The Indian cricket board’s code of conduct is modelled on that of its Australian counterpart. But while Cricket Australia and the England board, among other national bodies, rein in players whenever they step out of line, the BCCI seems happy to let its document gather dust.
India players are just back after a long tour of Australia and the World Cup. Apart from the highs and lows of their performances on the field, what caused alarm was poor behaviour, particularly from Virat Kohli, the Test captain and ODI vice-captain, with the influential BCCI looking the other way.
For starters, almost every act of taking on an opposition player during a game is construed as an act of courage bordering on patriotism. Boorish behaviour by players marred the Test series, while the Indian cricket establishment didn’t even caution the players.
It exploded into a major controversy only when Kohli, with absolutely no provocation, unleashed a torrent of abuse at a HT journalist. It then became too big for the BCCI to ignore. Things had to come to a head considering how the BCCI has conveniently ignored poor behaviour by influential players in the last three-four years.
Consider these: Praveen Kumar’s alleged street fight with a doctor in Meerut in 2008 and a spat with spectators in Port-of-Spain during the 2011 tour of the West Indies, Kohli’s on-field clash with Gautam Gambhir during an IPL match, his showing the middle finger to the heckling Australian crowd in 2012, his expletive-ridden response to the Mumbai crowd in an IPL game at the Wankhede stadium and his abusing a Bangladesh pacer Rubel Hossain in the opening match of the 2011 World Cup.
On numerous times, he has used the choicest of abuses every time he has reached a milestone. “We gave it back” seems to be BCCI’s interpretation of such behaviour instead of pulling up the player. As a result, Kohli has now become too big for the BCCI to crack the whip. Temperamental pacer S Sreesanth’s antics too were never seen as a concern by the board until he completely lost his way.
By contrast, other boards have reacted promptly to discipline players. Be it England stalwarts Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, Australia’s Andrew Symonds and David Warner, or Jesse Ryder of New Zealand, they were all strictly dealt with and censured.
The only time the BCCI showed the right intent was during the slapgate row of 2008. Harbhajan Singh was issued a stern warning by the then president Shanshank Manohar: “It is the last time I have dealt with such matter, you can’t be lucky another time.”
Gambhir elbowing bowler Shane Watson while going for a run in the 2008 Delhi Test resulted in his suspension from the last Test in Nagpur, a decision taken by the ICC match referee. More recently, Praveen Kumar was suspended for abusing Ajitesh Argal in a Corporate Trophy match in 2013, but it came out only after the media highlighted the umpire’s report.
Former India skipper Anil Kumble submitted a proposal to the BCCI in 2010 for teaching junior players how to handle the media and tone down their behaviour. But the BCCI saw it as a business pitch and didn’t show interest. The National Cricket Academy has not focused on the behavioural aspect.Instead of convincing players that ugly behaviour is not aggression, the BCCI has been led to believe that such boorishness merely reflects the attitude of the young, bold India.