There is no doubt that this series can be compared, for pure acrimony, to the Bodyline series, writes Makarand Waingankar

To play aggressively and to be aggressive are two different things.

The gesticulations of teenagers Ishant Sharma in Australia and Tanmay Srivastav in the Under-19 World Cup semifinal and the repeated utterances of Mahendra Singh Dhoni at press conferences make one wonder whether cricket is undergoing a change.

The Indians seem to feel that to play aggressively one has to have an aggressive mindset and though this may have improved performance marginally, in the long run, one very vital aspect of the game — the spirit —will suffer. To some extent, it already has.

Verbal volleys

In the ongoing India-Australia series, not a week passed without verbal volleys on and off the field. The Match Referee and field umpires have had to work overtime to keep things under control.

There is no doubt this series can be compared, for pure acrimony, to the controversial Bodyline series. That the competitiveness in the series was going to be focussed more on sledging than on the game was evident when individual Indian players repeatedly warned they would retaliate if sledging crossed the limits.

To Australians, sledging is their birthright. They ensured the mental disintegration of the opponent with sledging. Now with the Code of Conduct and the Match Referees, with camera and stump microphones, on-field behaviour ought to have been controlled. But with the Board officials of participating countries letting the players indulge in misbehaviour, things are going from bad to worse.

The famous remark of Australia batsman Bill Woodfull in the Bodyline Series that there was “only one team playing in the spirit of the game” hurt the British at that time, and it hurt the Australians when Kumble said it after the second Test.

This is an example of rattling the opposition by quoting past remarks. But for that one expects cricketers to be well-read.

Modern theory

The modern theory of playing mindgames, encouraged by coaches on the domestic circuit, gives one the impression that no game is likely to be won without that. The coaches fine-tune those mindgames and, in fact, take pride in inventing them. The situation is very grim at the moment.

The worst part is young Indian cricketers seem to get carried away with the powerful standing of the BCCI in international cricket. It has become more and more apparent that in team as well as individual offences, India is far ahead of others. The way it’s going, there will come a time when the ICC will introduce a yellow and red card system in cricket.

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