The Ishant-Kamran Akmal spat was needless and could have turned ugly

Although their fans and media always stoke the rivalry, India and Pakistan players always show a healthy respect to each other. With most of them speaking the same language, sledging is almost unknown despite the intense pressure they play their games under. They at best rib each other on the field in a language both sets of players understand.

That India and Pakistan play cricket under the shadow of political tension means the players have to always be aware that even a minor confrontation can spark trouble in the stands and beyond. As it is, either team winning can leave the other side facing the heat from their fans who may not mind defeats against other rivals but don’t tolerate reverses against the team from across the border.

That is why Ishant Sharma should be pulled up for needlessly picking up a quarrel with Pakistan wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal during the first Twenty20 international in Bangalore on Tuesday. Yes, Ishant has reason to be frustrated because even his good spells have not netted him wickets. As Pakistan were inching towards victory, he had Kamran ‘caught’ only for the delivery to be declared a no-ball as it was above chest high. Ishant then beat the beat but the ball somehow did not hit the stumps but he had no business going after Kamran. There was a threat of both getting into a fight and that would happen but for the other players and the umpire intervening.

Both players have been fined by the match referee. While Kamran accepted his mistake and was fined five percent of his match fee, Ishant refused to, losing an appeal to eventually cough up 15 percent of his fee. The match referee has also admonished him for the behaviour.

The Indian team management and the board must take this seriously. We all are only too aware of the mess Harbhajan Singh got into on the 2008 Australia tour and was eventually fined heavily for using abusive language. Ishant is no rookie, and was part of the squad then and saw first hand how damaging the entire episode was to cricket and the two sets of players involved.

Bangalore itself was witness to a clash between Pakistan batsman Aamir Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad, although the paceman won the battle by bowling the opener to eventually help the hosts win that crucial 1996 World Cup quarterfinal. Often, Indian players paint themselves as the wronged ones and the BCCI is happy to play along. It is time that trend ends.

By N Ananthanarayanan

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