Few India captains have been as articulate as Virat Kohli and fewer still as provocative. He will defend his team at the worst of times and he can also be outlandish like when he told off a fan to leave India and watch England or Australian batsmen if he liked them so much.
Kohli and his favourite coach, Ravi Shastri, are, somehow, unable to deal with the media without flying off the handle, particularly when things get skewed and they are reminded of their own statements.
When there is no cricket on, there are more boardroom stories. In the long gap between the second and third Twenty20 games against the West Indies both Kohli and the Committee of Administrators (CoA) did not waste the period.
Kohli, who has been rested for the T20 series, went a little too far by asking the fan to leave the country if he liked overseas players. His remark on his promotional video boomeranged with twitterati going after him, taking exception to his mindless reaction. He was quick to assuage the feelings of the fans by asking them chill out, making the remark sound like a mere wisecrack. He will surely be more thoughtful and careful in reacting.
Someone in the board gave the media the graphic details of the two-member CoA meeting with Kohli¸ Shastri, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma during the Hyderabad ODI. It was clear that the idea was to tell the world that the administrators have given everything the players asked for and so their performance should be commensurate with their demands.
Kohli has another demand, keeping the fast bowlers going to the World Cup off the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the board compensating them. He doesn’t mind batsmen playing, though they are as vulnerable in getting injured, if not tired like the bowlers. What about the franchises, will they accept India captain’s request? Ideally all should play the first half of the IPL and keep off the last few games.
The administrators also gave Shastri a rap on his knuckles, telling him to hold his tongue, leaving it to the people to judge whether the current team is the best travelling in the last 15 years, instead of him going round saying how well it compares with the teams of the past. Shastri apparently clarified that he made the statement in the face of “our own media putting the team down”.
There are many critics of Kohli-Shastri team and yet interestingly some of them predict before a major tour that India have their best chance of beating the opponents, this time Australia, despite being proved wrong both in South Africa and England.
The former players qualify their prophecy. If this Indian team can’t beat Australia with the kind of attack they have and looking at the brittle batting they are confronted with — without Steve Smith and David Warner — they will not get another opportunity like this to beat them.
Sachin Tendulkar put it in perspective and, in the process seemed to be answering Kohli and Shastri: “If you see the Australia teams in the past and compare them to this one, yes we have a very good chance,” adding “we have good fast bowlers, quality spinners and good batters.”
Kohli had rightly pointed out in England that if the team has to start the series well, they can’t warm up into it, forgetting that he had said in South Africa that practice matches were a waste of time!
India start the tour of Australia with a three-match T20 series and that leaves them with barely 10 days before the first Test at the Gabba. They straightaway went into Tests in South Africa and in England they finished the shorter formats first and now the circle is complete, Tests and ODIs following T20s.
Shastri wanted two warm-up games down under and Cricket Australia had no objection. But, the board’s greed to pack with so many tours is also not helping the team as they finish their Twenty20 series with West Indies on Tuesday and it’s time for them to leave for Australia.
Those playing in the T20 will get to play only one warm-up game, a three-day match against Cricket Australia XI whereas Test specialists Cheteshwar Pujara, Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Hanuma Vihari, and Mohammad Shami will play for India A in New Zealand in a four-day match.
Finally, a debate over bowling action, akin to reverse sweep and switch-hit! Uttar Pradesh’s young left-arm spinner Shiva Singh, amusingly, has a peculiar style as he rotates 360 degrees just before delivering the ball. He did it in Vijay Hazare Tournament game and the umpires had no problem, but when he did it in the Under-23 C.K. Nayudu Trophy match against Bengal in Kolkata, the umpire promptly called it a dead ball.
The umpire simply went by the rule book, and he is backed by one of the world’s best there is – Simon Taufel. The Australian is quoted as saying that if in the umpire’s view the bowler’s act is to distract the batsman then he is justified to call it a dead ball.
Surprisingly, former England captain and a batsman Michael Vaughan has no issues with Shiva’s action, but former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, who never approved the world’s highest wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan’s action, called the youngster a “weirdo”.
The last of it has not been heard, though Shiva has appealed to the board to clear his action.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])