Lines are drawn and the swords are out. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia are both guarding their sides and standing with their teams. Even former players have donned their gloves and joined the bout.
India has its formidable opener Sunil Gavaskar and feisty all-rounder Kapil Dev. Australia have a former captain, who is almost Indian, Steve Waugh. Gavaskar and Kapil Dev have blasted Steve Smith’s unfair act while Waugh wants everyone to see that Smith has admitted his mistake and ‘move on.’ This controversy has the potential to be the next ‘monkeygate.’
That’s why the ICC is trying to bring the temperatures down.
‘Move on’ is the operative phrase here. Everyone in the Australian Cricket setup wants to move on. Move on... because their captain has been caught red-handed in the middle of an intense Test match. Move on... because when an Australian makes a mistake, suddenly everyone wants to not make a fuss about it. Instead, let’s just slide it under the carpet and talk about how great the Test match was or how it was a good advertisement for cricket.
The Infamous Monkeygate
Let’s go back a few years. Why didn’t Australia move on in 2008 during the famous ‘monkeygate’ controversy, which happened during the Sydney Test?
The biggest brand ambassadors of sledging in cricket, were brooding over a certain remark by Harbhajan Singh against Andrew Symonds. They called him a racist.
The legitimacy of those charges were never proven and the entire issue was blown out of proportion. There was no video evidence and the entire case was built on one man’s word against another. The Australians wanted blood!
No one knows who said what on the field. But whatever little I know is that before the start of the series, Harbhajan and Symonds had a pact to not talk to each other on the field. During the Test match in Sydney, Harbhajan stitched a solid partnership with Sachin Tendulkar of 129 runs, which frustrated the Aussies and during that period, Symonds rushed towards Harbhajan. Harbahajan being Harbhajan wasn’t going to take it too well. Then who broke the pact there?
The bigger issue was that the complaint was filed by the sledging gurus themselves. Of all teams, Australia, gave it a glorifying term – ‘mental disintegration’.
The legendary cricket writer, late Peter Roebuck, once told me, “Aussies won’t even spare Mother Teresa if she comes on the field wearing pads” and backed his claim by calling Ponting and his men ‘a pack of wild dogs,’ during that period in his column in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
Kumble Asks Ponting to Move On
As per well-placed sources, during the course of the match, Anil Kumble who was the Indian captain at that time, called his counterpart Ricky Ponting and urged him to drop the charges and ‘move on.’ He elaborated the consequences of the entire issue and how it could affect the relations between both the countries.
Ponting remained adamant and the Aussies proceeded with their charges, only to suffer embarrassment in front of the appeal commissioner. The commissioner appointed by the ICC, found no merit in their charges, as the Aussies didn’t have enough evidence to prove their accusations.
Coming back to the current issue, the entire thing has been caught on camera and the umpires acted as if they were aware that something like this could happen. They were prompt and swift on the field. The Indian skipper Virat Kohli didn’t miss a beat and was keeping a close eye on Smith while joining his team for the celebrations.
At least on camera, the entire thing looked like a well-planned team strategy to enhance the effectiveness of DRS.
Otherwise, why would Peter Handscomb, the non-striker, recommend something like this to his captain? The BCCI Twitter handle was spot on when they named the incident, ‘Dressing-room Review System.’
Australia’s reaction to the allegations have been a bit amusing though. Captain Steve Smith expressed that he had a ‘brain fade,’ and Handscomb wasn’t ‘aware of the rules.’ This is coming from the team who apparently would not leave any stone unturned in their preparations. Or they prepared rather too well for the DRS.
After the Pune win, one of the biggest headlines given to the media was how well-prepared they were before the start of their tour. While doing their preparations, did the team management forget to tell their players about the rules of such an important aspect of the game – the DRS?
Knowing India’s captain Virat Kohli, he would always play his cricket hard but fair, intense yet honest, aggressive yet within the parameters of decency. With him, you get what you see. The moment one tries to act smart, he would ensure that he catches that person and makes sure that its brought to the concerned person’s notice. Going by him, as to what he said in the press conference, he didn’t act on the first occurrence. He kept the umpires in the loop and remained vigilant.
Hence, as much as Australia would like to ‘move on’ this time, the shoe is on the other foot. And in the midst of all the drama, why has the great Ian Healy lost respect for the Indian captain?
Have we lost respect for Glen McGrath, who got into an ugly spat with Ramnaresh Sarwan during a Test match in 2003, or Ricky Ponting who hurled abuses at Javagal Srinath after being struck by a bouncer? The former Indian fast bowler went up to Ponting to ask him if he was alright, before the Australian batsman made a few nasty comments during a Test match in 1999.
I believe they have endorsed products in India and have lucrative coaching contracts in India. So, let’s not allow this matter to sour, and simply ensure that proper action is taken by the concerned authorities.