Kolkata: High-nosed, arrogant and obstinate — three ‘qualities’ you can associate the English media with. Unbiased reporting by the English and Australian sports writers is a rare phenomenon. When it comes to cricket, it’s still painful for the Englishmen to accept the dominance of the colonies his country ruled. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are formidable forces in the world of cricket. These countries from the sub-continent have won the World Cup, but the world is yet to witness an English skipper lifting the coveted cup in the 50-over format.
Call it envy or frustration for seeing its clout waning, there’s one tactic, the English and Australian media resort to. Plain and simple, start finding faults in champion cricketers who make life horrible for their cricketers. What started with former Sri Lankan spinning great M Muralitharan continues till day, the latest victim being India’s Test captain Virat Kohli.
The news is already out. Kohli is charged of ball-tampering by the English media. The International Cricket Council (ICC) hasn’t taken note of it and it required a footage revealed by a British journalist which allegedly shows the Indian skipper ‘tampering’ with the ball. As per rules, no charges can be framed against Kohli because the date of complaint is over.
In the absence of strong weapons to dampen the spirit of the Indian team which is one up in the series, it’s time for some media trial. Well, Kohli has just joined an elite list of players who faced the wrath of the English and Australian media. Murali, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq, Harbhajan Singh, Shoaib Akhtar and Saeed Ajmal, the list only expands.
Looking back in time, Murali was called for chucking by Australian umpires Darrell Hair, Tony Mcquillan and Ross Emerson in the ‘90s. A promising spinner who spun his way into the Australian batting line-up found himself at the receiving end. And oh boy, the Aussie media was up for it. But Murali was magnanimous enough to move on when he was quoted by the Courier-Mail, “I have forgiven [Hair] and forgotten. I had been very upset with him but I have let it go. I am not upset with him. People do make mistakes and I think he made a mistake. My action has been cleared. But I’m not going to look at the past anymore.”
On the contrary, Hair defended his decision. Speaking on Pakistani off-spinner Ajmal whose career got ruined for ‘questionable actions’ years later, Hair told The Sydney Morning Herald, “Whatever they’re doing now, they’re doing 20 years too late. They had a chance in 1995 to clean things up and it’s taken them 19 years to finally come back and say they want chuckers out of the game. I can’t believe that Saaed Ajmal has been able to bowl as long as he has, and they say he is bending his arm by 45 degrees [the legal limit is 15 degrees] or something. Well, every man and his dog would have known that.”
The (in) famous ball tampering row that made headlines in the ‘90s involving Pakistani speedsters Akram and Younis got a fillip courtesy the British media that put up pretexts to hide the inability of the England batsmen to handle the W duo in the summer of 1992. The lethal reverse swing that did the English batsmen in made hardcore critics suspicious and they didn’t waste a single opportunity to smell a rat.
Acclaimed journalist Jack Bannister writing for Wisden wondered whether the charges leveled against Akram and Younis had any merit. However, he leaves it to the readers to infer when he asked for some changes in law to rid the Pakistani bowling greats of any controversy. Quite subtly put though.
But that’s always been the attitude of the White media, if one sounds a bit racist. The Ravindra Jadeja vs James Anderson duel during India’s tour to England in 2014 was blown out of all proportions. Scyld Berry writing for The Daily Telegraph mentioned, “Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not only the world’s richest cricketer and India’s captain, wicketkeeper and middle-order batsman. He also seems to be India’s chief prosecutor in the interminable case of Anderson v Jadeja.” And he elaborated further by quoting a website, “Dhoni shot down and consequently prevented the current manager of the touring party in England, Sunil Dev, from exploring a settlement with the managing director of the ECB, Paul Downton, on the Anderson affair.”
Had it not been Anderson from England and somebody from the sub-continent, the English media would have taken the battle further, but in this case knowing fully well, that Anderson was at a fault, the scapegoat was Dhoni. What sort of hypocrisy is this?
The Rawalpindi Express, Akhtar too was at the receiving end of the Australian media when the chucking controversy erupted in 1999 forcing the Pakistani manager Yawar Saeed to say, “It’s sad. I wish these things wouldn’t happen. It seems when you enter Australia you have controversy and when you leave Australia you have controversy.”
And who can forget the Monkey gate controversy involving Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds in 2008? The Australian media went ga-ga over defending Symonds and such was the intensity of the media trial that Bhajji was handed a three-match suspension (that was later annulled) despite even a Sachin Tendulkar coming to his defence. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote how Symonds was upset at the way his cricket board handled the controversy that let the Indian spinner get away with a mild punishment. He held on to his view that Bhajji had made racial abuses at him.
Talking of duplicity, venting his ire on the ICC for not banning South African captain Faf du Plessis, Peter FtizSimons writes a piece in The Sydney Morning Herald, headlined “Faf Du Plessis cheated and should have been banned.” He also blames the ICC for not being harsh enough.
Coming back to Kohli, one wonders what took the British media so long to come out with the breaking news? What were the so-called esteemed scribes doing all these days? They are talking about an incident that happened in the first Test at a time when the second Test of the series is already over and England is trailing in the series. Now, we are getting suspicious here. The ulterior motive cannot be discarded. Is it some kind of a ploy to create cracks in the Indian dressing room? You never know.
To defend Kohli, his commitment and integrity cannot be questioned. Secondly, the seam attack that India boasts now can challenge any top class batsman anywhere in the world. The likes of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav who played in the Rajkot Test, have speed and control and can swing the ball both ways. The reverse swing that Shami generates is innate in him.
If one thought, this allegation on Kohli would put the team on the back foot, then, perhaps, he was day dreaming. The Monkey gate spat was a blessing in disguise for the Indians who took revenge winning the next Test at Perth. With Kohli’s men having already taken a lead, rest assured they are going to come hard on Cook’s boys. To quote Shah Rukh Khan in Chennai Express, “Don’t underestimate the power of a common man.” Out here, there’s a change, “Don’t underestimate the power of Virat Kohli’s aggression.”