Even as the Indian team registered a 57-run win to clinch the seven-match One-Day International (ODI) series 3-2 against Australia in Bangalore, a couple of on-field antics that could have easily been avoided, will be hard to ignore. In the name of sledging and unsettling the opponent, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina treaded a path they shouldn’t have, when they mocked Shane Watson’s hamstring pull during the latter’s batting. Prakash Govindasreenivasan questions whether the continued success is giving unnecessary liberties to the current ‘young brigade’ and if the Indian duo were guilty of crossing the line.
Australia, for a long period of time, have lived with the reputation of the ‘keepers’ of sledging. Their ability to imbibe the tactic into their game for decades made them look like artists even on unpleasant occasions. They were the true masters of rattling the opposition without bowling a single ball or playing a single shot to the boundary. Consider India and one would hardly see roots of sledging. Over the years, the team has gradually built into a strong force, shedding their timid outlook towards the game.
Yet, it is very hard to recollect even a single instance where an Indian cricketer would have crossed the line and sparked a sledge-fest. There was never an attack-first tactic employed and hardly would they retaliate to the effect that it would spiral into something uglier. Even the rarest of the incidents would have occurred in a high-voltage India-Pakistan encounter.
On Saturday, however, the realms and boundaries of sledging were uncharacteristically crossed when Shikhar Dhawan pretended to limp — when Shane Watson was batting — mocking at the injury Watson picked up earlier during the Indian innings, which forced the Australian to leave the field.
Sledging has never really been defined. The boundaries were never drawn but it was a given that, despite all the spirited heat-of-the-moment reactions, both sets of players will always showcase mutual respect and admiration for one another and uphold the true values of a team sport. Hence, any outburst was only momentary and not a well-thought-out act directed deliberately towards the opposition. Dhawan’s ‘limping act’ however cannot be put in that bracket. He stooped to unexpected lows by mocking an opposition player’s injury while the game was still on.
Watson, who was clearly not amused by these mimics, was seen shaking his head in disgust and pointing his bat towards the fielder and uttering a few words. With Dhawan continuing to irk Watson by not backing down, MS Dhoni had to intervene and put an end to the episode by sending Dhawan to field in the deep.
Just when one thought the incident was done and the focus was back on the chase and the defence, Suresh Raina took centre stage. He made a diving attempt to field and the ball struck him on his knee. While replays did suggest that the ball left a bruise, he too went overboard with his reactions as he was seen limping. Even though the players on the field didn’t react to Raina’s antics, the spectators did burst into laughter seeing him limping in a similar fashion as Dhawan did.
A lot of nasty words are often exchanged between players but never before has one seen a player being openly mocked at during the game. While looking at this, one tends to wonder if the recent success and well-being of the Indian ODI side is getting to their heads? While it is true that there is a clear transition in the fact that the story of Indian cricket is no more a simple script with a few silent, dedicated gentlemen who take the field purely to play the sport and let their game do the talking.
The current era is one that has a young, vibrant Indian side. An astute leader at the helm and supremely talented and spirited bunch of youngsters to fill in; it’s a team that has the hunger to take any challenge head on. While that feature is a welcome change, the fact that they could go overboard with their attempt at intimidating the opposition should not be taken lightly.