Ravichandran Ashwin has been known to give back as good as he gets. He reprimanded Jimmy Anderson on the field when he didn't like Anderson's statements regarding Virat Kohli in the presser. He tore into an opposition bowler for bad-mouthing his teammate during the Tamil Nadu Premier League. He is also known to get worked up when a non-striker backs up too far.
All these incidents can be justified as a spur-of-the-moment on-field incidents. These days they are widely accepted as part and parcel of a sporting contest. But if you start behaving similarly with your off-field antics as well then it may be an indicator of some unfounded hubris.
Ashwin's recent spat with Herschelle Gibbs on Twitter was as needless as it was insensitive. Gibbs took a light-hearted dig at Ashwin's running abilities in a tweet. Teasing someone for his athletic skills is acceptable banter in cricket. In recent history, Virender Sehwag challenged Sourav Ganguly for a race to decide who is the slower runner between the two and Zaheer Khan made fun of Yuvraj Singh's sluggish movements in the field. In 2004, Mark Richardson and Darren Lehmann ran a 110-metre sprint in a battle of the slowest movers between the trans-Tasman rivals while their teammates and fans enjoyed a good laugh.
Twitter humorists still make jokes on Inzamam whenever someone gets run out, and Inzy has always been known to take it in good spirit (Yes, barring that one incident in Toronto). Twitter jokes on Ashwin's running abilities are also commonplace.
Controversy aside, who at Nike picked Ashwin to sell running shoes? It's like asking Ramesh Powar to sell those weight loss shakes.
— cricBC (@cricBC) February 19, 2018
Surprisingly in this case though, Ashwin snapped at Gibbs' remarks and came up with a swift retort labelling the latter as a match-fixer. Like Mohammad Amir, Gibbs got sucked into the match-fixing menace at the behest of his captain. After accepting his guilt, he served his time through his suspension and came back to play for South Africa. In civilised discourse, you don't incriminate someone over and over again, especially when he has already been punished for his mistakes.
Ashwin's tweet has come two days after Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri took repeated digs at media in response to regulation questions over an ODI series win. This comes days after Kohli’s joust with the media after India lost the 2nd Test on the same tour — a squabble that was equally uncalled for. Similar to Ashwin, in Kohli's case, no one has the right to question his aggression on the field as a batsman or a captain, but this repeated show of contempt towards folks from media borders on bullying.
Shastri even went on to name a reporter in a sarcastic dig. If you ask him about it, he may say shrug it off as “just a joke”. Ashwin said the same in response to widespread criticism on Twitter. An apology to Gibbs would have raised his stature in cricketing circles. Instead, he now comes across as arrogant and combative.
When Kohli was asked about areas of improvement for the national team, he completely shut out the press and said it was a private matter for the team. This wasn't a question about team strategy mind you, it was an innocent enquiry on where the team would want to improve in future. It's obviously team's prerogative to answer what they want and deflect what they don't but fans always like to know what the team is working on at present, it gives them something to look forward to in the next game or the next series.
At a time when franchise-based teams leave no stones unturned to connect better with fans, international players are starting to behave in a manner of considering themselves holier than thou. They can't take any criticism however mild it may be. Perhaps our cricketing superstars know that there is always going to be just one Indian team and come what may, fans will always support them in the name of national pride if not quality and class.