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Sure, Ben Duckett’s wicket was a potential turning-point. But Vijay Zol’s crazed celebration after his catch at short cover to dismiss Duckett, England’s top-scorer in the Junior World Cup quarters, was plain over-the-top.
Manic roars, infused with a large smattering of profanity reflected an attitude that this generation of Indian juniors has grown up watching. Just like Amir Gani’s expletive-laden send-off for Ed Barnard. While Zol copped a one-match ban, Gani was let off with a reprimand. Spouting off streams of abuse, crass brandishing of bats and menacing stares have become the celebration-du jour for this young team.
But can we really blame them?
As impressionable boys of 12, some even younger, when India won the U-19 WC under Virat Kohli, they would’ve watched India’s current flavour of the season, fire abuses into the sticky Kuala Lumpur air. After that, it was the IPL. In the heady cocktail of franchise sport, glamour and entertainment, aggression by way of obscene gestures and bursts of beeped-out language, fit right in.
Every time, Rohit Sharma or Kohli reach a milestone, a crazed expression sat on their face — cuss words ready on the lips. And it was these images of boorish behaviour, bordering on obnoxious, that got played on loop as promos for events, while creatives lapped them up as endorsements for companies targeting the youth.
This current India U-19 crop demonstrated more of this same mindless behavior, increasingly mistaking it for ‘aggression’. Kohli’s all-too-frequent outbursts had seldom earned him sanctions, nor had Sharma’s violent bat twirling hurt his pockets. Shikhar Dhawan’s mocking of Shane Watson was even celebrated as ‘cool.’
Indian batsmen no longer seem to believe that a rasping cover-drive is enough to stamp their authority on the bowler. Or shattering stumps is a definitive statement from a bowler. Having learned that aggressively staring down a batsmen or sending him away with copious abuse is what seniors – their role-models and India’s ambassadors – adopt, are these young boys expected to act any different?
The BCCI needs to step in urgently. Abuse and overtly aggressive behavior should be clamped down, and what better place to start than the under-15 Polly Umrigar Trophy. It needs to be drilled in that abuse is hardly an acceptable medium of celebration. When the next India under-19 coach is picked, the brief handed to him should be cultivating a team which asserts itself only through its cricketing skill-set. Ultimately, the onus is on the Kohlis and Sharmas to clean up their act. For, a foul-mouthed U-19 captain at the colts’ World Cup isn’t the best advertisement of India’s cricketing future.
Chinmay is a correspondent based in Pune