Sledging was far-off, in fact there were no stares after a bouncer was bowled, no animated celebration by any bowler or batsman, not even a sarcastic banter. Rahul went on to wish good luck to youngster Cameron Green for his international debut and urged him to “go well”.
The heat of the bygone years was gone and the viewers sorely missed the battles on the field. It was as if the bowler bowled, the batsman batted and it was business as usual for both.
The Test series might be different, though. Be it the Monkeygate drama (2008), the Virat Kohli-Mitchell Johnson war of words (in 2014-15), the Kohli-Steve Smith skirmish (in 2014-15), the Kohli-Tim Paine on-field exchange (in 2018-19), the Sydney Test (in 2008) in which Indian captain Anil Kumble went on record and said that only one side respected the spirit of the game or the angry altercation between Michael Slater and Rahul Dravid (in 2001), Test matches between the two teams have often seen tempers flare and temperatures rise.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if with the players getting baked in the sun a couple of more hours each day, the Test matches get a little fiery,” Australian vice-captain Pat Cummins said a few days back.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who was the man of the series during India’s victorious 2018-19 Test series in Australia, is of the opinion that “sledging is overrated and irrelevant”. “I don’t think you can win too many battles with sledging,” was Pujara’s quintessential reply, downplaying the role of any war of words between the two teams.
Youngster Shubman Gill, on the other hand, has said the team has “plenty of great moves in store” to counter Australia’s sledging challenge.
David Warner, before injuring his groin adductor muscle, had categorically stated that he won’t respond to any sledging attempts even if Virat Kohli’s men try to wind him up with verbal taunts. The Indian Premier League (IPL) is considered to be a big factor in the Australians not going overboard these days. Several Aussie players, including Warner, are an integral part of the IPL now. Therefore, even if they want to get stuck into someone, at the back of their mind they know that in a few months they’ll share the same team bus. For the fans, however, the fun does get sucked out.
“IPL has made the situation between teams better. But it’s never fun to see. It shouldn’t be so over-friendly like the white-ball leg. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a bit of chirping. You still want to see that competitiveness,” Ajit Agarkar said.
If at all the Aussies sledge, it may be left to the players who aren’t part of the IPL currently to take up the onus. Test skipper Tim Paine is one such member.
“All the players who play in the IPL, whether it is (Steve) Smith, (David) Warner or (Pat) Cummins, none of them are going to fight now. Tim Paine does not play, he knows that he is not going to come to India, he does not have anything to do with the IPL, so he can confront the Indians,” reckoned Mohammad Kaif.