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Spat gets serious, Dravid Mr Cool

Welcome back to real cricket, fierce, competitive and now, controversial. What's an India-Pakistan series without its fair share of vituperative comments, sledging and an exchange of heated words?

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 03:07 IST

Welcome back to real cricket, fierce, competitive and now, controversial. What's an India-Pakistan series without its fair share of vituperative comments, sledging and an exchange of heated words?

For many cricket fans, there was an overdose of "Dosti" and "Friendship" during India's last visit to Pakistan in 2004, after a gap of 14 years. That was a historic series that broke the political stalemate between the two countries. This time around, the theme is pure cricket.

And Indo-Pak cricket also means frayed tempers and letting off steam once in a while.

But as long as the acrimony is restricted to verbal duels and the feeling of being wronged does not spill over and take political overtones, a bit of banter and even anger is healthy.

A day after Inzamam-ul-Haq accused the Indians of acting against the spirit of the game by appealing against him for obstructing the field (which led to his dismissal), Rahul Dravid chose to retaliate. At the Pindi cricket stadium, where the Indians had their first feel of the ground after resting two days, Dravid read out a statement in which he defended his team. He even went to the extent of saying, "We can make an issue of this but don't want to do so keeping the context of the series in mind."

Inzamam had also accused Dravid of being "unsporting" in making the appeal. Dravid, in his brief statement, said there was nothing unsporting about the appeal and "we had talked to the match referee and the two umpires about it" and were told they had not broken the spirit of the game.

Going back to the incident in the Peshawar match, where Suresh Raina's throw at the striking end had caught Inzamam a couple of yards out of his crease and the batsman had blocked the ball with his bat, it is clear that the Pakistan captain was at fault. Not knowing the laws that govern the game is no excuse.

It only shows him in poor light. He was clearly violating the law and the Indians were well within their right to appeal. And so were the umpires, who gave him out.

By choosing to make these strong comments in his column, it is Inzamam who is raising a controversy that could lead to the two teams sledging each other even more.

This sledging began in the Faisalabad Test, where Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi were seen exchanging words with Irfan Pathan.

No one knows exactly what was said but one version is that Afridi told Pathan, who, at that time was hitting the ball well:

"Ga$#@ tera ball toh wicket tak pahaunchta nahi hai, aur tu batting kar raha hai, loosely translated as "Expletive, your ball does not reach the wicket (you have become so slow) and now you are hitting the ball."

At that time Dravid had reacted in the press conference and said, "Care should be taken that the situation does not go out of control". But that was on-field sledging.

What Inzamam has done is to spark controversy, which one hopes dies down here and both sides now bury the hatchet and get on with the game.

The Pakistanis need to be reminded that in 1997, when Pakistan toured India, a somewhat similar decision had threatened to mar that series.

It was in Kolkata 1999, where Sachin Tendulkar, while taking a run, had collided with Shoaib Akhtar while Nadeem Khan's throw from the boundary line had hit the stumps.

When the ball hit the stumps, Tendulkar, because of that collision, had lost his balance and his bat was not inside the crease.

The Pakistanis appealed and in accordance with the laws of the game he was given out.

The Indians had reacted strongly, the crowd had got incensed and the match was stopped.

The next day, the game was played in an empty stadium in order to complete the game without any disturbance from spectators.

In Peshawar, nothing of that sort happened and the crowd, so engrossed in the match, did not disturb play. Such incidents do happen in sport and at times, players do react strongly.

But as long as this war is fought only with words, all this aggression should be deemed a "healthy letting out of pent-up emotions". One hopes this is the last we have heard on this issue.

First Published: Feb 10, 2006 01:54 IST