The Indian cricket team has won seven and lost four matches during their tour of South Africa with one T20 match to go. It has been a fairly successful tour for Virat Kohli’s team but the second T20 in Centurion, which the Indians lost, revealed previously unseen cracks within the set-up.
Three particular incidents during the second T20 have raised concerns about the dressing room atmosphere despite the Indian team enjoying a very good record across formats over the last season or so.
DHONI FLAYS PANDEY
The last person you would expect to lose his cool on the cricket field is wicket-keeper MS Dhoni. The glovesman has achieved pretty much everything as a captain and is now a senior member of the limited overs side. But during the final over of India’s first innings against South Africa, Dhoni tore into Pandey before taking strike as he felt Pandey was not being alert enough to go for the extra run or receive instructions from his partner.
Incidentally, Pandey scored 79 off 48 balls while Dhoni smashed the next three balls after that meltdown for six, four and four to end up with 52 off 28 balls. The video is quite painful to watch.
PANDYA AND KOHLI ADMONISH UNADKAT
In the 12th over of South Africa’s chase, South Africa captain JP Duminy flicked Hardik Pandya towards mid-wicket and scampered home for two. The fielder Jaydev Unadkat attacked the ball, picked it up and threw the ball towards the non-striker’s end.
However, for some reason, Pandya threw the ball away in disgust even though the fielder had done everything he could do to put the batsmen under pressure. Kohli also joined Pandya in admonishing the junior player.
PANDEY SAYS HE IS CRACKING UNDER PRESSURE
After India lost the match, Pandey attender the presser where he revealed his fragile state of mind, admitting the ongoing tour of South Africa has been particularly tough for him from a mental point of view as there is no certainty over his place in the side.
“Honestly, it’s a little tough and it works on your mind a lot. Especially on this tour I have felt it a lot actually,” Pandey said.
The middle order batsman then said, in jest, that he even had to consult a doctor. However, it is apparent Pandey is feeling the pressure as he is just a T20 batsman despite having a fine ODI record, scoring a fifty and a century in his first three 50-over outings.
India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin launched into an unexpected Twitter tirade on Monday, admonishing former South African cricketer Herschelle Gibbs as a match-fixer following a seemingly innocuous jibe by Gibbs on Ashwin’s running.
It started off when Gibbs replied to Ashwin’s tweet on his new pair of running shoes, joking that the Indian spinner should be able to run faster. The India cricketer shot back by saying while he is not as athletically gifted as Gibbs, at least he had “the ethical mind not to fix games which put food on my plate”.
That reply was pulled down by Ashwin after a severe backlash on social media, labelling it as just a joke. Ashwin was referring to the 2000 Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal in which Gibbs received a six-month ban.
This is the latest incident of Indian cricketers going on the offensive for no apparent reason. Here we list three other instances when current Indian players got into an unnecessary battle.
MS DHONI, WORLD T20 2016
After India exited the 2016 World T20 following a loss against the West Indies in Mumbai, the India wicketkeeper captain was asked by an Aussie journalist whether he was keen to play on. Since Dhoni had already retired from Test cricket abruptly and had turned 34 in 2016, it seemed a simple enough question.
But Dhoni, instead of answering the question or refusing to do so, invited the journalist to sit next to him and asked him if the scribe thought he is fit and should play until the 2019 World Cup. What made the interaction uncomfortable was Dhoni’s comment that he wanted the question to come from an India journalist so that he could ask if he had a “son or a brother who is a wicketkeeper” who could play in his stead. Dhoni was ready for a media war that day.
VIRAT KOHLI, CENTURION TEST 2018
One of the most combative instances involving the explosive batsman, Kohli refused to blame an inconsistent selection policy for the defeat in the second Test against South Africa in Centurion. Under Kohli’s captaincy, India have yet to field the same playing XI in Tests and after Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ajinkya Rahane – seemingly straightforward picks – were not selected for the crucial second Test, a question on team selection and the best playing XI saw Kohli lose his cool.
“If we had won this, was this the best 11? We don’t decide the 11 according to results. You are telling me that you could have played the best 11. You tell me the best 11 and we will play that,” Kohli said.
For the record, Kumar and Rahane returned to the playing XI in the next Test which India won.
RAVI ASHWIN, MUMBAI TEST 2016
During England’s tour of India in 2016, which ended in a 4-0 thrashing, England seamer James Anderson found himself in the middle of a verbal battle with Ashwin. The issue started when Anderson was asked during a presser whether Kohli’s technique had changed in the series, where he ended up scoring nearly 700 runs in five Tests. Anderson said his technique hadn’t been properly tested on docile Indian wickets. Kohli had earlier managed just 134 runs in five Tests in England in 2014 with Anderson his tormentor.
However, the next day when Anderson came out to bat, Ashwin greeted the Englishman with a few heated words and said he needs to “accept defeat as it is”. Ashwin was given an unofficial warning by umpires for his conduct.
Kohli packs quite a punch in his relatively small but muscular frame, outperforming players much bigger in size with his timing, fitness and running between the wickets. Though he doesn’t have the power of a Chris Gayle, David Warner or Chris Lynn, Kohli more than makes up for it with his ability to find gaps and convert good balls into boundaries.
While his 175cm frame doesn’t give him a lot of leverage, his placement and timing allow Kohli to maintain a high strike rate and average in all formats. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he is the only batsman to average more than 50 in all formats of the game.
Kiwi captain and prolific scorer Kane Williamson is of similar stature – 173cms – and the two batsmen have shown that bigger is not always better.