The DRS incident involving Steve Smith and Virat Kohli during the Bangalore Test is the latest episode in a series of clashes that have highlighted the friction whenever Australia and India have met in a cricket contest, particularly in the last two decades.
On top of that, the eagerness of the media wings of the respective cricket boards to play 12th man seems to be souring the already tense atmosphere between the two teams.
While the Australian media have systematically played on the we-versus-them theme, the eagerness to catch the attention of the massive interest in the social media seems to be adding fuel to fire in the current Test series.
THE FLASH POINT
The DRS row involving Australia skipper Smith provided the latest flash and marred a thrilling finish to last week’s second Test in Bangalore, where India won to level the four-match series.
Cricket Australia’s digital media platform, cricket.com.au, has fanned the sporting hostilities.
They have looked to turn every comment by players from either side into a near stand-off. Australia’s sensational win in the first Test in Pune, by 333 runs inside three days, was the cue for an avalanche of criticism aimed at Virat Kohli.
PLENTY OF HISTORY
The Indian skipper’s past clashes with the Aussie players, and his aggression and verbal duels with Smith in this series, hasn’t painted a pretty picture. The home skipper too brushed aside the ‘doubters and haters’ at the BCCI awards function in Bangalore, saying the dressing room support is what mattered to him.
However, Virat Kohli’s criticism of Smith over his attempt to get dressing room help for a review following his dismissal in the second innings, has been turned around in a bid to portray it as a big example of the Indian skipper’s poor behaviour.
The BCCI’s own media arm, bcci.tv, has not been quiet and it has also started to direct its reponse via the social media, targeting the millions of Indian supporters.
DRESSING ROOM REVIEW
While Australia coach, Darren Lehmann, slammed Kohli for his questioning Smith over playing the game in the right spirit, Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland called them ‘outrageous’.
The BCCI media managers dubbed DRS the “Dressing Room Review System” even as the Bangalore Test was coming to and end on Day 4.
The bcci.tv had caught the attention of the social media in a big way after it uploaded the image of fast bowler Ishant Sharma making monkey faces at Smith to disturb his concentration while batting.
Kohli had been attacked by former Australia stalwarts, Matthew Hayden and current selector, Mark Waugh over his batting failure in the series. But he was ready with his response to ex-Aussie wicketkeeper, Ian Healy, who said he lost respect for Kohli due to his aggressive behaviour with the umpires.
Kohli arrived at the post-match media conference in Bangalore briefed. He asked everyone to watch the YouTube clip from the Centurion Test of 1996-97 against South Africa, where Healy walks away swearing at the umpires after being controversially given out caught behind.
Healy has since refused to add to the war of words.
Not done yet by its Aussie counterparts, a video was uploaded on the bcci.tv at the end of the Bangalore Test where Ravichandran Ashwin and Cheteshwar Pujara discuss how they sledged Warner, reminding him of his repeated dismissals by the off-spinner.
The Indian Board backed Virat Kohli in a statement to counter Sutherland’s criticism. The ICC took no action against either skipper, and the BCCI withdrew its complaint to the global body against Smith to signal a truce to the hostilities, at least officially.
India-Australia contests have been heated affairs, but the bar was set high when Sourav Ganguly’s team rallied to beat Steve Waugh’s all-conquering side at home in 2001.
The ‘Monkeygate’ scandal involving Harbhajan Singh saw thing hit a fresh low in 2007-8, but playing up the rivalry has also meant great marketing.
With the official media arms of the two boards stoking the fire, one will have to wait and see what is in store in the third Test, starting in Ranchi on Thursday.