Friday, 3 May 2013

IPL 6: Both Mumbai Crowd and Kohli overreacted

This first appeared on Cricket Tadka

They had booed when Sachin was dismissed after crawling his way to a tardy 1 after batting for 34 long minutes. They didn’t spare Yuvraj when he did a Jonty to deny the MI a last ball victory. And now, it was Kohli’s turn.

The Mumbai crowd, a traditionally miffy one, apparently took offence when a Kohli direct hit had Rayudu scrambling for space to make it back in time to the bowler’s end. Pollard had hit the Vinay Kumar delivery to the cover region, and Kohli effected a direct hit. There was an ugly tangle involving Rayudu, and Kumar who was backing up the throw, and a grappling Rayudu failed to get his bat back in time. The collision was without a hint of doubt unintentional, as Vinay Kumar had his back towards Rayudu. Rayudu was, incidentally, yet to face a delivery.

Kohli went ahead with the appeal, and the television umpire had no hesitation in ruling Rayudu out. And this did not go down very well with the Mumbai crowd.

The dismissal was, as such, a fairly legitimate one. Kumar was in no position to be aware of the fact that he was obstructing Rayudu. But the fans were in no mood to relent, and started firing a barrage of jeers towards a cornered Kohli, and possibly even called him “cheater”.

The hapless star, a no-nonsense player who is all for giving-it-back-to-them, found himself in unfamiliar territory when he realised that he was not in a position to retort here, or fling out the middle finger.

Chants of ‘cheater, cheater’ reverberated throughout the stadium when he was out in the middle, and the crowd tried to get on his nerves throughout the match. And the jeering was at its loudest when Harsha Bhogle called him up for the post match presentation. Having put restraining orders on himself throughout the match, he now let his heart out.

Here is what he had to say:

“I don’t know what is wrong with people in this venue. It feels a bit weird because at the end of the day you play for India and you don’t come here to be hated.”

“It has happened to a few players in the past as well. I don’t know why they get so worked up during IPL. IPL is not the end of the world. They forget that the players they are booing for also play for their country.”

“It is only creating hatred among the players. When I come back and play for India, they are going to cheer for me. It doesn’t work that way.”

The Indian fans go more by emotions than by reason. Passion runs high in any match involving India, or any Indian cricketer for that matter. And if the fans blurt out their sentiments, one should, maybe, take it in his stride. And after all, if there is a concept of home teams and away teams in the IPL, fans are going to make life difficult for the visiting side. As is the case with international matches, the entailing hostility of an ‘away’ crowd is an associated sidebar.

Maybe it is because I am a staunch Kohli fan, but the booing on the part of the Mumbai crowd was a tad over the line. True, Kohli himself has anger management issues, and is all for settling scores rather than laugh things off. The incident in Sydney also made evident the fact that he is not bogged down by such crowd behaviour.

On the other hand, Kohli also didn’t handle the situation perfectly. By responding to an attention seeking crowd, Kohli ensured that he will be targeted again by the Wankhede crowd when he comes to play there next time. And the “I play for India” argument doesn’t go down well considering Kohli’s spat with his India team mate Gautam Gambhir the other day.

But he is only 24 and a long career ahead of him. Aggressive that he is, he is bound to feel miffed when he is booed in his own country. In fact, that is what anyone would have felt, though whether or not they would have talked about it is a different matter.

As far as the crowd goes, the craze for IPL is by no means comparable to the loyalty for the national side. IPL is, one would say, still a fledgling league and crowd loyalties are not so well-formed that warrants such booing of a national superstar. It was, in all probability, an attempt to get under Kohli’s skin that took an ugly turn. And one should remember, this was the crowd that once booed Sachin.

And the crowd made their ignorance of the rules of the game clear if they chanted ‘cheater’ even with an iota of conviction. The run-out, as pointed earlier, was a perfectly legitimate one and blame lies on Rayudu to have not looked where he was headed, for Vinay Kumar was in no position to know that he stood in the way.

What happened that night was unfortunate. It was an ignorant and only partly emotional reaction of a crowd that was whimsical to say the least, choosing to act on the spur of the moment. Kohli was correct in pointing out whatever he felt, for he has made it pretty evident that he lives and dies by playing for his nation. And if he gets back such response from his own countrymen, then he is bound to explode.


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