The India vs Australia battle had its share of unpleasant sights and incidents which shouldn’t be mistaken for true competitiveness
R Ashwin gestures after taking the wicket of Mitchell Starc during the fourth day of the second Test match between India and Australia in Bengaluru on Tuesday. Pic/PTI
The India vs Australia cricket Test which concluded a day before schedule at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday will become increasingly unforgettable.
India’s unstoppable off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin called it the best match of his life, while victorious captain Virat Kohli felt it was his finest Test victory. It probably made Test match cricket in India more
popular, more sellable.
Be that as it may, the absorbing Test did project the ugly side of modern cricket. It was like a multi-genre music concert where the rock stars got all the applause. The soul singers just didn’t get a stage to perform on. If this is the price Test cricket pays to survive, so be it. But it’s a pity.
This Test was in many ways undesirable to the purists. Here’s why:
>> For starters, it was a near-poor pitch with uneven bounce. Suddenly, after India’s defeat in Pune, it was decided that the centre wicket of the Chinnaswamy Stadium won’t be used. Probably, the fact that the Aussies massacred the hosts by 333 runs had a role to play in that decision. Imagine the furore had Australia won this Test as well. But they didn’t and a victory for India clouded the fact that the No 1 and No 2 Test teams in world cricket had to play on an inferior surface. Imperfect wickets don’t bring out the best skills of a cricketer. Pune and Bangalore have been a bit of a let-down on that score.
>> More than anyone in his team, Steve Smith should never have forgotten that he can’t look to his teammates and support staff in the dressing room for hints on a Decision Review System (DRS) call. The Australian team’s supporters argue that it was a one-off sighting. Okay, we’ll hesitantly buy that brain fade. What I couldn’t understand was the need to mention his teammate Peter Handscomb while admitting to his cricketing crime. As captain, you are responsible for your decisions and it doesn’t matter if your batting partner urged you to look towards the dressing room for a clue. Let’s not be diplomatic here; doing that was against the law. The spirit of the game doesn’t even come into it.
>> Mitchell Starc doing the forehead gesture to Abhinav Mukund reminded me of Dennis Lillee doing something similar to Tony Greig in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket way back in the 1970s, when Lillee pointed to the part of Greig’s body which he wanted to hit.
Ashwin, never the last one to take up cudgels for his teammates, gave it back to Starc with the same gesture on Tuesday and to top it all, a spectator in the stands did it too and got her few seconds of fame. Next you will see schoolboy cricketers doing this.
>> You could even see schoolboy cricketers aping Ishant Sharma, whose facial sledging of Smith made people laugh on the second day of the Test. It showed the angry as well as humorous side of Ishant. There is room for humour in the game but Ishant would have been prouder if his two wickets in the Test would have included the Australian captain after those antics.
>> There is a lot of talk that the edge which India had over New Zealand, England and Bangladesh has blunted a bit and that’s because Australia are far stronger than those teams. There is merit in that view. However, it’s been a long home season. This is India’s first 13-Test season since 1979-80 and fatigue showed up in the Bangalore Test. Never again should the players be put through the wringer like this. After the next two Tests, there is the Indian Premier League followed by the Champions Trophy. Phew!
>> And finally, Ian Healy, who said he is losing respect for Kohli for sledging Smith. Healy is free to respect whoever he likes (by the way, the YouTube clip which Kohli was referring to was of Healy flinging his bat in the dressing room after being declared caught behind in a Test against South Africa at Centurion in 1997), but what does he think of the same man Kohli was supposedly sledging, now that he has admitted to breaching the DRS consultation regulation?
The India vs Australia cricketing rivalry is second to only the Ashes. Sure, rivalries would be bland without some level of controversy, but too much of it will take away its nutritional value.
The series is still open and there’s good cricket to be played. Both sides can’t get ahead of themselves with the 1-1 scoreline. I am reminded of what the late Peter Roebuck, whose birth anniversary coincided with the penultimate day of the Bangalore Test, once wrote — “Cricket sets traps, flatters players and calls them kings when they are barely princes.”
Hopefully, a good week’s break will sharpen minds and cool down some nerves for both teams.
mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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