Having spent the entirety of the India-Australia series launching attacks on India skipper Virat Kohli, the Australian media once again crossed the line on Tuesday, this time by likening the cricketer to the much-maligned US President Donald Trump. Trump has come under a barrage of scrutiny from all quarters over the last year for a host of things, including his alleged sexual abuse of women.
In an article headlined ‘Virat Kohli’s Donald Trump-like contempt for the truth making mockery of the game’, Australia’s Daily Telegraph said: “The Indian captain is a law unto himself with no one — not even the ICC or his own board — holding him accountable for his continual perpetuation of fake news.”
Trump has often taken the American media head-on, branding articles about his alleged indiscretions as fake news.
“Just like President Trump, Kohli decided to blame the media as a means of trying to hide the egg smeared right across his face,” the article added.
The root of the issue lies in the shoulder injury Kohli picked up while fielding during the third Test at Ranchi. The injury led to him missing several overs when India fielded. When the hosts batted on Day 3, it seemed as though Glenn Maxwell mocked Kohli’s injury by clutching his right shoulder
That day, due to a tricky camera angle, it also seemed as though Australia skipper Steve Smith was mocking the injury. However, it turned out that it was a teammate’s arm on Smith’s shoulder.
Kohli allegedly had an exchange of words with the Australian players over the incident and was even seen celebrating an Australian wicket with his hand on his shoulder. The incidents led the official broadcaster to launch an unprecedented attack on the Australians, with expert panelist VVS Laxman even saying: “Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith, what example is he setting to his team? That's very disappointing. You can sledge ... it's fine, but not mocking someone who is injured, in pain. I've never experienced that because when you are injured, you always care for the opposition player as well.”
When it became clear that the Smith incident was a misunderstanding, the official broadcasters personally apologised to the visiting team’s players.
However, no apology was forthcoming from the Indian skipper, much to the chagrin of the Australian press, leading to the Daily Telegraph branding him as Trump. The report even said that he had proved with his behavior that the “spirit of cricket was dead”.
Ironically, while the article extols the virtues of being a “flagbearer for upholding the spirit of the game” to Kohli, it conveniently ignores that in the second Test, the Australian skipper tried to cheat the system by asking the dressing room for help in a DRS review, an action he later branded as a “brain fade.” That incident, too, had led Kohli to say that he had spotted the Australian camp resorting to such under-hand tactics on a couple of occasions during the Test, but did not provide any evidence to back up the claim.
This is not the first time that the bad vibes have spilled over from the field onto the media forums.
Former Australian cricketers like Ian Healy, Mark Waugh and Mitchell Johnson have taken digs at Kohli in the Australian press. Most notably, Johnson branded Kohli ‘frustrated’.
These instances had led former India captain Sunil Gavaskar to describe the Australian media as an extension of cricket team's support staff.
It must be noted that the Australian media has been notorious for such behavior. Two years ago, news.com.au ran a poll asking readers to vote for the ‘biggest sports jerk of the week’. Kohli was among the nominees for “his treatment of Brad Haddin, whom he shadowed uncomfortably closely while the Australian captain attempted to mark middle stump after coming out to bat in the third Test.”