Melbourne, March 9: India skipper Virat Kohli’s slamming of Australian captain Steven Smith for apparently seeking Australian dressing room’s signal about asking for Decision Review Syestem (DRS) was further fuelled after both the cricket boards and former greats sided with their captains.
During the second Test in Bengaluru, Kohli and Smith were involved in a heated exchange during Australia’s second innings after Smith was adjudged lbw by the umpire off an Umesh Yadav delivery.
Smith appeared gesturing towards the Australian dressing room, apparently seeking advice before deciding whether to invoke the DRS against the umpire’s ruling.
That prompted Kohli to challenge Smith, resulting in an altercation between the duo.
But there was some respite for the two captains after the International Cricket Committee (ICC) announced that it would not take any action against Kohli and Smith for their actions during the second Test.
“The ICC has considered both incidents in the context of this match and concluded it will be taking no further action against either player,” the ICC said in a statement.
Pointing out that the players were emotionally charged up during a highly competitive game, ICC Chief Executive David Richardson stressed that match officials and the captains of both teams must try to avoid such situations during the next Test in Ranchi.
“We have just witnessed a magnificent game of Test cricket where players from both teams gave their all and emotions were running high during and after the match,” Richardson said.
28-year-old Kohli had on Tuesday stopped just short of accusing the visitors of cheating, claiming that they had repeatedly looked to the dressing room for DRS advice, which Smith defended by terming it a “brain fade”.
“There’s a line that you don’t cross on the cricket field, sledging and playing against the opponents is different. I don’t want to mention the word, but it falls into that bracket. I would never do something like that on the cricket field,” Kohli said, adding that he had approached the match referee to oppose Smith’s gesturing to the Dressing Room whether to seek DRS.
Kohli’s comments drew sharp criticism from the Australian side with Sutherland outrightly rejecting the charge against Smith as “outrageous”. “I find the allegations questioning the integrity of Steve Smith, the Australian Team and the dressing room, outrageous,” Sutherland said.
“Steve is an outstanding cricketer and person, and role model to many aspiring cricketers and we have every faith that there was no ill-intent in his actions.”
“We reject any commentary that suggests our integrity was brought into disrepute or that systemic unfair tactics are used, and stand by Steve and the Australian Cricketers who are proudly representing our country,” he added.
It was then that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) released a detailed statement urging the ICC to intervene after Sutherland’s “outrageous” comment.
Former Aussie skipper Steve Waugh also came to Smith’s defence, saying: “It was a fantastic Test match. It’s a shame we are focussing on one incident. I would go with what Steve has said. I would take him on face value.”
“The best part was umpires stepped in and stopped at then and there. Looking back, Smith will be embarrassed and must have learnt a lesson,” Waugh added.
The BCCI also leaped to Kohli’s defence and requested the ICC to take cognizance of the fact that Smith in his press conference admitted to a “brain fade” at that moment about seeking DRS.
“The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after due deliberation and seeing the video replays of the episode steadfastly stands with the Indian cricket team and its captain Virat Kohli,” the board said in a statement.
“Virat Kohli is a mature and seasoned cricketer and his conduct on the field has been exemplary.”
“Kohli’s action was supported by ICC Elite Panel Umpire Nigel Llong, who rushed in to dissuade Steve Smith from taking recourse to inappropriate assistance,” it further read.
Kohli also received due support from India legends like Kapil Dev and V.V.S. Laxman for asking the Aussies to play the game in the right spirit.
“Also, it was so disappointing seeing Australian team’s captain behaviour on field today (Tuesday). Totally against the spirit of this game,” the 1983 World Cup winning skipper Dev, tweeted on Tuesday.
Laxman on his handle wrote: “Really disappointed with the way @stevesmith49 looked @ the dressing room 2 take a review. Totally against the spirit of the game.”
Tensions had already escalated with Steve O’Keefe now under the scrutiny of match referee for celebrating up close and personal, after dismissing Pujara, who had been dropped earlier by Simth. That brought O’Keefe rebuke from both on-field umpires.
Kohli was himself under the -pump being, under review for his angry reaction to his controversial dismissal.
The flashpoint came when Kohli failed to have his dismissal overturned by the video umpire. He had challenged Llong’s call but replays failed to prove his case conclusively, as Australians smirked.
“The skipper’s angry again,” Smith jibed, just before Kohli left the crease, to which a furious Kohli pointed the bottom edge of his bat to the crowd and exchanged terse words with fans as he left the field.
But Kohli did have his last laugh after Pujara was dropped by Smith and Pujara made the most of it. India won the second Test by 75 runs to level the four-match series 1-1 following a second innings collapse of Australia to a mere 112 runs.
Australians squandered a golden opportunity and India bounced back to square the series 1-1.
feature image @AP