Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade’s lengthy “conversation” with Virat Kohli during the course of the latter’s brilliant 92 at the Eden Gardens brought back dark memories of the acrimonious exchange of words in the series between India and Australia just five months ago.
That Test series, which India won 2-1 at home, was marred by non-stop sledging, particularly by the Australians. It went to such an extent that after the Dharamsala Test in March Kohli publicly claimed that he had “unfriended the Aussies”.
He believed that his team’s relations with the Australians had been permanently damaged.
Yet, after an uneasy truce, both sets of players put aside their differences to compete in the Indian Premier League in the summer. By the time the IPL concluded, all sledging, excuses of ‘brain fade’ and other such contentious issues seemed to have disappeared.
Nevertheless, just before the start of this ODI and T20 series, former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie urged the touring Australians not to rile up or needle Kohli.
“Don’t get into a verbal battle or staring competition with Kohli,” he warned Steve Smith’s team. “The best way to put him under pressure is through disciplined bowling.”
Yet after his cheap dismissal in the Chennai ODI, some sections of the Aussie media had claimed that it was not poor form, but that the Australians had the drop on Kohli. They pointed out his wonderful run recently in Sri Lanka and added that his last few innings against Australia—0, 13, 12, 15, 6 and 0—was proof that the Australians had got his number.
Of course failures in those six innings notwithstanding, Kohli had earlier flayed the Australian attack for 12 centuries (six apiece in Tests and ODIs).
After one of those centuries during the Test series in Australia in 2014, Kohli opened up to the media and said that the Aussies had called him a spoilt brat and had sledged him all day long.
A peeved Aussie team stated that what was said on the field ought to have stayed on the field. But Kohli refused to play by their rules. He said that the gloves were off and that the Indian team would give back as good as it got.
Thus the last few series between the two teams have been rancorous, with Kohli too getting fined Down Under for Code of Conduct offences.
Meanwhile, Smith had said before the start of the present ODI series that their main aim was to keep Kohli quiet. “He’s a very good player and our success is dependent on keeping him quiet,” he had said.
They succeeded in the first ODI but celebrated his dismissal a tad too enthusiastically to leave the batsman smarting. Obviously he was looking out for payback and how wonderfully he accomplished that with the bat doing most of the talking in the very next encounter.
Actually the thing about greatly gifted players is that they can take a jibe personally and turn it around to their benefit. Sachin Tendulkar did this with Shoaib Akhtar at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
Much earlier, Sunil Gavaskar had said that Kapil Dev would never get a Test 50 and the latter responded with a century!
The most memorable retort though came from the West Indies when England’s erstwhile skipper Tony Grieg said that he would make them grovel. This remark obviously had a racist slant with historic association to the despicable days of slavery.
Two of West Indies’ proud heroes, Viv Richards and Michael Holding, made Grieg pay for that tasteless remark by pummelling the English beyond repair. Holding, after the series, said that he found he could extract an extra yard of pace every time he bowled to Grieg, who was raised in apartheid South Africa!
At the Eden Gardens on Thursday, Wade, who was the main instigator of the sledging during that terribly spiteful Test series earlier in the year, got into a “discussion” with Kohli that the TV cameras latched on to.
This was immediately after a delivery from paceman Marcus Stoinis was shabbily collected by Wade. Kohli sensed an opening and pushed Kedar Jadhav for a bye. Caught off guard by the stolen bye run Wade was obviously smarting and got into a prolonged “conversation” with Kohli who, in any case, is always willing to engage anybody at the drop of a hat.
It was surprising that the broadcaster aired the footage for as long as they did, though it must be pointed out that during the Test series they had let out the transcripts of some of the sledging through BCCI.
In one of them Wade and Smith were caught out calling Ravindra Jadeja “useless”, with Wade enquiring from Jadeja if he expected to be selected in any series outside India.
Indeed the match referee needs to check this sledging by the Australians as soon as possible or else the rest of the three ODIs and three T20Is could see a repeat of the disgusting behaviour that marred the Test series in March this year.
Certainly it’s time to put some of these “useless” Australians on notice.