Historically, India vs Australia has always been an intense rivalry. Ever since Sourav Ganguly famously made Steve Waugh wait for the toss, it has only become more fierce and hostile. And when the opponents are led by two aggressive skippers (as they are now), one can be sure the hostility will spiral further.
The ongoing India-Australia Test series is a testament to the spiralling hostility, with the Australians once again living up to their reputation for aggression. While the Indian team is always combative every time a controversy crops up, and doesn’t shy away from a reproach, the problem with their Australian counterparts is that they almost never admit to their wrongdoing.
Case in Point: The (still) Ongoing Steve Smith-DRS Controversy.
While a pugnacious India has withdrawn its appeal against Smith, something that they have not done too often in the past, Smith continues to deny any violation, and maintains that Kohli’s remarks about him were "completely wrong”.
Steve SmithFrom my point of view, I think they’re completely wrong. I obviously came out after the game and said I made a mistake and it was an error on my behalf, it was a brain fade. In regards to saying we do it consistently, that’s complete rubbish in my opinion. I think he was wrong in his statement.
It can be argued that barring the Bengaluru controversy, in which Steve’s delinquency was evident, there’s no substantial proof of him looking towards the balcony for DRS advice on other occasions, as alleged by Kohli. But it can also be argued that it is time Smith stops terming the Bengaluru offence ‘a brain fade’.
Parallels From The Past
Several past incidents go on to show India’s approach to controversies, when they have been rightly antagonistic when they needed to be.
Travel back to the Trent Bridge row – the Ravindra Jadeja-James Anderson spat.
Anderson apparently used obnoxious language during the India-England 2014 series, and Jadeja and Mahendra Singh Dhoni 'reciprocated'. The Englishman also got into a physical altercation with Jadeja while returning to the pavilion at end of the first session of play.
The Indian management didn’t shy away from bringing this to the ICC’s notice. The BCCI sought an appeal against Anderson, the ECB was asked to investigate the matter, a court hearing was held and Anderson finally admitted to swearing at Jadeja.
Another case in point is the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ saga from 2008. The second Test of India’s 2007-2008 Australia tour in Sydney had many different facets etched into it. After a couple of biased umpiring decisions that went in Australia’s favour, Harbhajan Singh was accused of racially abusing Andrew Symonds by calling him a monkey.
Following the controversy, India declined to proceed further with the series unless a proper hearing was conducted. They threatened to pull out of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and didn’t travel to Perth for the third Test. Captain Anil Kumble was memorably quoted as saying:
Only one team is playing in the spirit of the game.
But this time around, BCCI withdrew its complaint against Smith even after the Australian captain was clearly caught looking toward the dressing room for ‘advice’.
What Kohli said – and didn’t – was his opinion. What happened on the field was the proof of Smith’s offence. The Indian captain feels it is time to shift the focus to the game and bury the matter, but his Australian counterpart continues denying that he was involved in any wrongdoing at all.
Speaking ahead of the Ranchi Test, Kohli stood by his allegation that Smith broke DRS protocols on two other occasions as well. However, he refused to delve deeper into the issue, saying his focus will now be only on the game.
Virat KohliI don’t regret anything that I’ve said, but at the same time, it’s very important not to be stupid and go on with the same things on a daily basis because there’s cricket to be played
Smith seemed frustrated by Kohli’s comments and said “His (Kohli’s) comments... I think he said that we did it twice while he was out there. I don't think he was out there long enough for two appeals. He's entitled to his opinion, but from my point of view it’s complete-rubbish."
While the ball is now in Kohli’s court, India has chosen to lay the matter to rest. But for Smith and company, an off-field controversy seems to be more important than an on-field imbroglio.
When the Faf d Plessis ball tampering controversy cropped up, the Australian media, which in the past few days seems to have taken on the role of the team’s extended support staff, was vilifying the man. But now, when their own captain is at fault, they are unwilling to accept it.
Moreover, it has become Australia’s nature to blow things out of proportion. In the 2015-16 series between Australian and West Indies, Marlon Samuels was accused of being lazy and un-sportsmanlike by Shane Warne.
"Marlon Samuels is Mr Experience out there but he hasn’t really given anything in this Test match so far. He’s fielded on the boundary, hasn’t shown any enthusiasm or any intensity," Warne commentated.
Later, the entire West Indies set-up was accused of being lazy, because they were fielding with their hands in their pockets! Issues were made out of petty things but here, they are completely rejecting a rather serious matter.
It can be concluded that the best way to deal with the Australians is give them a dose of their own medicine. India should have certainly gone ahead with the appeal lest they face the same thing in the remaining two Tests.
What guarantee there is of the arrogant men not repeating the same ‘mistake’, given that Smith has 'rubbished' the allegations? And what if he has a ‘brain fade’ again?
(Umaima Saeed is a self-confessed introvert who binges on cricket and lets her writing do the talking.)