Taking exception to Sunil Gavaskar’s recent comments on his team, Australian skipper Ricky Ponting launched a no-holds-barred counter-attack on Sunday, labelling the Indian batting legend a hypocrite and stopping just short of asking him to mind his own business.
Gavaskar had said that Ricky Ponting’s side was unpopular because of their “awful” on-field behaviour. He said not only fellow competitors, but also the followers of the game were “gladdened” after Australia lost five consecutive matches to England and New Zealand.
Ponting clearly was not amused by Gavaskar's tirade and launched a scathing counter-attack. “I don’t know if there are too many popular winners. If you are really dominating teams for a long period of time, I don’t think you’’ll have many supporters.”
He asked Gavaskar to introspect and analyse the way India played their cricket. “We all know the way he played his cricket, don’t we? If he is talking about us, what about the way India have played their cricket over the last few years.”
Ponting then pointed to India’s miserable Test record in 2006, when they won just three out of the 12 Tests they played, while Australia enjoyed an unbeaten run. “I know who I would rather be going to watch. Have a look at how many Test matches they have won,” he said.
He laid the blame for India’s poor record on Gavaskar. “He (Gavaskar) has been a big part of that, he has been a selector and he has been on the coaching committee. They might want to look at the way they play their own cricket.”
Ponting reminded Gavaskar of his attempt to drag opening partner Chetan Chauhan from the MCG during a Test in 1981. “I don’t mind if ‘Mr Perfect’ goes on about our team. We are not going to keep everyone happy. But for some of these guys that have done it all themselves, it’s pretty high and mighty for them to say that.
"I know it (on-field behaviour) is something we pay a lot of attention to. But for him to go on about behaviour, not many captains have dragged their teams off the field, either.”
Gavaskar strikes back
Reacting to Ponting’s diatribe, Sunil Gavaskar on Monday justified labelling the Australian team’s behaviour as “awful” over the last decade and said that someday, “a hot-headed guy” might actually “whack the one (Australian) who abuses him”.
Speaking on ESPN’s Breakfast Show Taking Guard — to be aired at 8 am on Tuesday — the Indian legend stuck to his guns and underlined the behavioural differences between the current Australian side and the West Indies’ teams of the 1970s and ’80s.
“The West Indians were popular winners, there was affection about their players despite the fact that they were beating you in three days. They did not abuse their opponents. (Even) when they were dominating world cricket, the West Indians did not resort to personal abuse — they just played the game hard and there was nothing untoward in their behaviour,” said Gavaskar.
Clarifying his 1981 MCG walkout, Gavaskar said, “The reason the walk-off took place was simply because I was abused by the Australians. Some day, (a more) hot-headed guy might actually get down and whack the one who abuses him,” he added.
“If the Australians use this kind of language in a bar, would they get away with it? …There’s the example of the late David Hookes.” (Hookes was killed after a blow to his head during a bar brawl).
Gavaskar also reacted to personal remarks made at him by Ponting. “To what he said about the way I played my cricket, I do not know what he’s looking at. And when he talks about India, we are not talking about winning matches here; we are talking about the behaviour.”