When Virat Kohli’s finger made the news

In the recent times, Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) has seen some memorable Tests featuring India. Sourav Ganguly’s men came close to winning the Test in 2003-04, but a defiant Australian captain Steve Waugh came in the way, in what was his last innings in international cricket. India drew the series but held their heads high.

The next time, India played at SCG, was in 2007-08, the match was marred by a controversy that went on to be famously known as the ‘Monkeygate’. The involved individuals were Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds, and the match will also be remembered for several controversial umpiring decisions that went against India’s way. India went on to lose the Test that they could have won and the relationship between the both the sides got to an all-time low, with the visitors even considering ‘calling-off’ the tour.

In 2011-12, another controversy followed, that went on to be named as ‘Fingergate’ scandal. India were outplayed in the first Test at Melbourne. It was the fifth consecutive defeat they had suffered outside home. Virat Kohli, then 23, had scored 11 and 0 in Melbourne and could manage only 23 in the first innings at Sydney. On the second day, Australia were racing away with the game with Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting building a formidable partnership.

Everything was already going wrong for the hot-headed Indian batsman, and things turned worse when, Kohli, who was fielding at the boundary-line for a long period of time lost his cool, after being constantly abused by the crowd. In disgust, he stuck out his middle finger at his hecklers.

Unfortunately for Kohli, this infamous act was caught on camera and the ruthless Australian media heavily criticised it. The Melbourne Age labelled Kohli’s offensive gesture as ‘Fingergate’, as they reported:

“Four years after the so-called Monkeygate scandal, India is embroiled in another SCG row after Virat Kohli made a rude gesture yeterday (Tuesday). It’s the latest controversy to dog India this tour and comes just days after the visitors felt they were snubbed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard outside Kirribilli House before an official function.”

Kohli defended himself with a tweet, “i agree cricketers don’t have to retaliate. what when the crowd says the worst things about your mother and sister. the worst I’ve heard (sic)”, and also found support in English batsman Kevin Pietersen and Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan.

Pietersen tweeted, “ha ha ha ha ha!!! Welcome to Australia buddy!!” To which Kohli replied: “never heard crap like that. EVER”

While Bachchan tweeted, “Just ignore criticism… It’s there so you can prove it wrong! you are great humans… We adore you! Play well we are with you.”

Kohli’s gesture cost him 50% of his match fee. The level two charge was laid by the match referee Sri Lanka’s Ranjan Madugalle on the third morning of the Test. What’s worse is Kohli’s ‘hate’ relationship continues with the crowd. Three years later, in the ongoing Sydney Test, Kohli, now India’s captain, was jeered by Australian fans on the fourth day after he failed to complete a difficult and couldn’t save the boundary.

 

Virat-Kohli-then-now

 

Kohli with his over aggressive behaviour continues to add to the ire of the Australians and earlier, in tour he was quoted:

“I like playing against Australia because it’s very hard for them to stay calm. I don’t mind. I will give it on the field. It really excites me and brings the best out in me. They don’t seem to be learning the lesson.

They were calling me a spoilt brat and I said ‘Maybe that’s the way I am — I know you guys hate me and I like that’. So I don’t mind having a chat on the field and it worked in my favour, I guess.”

 

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)