NEW DELHI: A leading Indian commentator has hit out at the “toxicity” blighting the series against Australia, and called for both sides to show restraint before the winner-takes-all final Test begins Saturday. Harsha Bhogle fears that the glorification of aggressive on-field behaviour by media on both sides and passions boiling over could harm Test cricket’s reputation with the series on a knife-edge at 1-1.
The latest barbs have seen India skipper Virat Kohli dubbed “the Donald Trump of sport” in one Australian newspaper and former Test bowler Geoff Lawson accusing Kohli of acting like “your worst behaved player”. India’s newspapers fired back with the Hindustan Times accusing Australian media of a relentless “hate campaign” throughout the series.
“Friends in Australia tell me they are perturbed by the toxicity this series has generated. Cricket lovers in India saying so too,” Bhogle said on Twitter. “If we have to use toxicity and divisiveness to spread our game, we are using a short-term approach that can only be harmful,” added the veteran Indian TV cricket analyst.
“I am particularly perturbed by the fact that some of us in the media are promoting this divisiveness and taking sides to spread ill-will.” Tensions have been ramped up since Kohli stopped just short of accusing Australian captain Steve Smith of cheating in the aftermath of the second Test in Bangalore, which India won to level the series at 1-1.
The rancour was inflamed in the drawn third Test in Ranchi as Australia batted out the fifth day for a draw and allrounder Glenn Maxwell was accused of mocking Kohli’s shoulder injury. Now the Daily Telegraph newspaper says Kohli is behaving like a bully and accused the Indian cricket board and match officials of letting him get away it. “Kohli has become the Donald Trump of world sport,” Ben Horne wrote in his column in the Daily Telegraph.
“The Indian captain is a law unto himself with no one – not even the ICC or his own board – holding him accountable for his continual perpetuation of fake news.” Horne was referring to Kohli’s assertion, without offering evidence, that Smith’s look up to the dressing room for guidance in Bangalore over whether to review an lbw decision was not a one-off.
The ICC brought Smith and Kohli together for a clear-the-air meeting after that Test, where Smith claimed the incident was a “brain fade”. And Lawson slated the Indian skipper for not displaying enough maturity. “As a leader and as a captain of a cricket team where you’ve got lots of responsibilities, you’ve got to show more gravitas and responsibility than this. These sorts of actions are those of your worst behaved player,” he told Fox Sports.
Bhogle said it was time the media stopped fanning the flames before lasting damage was done to Test cricket.
“A lot of us entered this profession because we love sport and had the opportunity to talk/write about it. We didn’t enter to spread toxicity,” he tweeted. – AFP