Sunil Gavaskar, the former India captain, has hinted at bias in the Indian team led by Virat Kohli, citing the examples of T Natarajan and Ravichandran Ashwin to show how different players are treated differently within the team.
Writing in his column for Sportstar after India’s crushing loss to Australia in the Adelaide Test, Gavaskar first took the example of Ashwin, the most successful Test bowler in the current Indian line-up, to put forth his stance. He stated that Ashwin invariably finds himself on the receiving end of harsh selection policies after faring poorly in one game, a bias, Gavaskar feels, is a product of Ashwin’s candidness.
“For far too long Ashwin has suffered not for his bowling ability of which only the churlish will have doubts,” Gavaskar wrote, “but for his forthrightness and speaking his mind at meetings where most others just nod even if they don’t agree.
“Any other country would welcome a bowler who has more than 350 Test wickets [370 wickets in 72 Tests] 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.”
The Adelaide loss included India’s lowest-ever total of 36 in Test cricket, beating their previous low of 42 against England in 1974, a match Gavaskar was part of. From the second Test onwards, the team will be led by Ajinkya Rahane, filling in for Kohli whose paternity leave was approved by BCCI ahead of the tour.
Gavaskar feels that the policy to allow Kohli to fly out of Australia mid-way through the tour is unfair to teammate T Natarajan, who became a father in November during IPL 2020 but flew directly with the Indian contingent to Australia without going home, after being drafted in as a nets bowler. It is unclear whether Natarajan formally requested BCCI for paternity leave.
If Natarajan had wanted a paternity leave and BCCI had not granted him one, there is a problem.
A very serious problem.
— Abhishek Mukherjee (@ovshake42) December 24, 2020
“Another player who will wonder about the rules, but, of course, can’t make any noise about it as he is a newcomer. It is T Natarajan. The left-arm yorker specialist who made an impressive debut in the T20 [series against Australia] 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 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. A match-winner, albeit in another format, being asked to be a net bowler.
“He will thus return home only after the series ends in the third week of January and get to see his daughter for the first time then. And there is the captain going back after the first Test for the birth of his first child.
“That’s Indian cricket. Different rules for different people. If you don’t believe me ask Ravi Ashwin and T Natarajan.”