The Big Story: Bad play

Cricket is a gentlemen’s game, they say. But when India and Australia play each other, that axiom seems to become an exception to the rule.

The latest Test series between the two nations produced some of the most gripping cricket the world has seen over the last two years. Almost every session swung back and forth. Australia won the first Test in Pune and threatened to run away with the series. India mounted a stunning comeback, with its batsmen showing great character under tough conditions to pile on the runs. By the end of the series on Tuesday, when stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane uncharacteristically struck two mighty blows, one over mid-wicket and another over covers, to seal the Dharamshala Test match, India had proved why they were possibly the best batting line-up in the world. They won the series 2-1.

But off the field, the series was a disaster for the spirit of the game. The acrimony between the teams reached a crescendo at the last press conference of the series on Tuesday, when India captain Virat Kohli said he would no longer be friends with Australian cricketers, some of whom he may play with and against in the Indian Premier League next month. The Australian media called this a “classless” act.

The trouble started in the second Test in Bengaluru when India complaineabout against Australia captain Steve Smith for violating rules guarding technology-based reviews of umpiring decisions. Smith, the Indians said, sought the help of the dressing room before deciding to call for a review, something that is illegal. The Australians came out all guns blazing, accusing Kohli of constant chatter on the field and taking the aggression beyond the limit.

The reaction of administrators and the media in both India and Australia did not help. The Australian media described Virat Kohli as the Donald Trump of world cricket. The Indian media accused the Australian team and cricket board of playing mind games through the media.

However, amidst the acerbic banter, a gesture by Virat Kohli after the final Test crossed the boundary of gentlemanly behaviour. Even as Smith decided to bury the hatchet and openly apologised for the tension the Australians may have created during the course of the series, Kohli turned down his opponent’s invitation to visit his team in their dressing room.

Kohli could learn from the man currently coaching the Indian team. In 2008 in Australia, the equation between the two teams deteriorated after a series of bad decisions cost India the match in the second Test in Sydney. Anil Kumble, the captain at the time, was livid. But his maturity came through when he refused to descend to personal attacks and sealed the argument with his now-legendary comment on the Australian team: “Only one team played in the spirit of the game.” Kumble chose to respond to the Australians on the field by rallying his team to win the third Test at Perth. His conduct earned him support from across the world.

Anger is a valuable asset in any sport. When used wisely, it helps sportspeople achieve the impossible. But anger is also a double-edged sword when the athlete fails to get a grip on it. This was perhaps what had happened to Kohli, who, despite being the best batsman in the team, failed to score a single half century in the three Tests he played.

Kohli needs to understand that his composure and form have a profound impact on the performance of the team. With a string of away tours scheduled in the later half of the year, Kohli should attempt to bring the focus back on the field.

The Big Scroll

  • Subash Jayaraman on why Virat Kohli’s behaviour is a poor example of sportsmanship.


  1. In The Hindu, RS Chauhan warns that by allowing arbitrary censorship of films, fringe groups were being emboldened to take the law into their hands. 
  2. In the Mint, Kunal Sigh writes about why individual rights and the republican character of the Indian constitution need to be protected. 
  3. In the Hindustan Times, Srinath Raghavan explains how the Emergency under Indira Gandhi laid the foundation for the expansion of Hindutva forces. 


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