Partisan media wades into a cricketing battle

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Selectively leaked footage spices up already bubbling contest

The drum-rolls heralding off-field battles have begun. Cricketing tussles in Australia often blend the sweat and strife on the turf with the excess scrutiny and bombast across sections of television and print media.

Just as India was basking in the afterglow of the triumph in the first Test at Adelaide, visuals were beamed about the no-balls that Ishant Sharma bowled, and which weren’t caught by the on-field umpires. The Indian spearhead also suffered the ignominy of missing out on two additional wickets as one review revealed that he had over-stepped while an LBW appeal proved to be an exercise in agony as the on-field umpire signalled a no-ball.

The fresh revelation about no-balls that slipped under the official radar triggered a ‘we-got-you’ insinuation among a section of the local papers. Interestingly, Virat Kohli was asked about Ishant’s propensity to over-step, both after the Adelaide Test and ahead of the second match at Perth. The first time he was probed, Kohli was patient but once the inquisition found a repeat act at the Optus Stadium, there was a touch of exasperation but he still politely answered the query.

A pattern emerges

If the scrutiny around Ishant was seen as a one-off, a pattern soon emerged when footage that can embarrass the visiting team, was selectively leaked to correspondents. The latest is the video doing the rounds about Ishant and Ravindra Jadeja locked in a heated argument, exchanging expletives and one that did not make for pretty viewing. The Indian team management subsequently clarified that what was seen, had happened in the heat of the moment and there was nothing divisive beyond that.

With Australia having won the second Test, a contest marred by constant sledging from both teams and the exaggerated angry reactions from Kohli, there is a perception that more stealthy-footage gifted to the embedded media, could worm its way into the public discourse. It would be unfair if this acoustic mayhem takes the sheen away from an intensely fought Test series. The games at Adelaide and Perth both lasted into the fifth day and had gripping sessions.

Kohli, in the centre-stage both for his incandescent batting and abrasive aggression, however, sought to ignore the cameras, which are revelatory at times, and awkwardly intrusive when nationalism seeps into the narrative.

Irrelevant

Asked about whether he is conscious of all this scrutiny, the Indian skipper said: “With the stump microphone, cameras and all these things, honestly when the bowler is bowling you aren’t thinking whether the stump microphone is on or the camera is on.

“When you are facing that ball, literally there is no one in the stadium apart from you and that ball. So, these things are totally irrelevant, and you are actually not aware of them when you are on the field. It has never bothered me, and it’s never been something that’s of importance to me to be honest. For me it’s irrelevant.”

Incidentally, the 10th anniversary of the ‘Monkeygate’ controversy involving Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds, is playing out as a documentary on some local channels and there have been a few caustic lines floating on Twitter.

Hopefully when the cricket resumes through the third Test at Melbourne from December 26, both teams would watch their behaviour on the field and change could start with the rival leaders Kohli and Tim Paine. May be the cameras too can focus on the sport instead of attempting to dig dirt, especially pertaining to the visiting team. This current series deserves that.

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