Former Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar has called out the Indian team management for the preferential treatment it extends to certain players. In his column for the Sportstar magazine, Gavaskar took the team management by horns when he pointed out how skipper Virat Kohli was allowed to leave Australia citing paternity leave after the first Test but pacer T Natarajan was forced to stay as a ‘net bowler’ to be part of the Indian contingent after becoming a father during the IPL 2020 playoff.
“The left-arm yorker specialist who made an impressive debut in the T20 and had Hardik Pandya gallantly offering to share the man of the T20 series prize with him had become a father for the first time even as the IPL playoffs were going on. He was taken to Australia directly from the UAE and then looking at his brilliant performances, he was asked to stay on for the Test series but not as a part of the team but as a net bowler. Imagine that,” said Sunil Gavaskar.
Virat Kohli had conveyed to BCCI before the tour began that he would return to India after the first Test to attend the birth of his first child with his wife Anushka Sharma.
However, after India lost the Adelaide Test rather miserably by folding on the paltry score of 36 (India’s lowest ever in Tests ) in the second innings, calls were raised by former players that Kohli should have not abandoned the post when his team needed him the most.
However, this is where the line needs to be drawn by the ex-cricketers as well. Nobody can doubt Kohli’s commitment for he is the same man who at the tender age of 18 played for his Ranji State Team, a day after his father died. Kohli turned up on the overnight score of 40 smashed a 90 runs inning to save his team from a follow on.
The birth of a child is an incredibly special moment and no father should be forced to stay away from the miracle of life. Kohli deserves the paternity leave and if it wasn’t for the Coronavirus pandemic, he might have even returned for the third Test. The strict quarantine protocols of Australia would have meant that he would have been available only after the Test match series ended. Thus, he is justified to take leave.
It is not entirely sure if T Natarajan was forced to stay on the tour against his wishes or he chose to stay back. The outsiders can only speculate but when a legend of Indian cricket raises the question, it certainly requires some thinking. After all, Gavaskar is the closest person that can understand the politics of the Indian team and BCCI, for he has been an integral part of it in the past.
Lately, there have been enough instances to paint a picture that favouritism and discriminatory behaviour has seeped into the Indian cricketing setup. From the unceremonious removal of Anil Kumble from the post of Indian coach to the repeated news of rift between Kohli and Rohit Sharma, the examples are aplenty. Add to it the selection debacles by the BCCI selection committee, which has already cost the national team couple of ICC trophies.
Gavaskar didn’t hold back his punches when he alleged that off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was often made to pay the price for his forthrightness and ability to speak his mind at meetings.
“Any other country would welcome a bowler who has more than 350 Test wickets and not to forget four-Test match centuries, too. However, if Ashwin doesn’t take heaps of wickets in one game he is invariably sidelined for the next one. That does not happen to established batsmen though. Even if they fail in one game they get another chance and another and another but for Ashwin, the rules seem to be different.” added Gavaskar.
Those looking to blow Gavaskar’s statements out of proportions should sit back and calmly try to understand his intent behind it. Gavaskar is calling out the BCCI and the current team management for the alleged discrimination against the players in the team. With a change in the selection committee announced yesterday, one can be hopeful that a clear message would be passed onto the team management that rules need to be the same for every single player.