Mathew Hayden has apparently stirred up the waters again, calling Bhajji an 'obnoxious weed' on radio. As far as I can tell, that's not an Aussie term of endearment, so I suppose he was being critical. Cricinfo now reports that Hayden has been reprimanded by Cricket Australia and, 'in the spirit of the game', has accepted their decision.
While all this is pretty farcical, it does make it pretty obvious that the Aussies are definitely out to get under the metaphorical skin of the Indian team. So the obvious question is, what should the Indians do? They definitely can't sledge back because, let's face it, they're really bad at it. They're not too articulate, which means that they're a lot more likely to say something that's obviously offensive, instead of being clever and using polysyllabic words that the ICC's Code of Conduct does not cover as yet.
Instead, I suggest they get in touch with their Indian roots and start off a well-publicised campaign of Gandhigiri. The CB series finals will be the last few international games for Gilchrist and Hogg, so it gives a readymade opportunity tothrow as many soundbytes out there as possible saying what wonderful competitors they, and by extension the Australian team, are and such-like and clapping for them at every opportunity, even ( or especially,wink wink) when they mess up. They should make it a point to clap for anyone who makes a half-decent score. Perhaps even call Hayden and Ponting 'Uncle' out of respect -after all Haden is nearly twice Ishant Sharma's age. I'd like to see how the Aussies would respond to that. Complaining that the Indians are being insincere would be churlish, being rude would make them look outright boorish and being polite back would mean that they're being taught manners by a bunch of kids half their age.
Of course, it's important that the media is carefully handled in this. Dhoni would need to give an interview on how the team got together and watched 'Lage Raho Munnabhai' and decided that they'd use Gandhigiri to face up to all the negativity, Bhajji would have to say that he's reformed and maybe Robin Uthappa can talk about how he feels connected to his heritage through non-violence. It's the kind of position that they can't lose from - the Aussie media won't be able to criticize it without sounding like they're criticizing Gandhi himself, the Indian media will go crazy showing stock footage of Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi, and even if they mess up, they can always apologize and talk about how bad they feel for letting the team and their fans and everyone else down and give their best repentant-schoolboy look.
It's not a strategy that would have worked under, say, Dravid, but with Dhoni as captain, I'd say it's workable. He's already won plaudits for his charisma and the way he's led the team by example, AND he's got that beatific smile.
It's a perfect strategy, just as long as no-one talks about Gandhiji's three monkeys.