A boorish byplay in the ongoing IPL cricket season was an ugly spat between two very senior personalities of Indian cricket. Virat Kohli, former Indian captain and iconic player of the modern era, was pitted against Gautam Gambhir, former opening batter and current Member of Parliament, Both of them were docked 100 per cent of their match fee running into crores of rupees, besides which there was a 50 per cent fine for Naveen-ul-Haq, the Afghan pace bowler, who became embroiled with Kohli in what could so easily have descended into a physical brawl in the arena.
After the fracas, Kohli quoted the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and his take on truth and perception though the combative cricketer who wears his heart on his sleeve is the farthest removed from being a Stoic philosopher. It was always believed that while Kohli could bat like a dream, he could also, and not just on occasion, behave like a brat. Opposed to him in the IPL brawl was another personality who could boil over instantly, so prone he has been to look for incendiary situations.
The IPL may be considered more an entertainment industry than a pristine competitive sport. But the league has been about the only cricket that many of its millions of fans and acolytes know and follow intently. Given such a scenario, it ill behoves senior players to get into slanging matches on the field. It was shocking then to see two cricketers, looked up to as role models for young players, entangled in arguments beyond the boundary rope.
In days of yore, cricket used to pride itself in being referred to as the gentlemen’s game, and which didn’t see the need for a written code of conduct until it ran into the professional era when attitudes hardened, and players began sledging each other freely on the field. Hitting them in the pocket is still considered the best way to discipline the transgressors. But these two distinguished personalities — Kohli who plays the game in an excessively animated and demonstrative manner that makes the game an ugly spectacle and Gambhir, a team mentor who is quick tempered — need to be told to cut out the theatrical stuff lest the good name of the game be sullied.