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April 1, 2009. Australian publication ‘Herald Sun’ carried out one of the more subtle and successful April Fool Hoaxes on the cricket fans. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the curious news item it carried and the resulting angry reactions.
In Football we have seen reports of Diego Maradona moving to the USSR in the late 1980s. Some two decades later we were even more shocked to hear that Christiano Ronaldo was being sold to neighbouring Spain as a measure against Portugal’s economic crisis.
In Baseball we came to know that the New York Mets had signed Sidd Finch, a prodigy who could throw a fastball at a mindboggling 168 miles per hour.
In Tennis too, we have been informed by Andy Murray that Ross Hutchins was set to be engaged as his new coach.
However, in cricket, April Fool hoaxes of such universal triumph and popularity have been rare. Perhaps one of the more subtle and successful ones was carried out by Australia’s Herald Sunin 2009.
At that time, in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis, the emerging role of Chia in the economic landscape was undeniably major and often eyed with a fair amount of suspicion.In Australia, there was large scale uneasiness around the Chinese companies rapidly taking over the national industries.
This apprehension especially surrounded the mining sector. The recent proposals of China Minmetals Corporation to acquire OZ Minerals and Rio Tinto had caused a furore. Then there was the he controversy surrounding the Chinese connections of Fortescue Minerals. Together these had fuelled fears of a complete Asian takeover.
Hence, when Herald Sun reported the multi-million dollar proposal of a Chinese company, Mekong Industries, to take over the naming rights of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), it created widespread outrage. The Australian public could not bear the thought of the MCG being renamed to Mekong Cricket Ground.
The reactions were rapid and angry. By midday, the website of the publication was teeming with apoplectic comments.
“The Chinese corporate takeover of Australia has begun!” screamed one incensed reader. Several others were bitterly satirical, suggesting various expansions of MCG from ‘Mainly Corporate Greed’ to ‘Mao’s Cricket Ground’.
The vengeful sentiments even made some target their venom on the controversial presence of monosodium glutamate (msg) in Chinese food. There were suggestions that the new name of the ground should be Melbourne Sports Ground or MSG.
In the news article, the spokeswoman had been ingeniously christened April Fulton, but for many this tell-tale giveaway did not manage to register against this sea of tirade.
It was a while before realisation dawned that it was April 1 and the historic ground would thankfully retain its traditional name.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
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