Clayton Murzello: You did well out there, Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane's alacrity in trying to pacify Ishant Sharma during the fast bowler's clash with Matt Renshaw at Ranchi was commendable
Ishant Sharma celebrates with Virat Kohli after the dismissal Australian batsman Matt Renshaw during 5th day of third Test match in Ranchi on Monday. Pic/PTI
If one thought the Indian and Australian teams would provide far less fodder to the media by way of controversy at Ranchi, it was not to be.
Less talk of the Decision Review System (DRS) controversy was welcome, but Ishant Sharma couldn't control himself and nor could Virat Kohli on the last day of the drawn Test which kept the series open. No Aussie names? Well, according to Kohli, several of them gave him hell and even brought the Indian team's physiotherapist Patrick Farhat (an Australian, who knows the opposition players quite well) in their chatter.
Sure, the fans enjoy the needle which India-Australia ties lend themselves to, but the needle is turning out to be a sharp knife and therein lies the ugliness of it all. If on-field scraps add to the entertainment value of cricket, then we all might as well head to the movies.
Ishant was well within his rights to be cranky when Matt Renshaw pulled away as the bowler was about to deliver the ball. After all, a lot of thought and effort go into a delivery. Apparently, the Aussie opener did that because Murali Vijay had shifted from his fielding position and not because someone had disturbed him in the stands. Ishant threw the ball wide of Renshaw in frustration.
Steven Smith, of course supporting of Renshaw's action, was seen joining the conversation and then Ishant gained some support from Vijay. It was not pleasant and fortunately vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane quickly ran towards the bowler's end to calm down his fast bowler. More about Rahane later.
Ishant did well to stress out the southpaw through some fine, aggressive fast bowling and eventually trapped his man leg before wicket, so convincingly that it didn't need a review. He celebrated wildly and justifiably, but just like Bangalore, he didn't have many wickets to show in this Test. Though this series is played on tracks which suit the slow bowlers better, Ishant should have had more than just three in the wickets column at the end of the third Test. Smith insists this series is being played in good spirits, but it's hard to lap that up considering the number of controversies this contest has thrown up.
The rulers of the game must make it their business to act firmly on any action which makes the game ugly. Many pundits agree to red card and yellow cards coming into cricket, but unless punishment for poor behaviour eventuates in match bans and not fines, the cricket whites which the players adorn will continue to be an irony in the at times nasty world of Test cricket.
Cricket can still be played aggressively without abusive language, animated send-offs, and hands pointing towards the dressing room. Doubtless, it looks ghastly on television and players must realise they will not be proud of themselves when the footage gets beamed decades later. Yet, there are some who feel that this sort of aggression is entertaining.
The general belief is that the Australians are pioneers of in-the-face aggression. While that may be true, players from the rest of the world are no slouches either.
Ian Chappell is known as the king of the sledging and chatter game. He led a bunch of so called 'ugly Australians'. He doesn't go around defending himself too much, but when he wants to, he'll tell you that as captain, he was spoken to by umpires only twice in his Test career. One was when a fast bowler abused an opponent and the second time was when umpire Tom Brooks told him that his bowlers could not bowl bouncers to the injured Brian Lukhurst who came into bat at No 7 in England's second innings in the Perth Test of the 1974-75 Ashes.
Chappell got the issue about the abuse sorted out and though he indicated to umpire Brooks that he didn't agree with his ruling, he said, "You are in charge Tom. If you don't want any bouncers, he'll get no bouncers."
Back to Rahane's sprint to keep Ishant's temper in check on Monday. It reminded me of the video clip of Sunil Gavaskar walking out with Chetan Chauhan when he was adjudged leg before wicket by umpire Rex Whitehead at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1981. While Lillee pointing to Gavaskar's pad as the India captain objects to the decision is very visible, on the left of the frame is Greg Chappell ordering his fast bowler to stay away. That's what captains/senior players have to do before or during boiling point.
In some ways, this edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is a dream for a cricket lover. That both sides have been able to fight back after crushing defeats is great for the game that many believe is dying. The draw at Ranchi has set up an exciting finale. What we want to see in Dharamsala from Saturday is a struggle for every run and wicket and not Hollywood and Bollywood-like theatrics.
mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org