Undoubtedly, it has been a surprisingly memorable series no one saw coming. An unfancied Australia were supposed to be a walkover for an impregnable India yet the series is deadlocked at its midpoint.
However, overshadowing the great on-field tussle is a festering ugly spat between the two hot-headed teams. Simmering tensions between the teams boiled over on several occasions during the Test and reared when Australian captain Steve Smith looked towards the dressing room late on day four of the second Test when contemplating a DRS in a self-confessed “brain fade”. Peter Handscomb, his batting partner, has taken the hit declaring he was to blame for urging Smith to sought opinion from the dressing room.
Several former Indian captains have weighed in and believe the Australian captain should be sanctioned, while Australian cricket figures are, inevitably, less forthright but concede Smith’s actions were mystifying.
In a provocative press conference after the Test, Indian captain Virat Kohli accused Australia of using dressing room guidance several times during the Test but stopped short of calling it ‘cheating’ – although one can read between the lines.
Even the respective cricket boards are getting involved. The nasty fallout has prompted James Sutherland, Cricket Australia chief executive, to defend Smith and the team’s integrity by declaring that the allegations were “outrageous”. The BBCI have predictably taken Kohli’s side but, much to their chagrin, Smith is expected to escape punishment.
— DNA (@dna) March 8, 2017
Relations haven’t been this bad between the powerhouse nations in almost a decade. Parallels have already been made to the ugly aftermath of the infamous 2008 SCG Test, where the ‘monkeygate’ scandal overshadowed a highly competitive series.
Smith has publicly apologised for his actions, which on face value seem out of character for the composed baby faced batsman. The 27-year-old has been likened to legendary Australian captain Allan Border, who serves as a template after doggedly guiding the team out of the doldrums in the mid-1980s through sheer willpower. Smith is in the early stages of trying to replicate Border’s hallowed deeds.
However, Smith shares an unwanted similar characteristic with Border, who had the moniker ‘Captain Grumpy’ during the dark days of Aussie cricket. Likewise, Smith finds it difficult to shield his emotions even though he’s been better at hiding his visible disgust when things go awry. In recent times, Smith has talked about the virtue of strong body language and setting the right example in the field for his young team, who he is trying to mould into his image.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) March 8, 2017
But Smith’s petulance returned in the second Test and his histrionics were noticeable, particularly when engaging in numerous stoushes with Kohli. Any way you spin it, Bengaluru was undoubtedly a setback with Smith unable to contain his emotions after being repeatedly pricked by Kohli et al.
Amid the hysteria, Kohli, ever pugnacious, has been whipping his team and fans into a frenzy in a desperate bid to shake off India’s surprising stupor. It is perhaps part of an Indian grand plan to unnerve Smith, who doubles as the team’s leader and best batsman magnified by brilliant Australian opener David Warner being totally befuddled by his tormentor Ravichandran Ashwin.
Pragmatic and savvy, Smith will learn from this and no doubt receive some words of wisdom from his coach Darren Lehmann. If he doesn’t regain his composure, then the Border-Gavaskar will almost surely return into Indian hands.