't alienated from respect for opponents. Australia was the team one loved to see win. Also because its players were never heard on radio calling an opponent an "obnoxious little weed."
Which brings us to you and your men, Ricky.
There's no doubting your muscle. Australia are strong as a thoroughbred, making cricket look like a one-horse race.
But when it comes to humility, you are as graceless as a three-legged donkey.
Are you from the same country as the great Bradman, whose greatness was matched only by the modesty and gentleness with which he was known to conduct himself?
When one looks at the Australian team today, one sees a bunch of smug beings who lack respect for their peers, and are given to dishonesty and double-speak (as we saw in Sydney, twice over) and their desire to win is as conspicuous by its presence as their arrogance.
For the Don's sake, Ricky, open your eyes. Are you blind? Do you not see what you've done to your team's reputation?
Why is that team after team has a problem with the conduct of your men? Why must the talk of sledging arise only when Australia play? Graeme Smith, Stephen Fleming, Rahul Dravid, Mahela Jayawardene, Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul Haq --- is there a captain in your time who hasn't had a problem with the unsubtle abuse your team has subjected him to?
Has the meaning of the word 'decent' changed since the time one looked it up? Or must your desire to win overpower everything considered decent on a cricket field?
Don Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Justin Henin, Tiger Woods --- are these small names? No. Are they great? Yes. Do we love them? Yes. Why?
One word: grace.
We stood up and applauded Taylor when he laid West Indies and South Africa low. We felt a lump in our throats when Steve Waugh bid the game goodbye. You too are nearing the end of your career, Ricky. And though you are a fine player, one doubts if you'd ever be loved and remembered the way your predecessors are.
Here you are, having won every accolade imaginable at cricket's highest stage. A World Cup here, a Champions Trophy there. Ashes now, a Frank Worrell then. There's nothing left for you to win.
Yet there's one thing you may never be able to win as captain.
A Cricket Fan