They say the Indian cricket captain carries the load of a billion-plus populace’s expectations on his shoulders. Over the last couple of days, however, it’s the captain’s shoulder, which kept him off the field that the entire nation has been obsessing about. For good measure so have the opposition.
Kohli’s turn to mock
On Saturday, Glenn Maxwell was caught on camera mockingly pointing at his right shoulder after diving to stop a boundary at the same spot as Kohli had. Then came the ‘incident’ where Steve Smith the Australian captain was accused of doing the same when his counterpart got out. On Sunday, it was Kohli’s turn to jump around and hold his own shoulder.
David Warner had just been cleaned up by Ravindra Jadeja, and Kohli did expectedly go nuts considering the enormity of the wicket late on Day Four. But as Warner walked off, the Indian captain then started pointing at his formerly injured shoulder as part of his celebration. Former India batsman VVS Laxman was on commentary at that point and openly criticized Kohli for that final act.
“Very disappointed to see a celebration of Kohli after Warner’s wicket. He is the captain. Someone did a mistake, that does not mean he has to do the same,” said Laxman.
Shoulder point that wasn’t
It was ironic that Laxman would talk about the “mistake”. For a day earlier it was he who was mistaken along with the official broadcasters Star Sports for insisting that Smith had mocked Kohli’s injury while giving him an apparent send-off. Laxman and Akash Chopra were shown a split image of Maxwell and Smith holding their right and left shoulders respectively as a mark of “disrespect” towards the Indian captain. And it is then that he launched into a diatribe that got him a lot of flak from the Australian media in particular, especially when he happened to bring up the case of the late Philip Hughes while pulling up Smith for having defied the “spirit of the game”.
“Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith, what example is he setting to his team? That’s very disappointing. You can sledge … it’s fine, but not mocking someone who is injured, in pain,” Laxman had said during the tea-time studio show. He didn’t stop there however.
“I’ve never experienced that because when you are injured, you always care for the opposition player as well. Especially after what happened to Phil Hughes, everyone is concerned when someone gets injured. Whether he gets hit on the helmet or is injured, there is a concern. You play the game a hard way but the spirit of the game should be there. This is defying the spirit of the game,” he went on to say.
Now it would have been a fair rant, the Hughes mention aside, maybe if Smith had actually done what he was accused of by the host broadcasters. For, as it later turned out, it wasn’t even his hand that was clutching the left shoulder. It was Peter Handscomb’s instead, and it was just a bad camera angle that the broadcasters had chosen to convince themselves and their experts in the studio about Smith’s alleged misdoing.
At least they should have given the Australian captain some credit for the fact that if he did have the urge to give Kohli a reminder of his injury, he would have at the least pointed at the correct shoulder-which was the right and not the left.
And though it was the broadcasters who had to eat humble pie, Laxman’s tirade didn’t go down too well with the Australian press.
Media latches on
A “disgraceful attack on Steve Smith” is how The Daily Telegraph described it while The Australian insisted that Laxman had found himself in “murky waters” after Laxman’s comments on Hughes was found to be “depressingly ill-advised” in a series that has witnessed a lot of bad blood already, be it with players getting into animated, and often funny, spats on the field to all the controversy surrounding DRS and ill-advised hand motions towards the dressing room. In Laxman’s defence, Maxwell, unlike Smith, was guilty of having mocked Kohli’s injury.
When Dhawan mocked Watto
It wasn’t the first time, however, that an opposition player’s serious injury became a source of amusement and ridicule during an India-Australia contest. Shikhar Dhawan had indulged in a “moment of disgrace”, as it was called in certain sections of the media, during an ODI in 2013 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Shane Watson, the former Australian all-rounder, had gone off the field earlier after having injured his hamstring. And when he came out to bat later, Dhawan fielded a ball at mid-off and then hobbled around sardonically to get under Watson’s skin, and the Aussie not surprisingly wasn’t too pleased.