If one felt Munaf Patel’s conduct had reached its nadir earlier this Indian Premier League (IPL) season, his antics in the match against Kings XI Punjab came as a rude shock. The recent developments aren’t Munaf’s first indiscretions as he has a history of being involved in on-field spats.
In 2008, during a Sri Lanka-India One Day International (ODI) at Dambulla, he was fined 75% of his match fees for “using language that is obscene, offensive or of a seriously insulting nature to another player, umpire, referee, team official or spectator.” Umpire Gamini Silva had turned down an lbw appeal off Munaf’s bowling to which he responded with some unacceptable remarks. Although Munaf pleaded not guilty, he was penalised for his actions.
A few months down the line, Delhi lodged a complaint against Munaf (who was playing for Rest of India) for abusing their batsmen during the Irani Trophy game. What made this incident more unacceptable was the fact that one of the batsmen who was at the receiving end was Virender Sehwag – an India teammate. It did not matter to Munaf that such behaviour could potentially create bad blood and disrupt the harmony of the Indian team.
That indiscretion attracted a fine, but Munaf was not chastened. During the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2011, he was involved in an altercation with another India teammate - Amit Mishra. Although it isn’t clear who started the exchange, Munaf could have avoided the whole situation from building up. In fact, it reached a point where the umpires had to intervene and separate the two. Ultimately, Mishra had the last laugh as he smashed Munaf all over the park in that over and that was the difference between the two sides.
When he burst on to the international scene in 2006, his rise drew comparisons to the central figure in the famous Bollywood movie Iqbal – the only significant difference being that the protagonist in that film was deaf and dumb. However, it was the story of the son of a farmer from a small village who dared to pursue his dreams of bowling fast that caught the imagination of the people. If the movie was a fairytale, here was a living example that dreams do come true.
It is this remarkable journey that makes Munaf an inspiration for many in India. Thousands of boys in distant corners of the country look up to him and dream of emulating him. He symbolises the hope of people from small towns or villages that anything is possible and such incidents spoil the beauty of it all.
Munaf's offensive gestures were directed at Nitin Saini, a young batsman who is striving to make a mark in the IPL. It is a huge opportunity for players like him to rub shoulders with some of the international stars. If he can perform well against them, it is a huge confidence boost and it becomes a memorable moment. However, his good cricket shots off Munaf were met with “pleasantries” from the bowler. As a senior India player, it is Munaf’s duty to set an example for the younger domestic players who are aiming for bigger things in their careers. With the outburst, Munaf may have lost the respect of a few players and the next time they may not shy away from the duel.
If one looks at the current standings in the Fairplay table, Mumbai Indians find themselves languishing at the bottom. The shameful incident during the game against Deccan and the latest Munaf flare-up are chiefly responsible for the unwanted distinction. A player or two may commit acts in contravention to the spirit of the game, but the whole team’s reputation is at stake. And its because of people like Munaf, Sachin Tendulkar – someone who has been the epitome of gentlemanly behaviour – finds himself in a team that stands last in fairplay.
Such incidents do not reflect well on the entire Mumbai Indians team. The other players haven’t been involved in any showdowns and yet have to share the burden of Munaf’s and Harbhajan’s actions.
In 2009, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) gave a warning to S Sreesanth that he better behave or face suspension from domestic cricket. This came in the backdrop of his offensive behaviour during an Irani Trophy game. After numerous instances of indiscipline, the BCCI had enough of Sreesanth’s antics and took the necessary step to give him a kind of a ‘final’ warning.
Munaf’s disciplinary report card is out in the open and it doesn’t make a very good read. Is it time for the BCCI to warn him too?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)