Wednesday became a ho-hum day in the World Cup where on-field action was concerned, what with both matches becoming completely one-sided. But there was enough drama raging over Virat Kohli's verbal tirade against a journalist from an Indian newspaper: as it happened, for a story he had not even written!
It could have been seen as a comedy of errors were it not for Kohli's brazenly aggressive demeanour and the language he purportedly used in public. To be fair, an apology followed from the star player. That begs the question, whether he would have been right if the target of his anger had in fact been the person he had intended?
I believe not. True, international players are under great scrutiny and pressure and many of them live life on the edge. But that comes with the turf; as much as unwarranted praise, which nobody objects to.
It is foolish to stereotype high-level sportspersons. They also reflect personality types. Some are sanguine, some highly intense, some overly aggressive. How they react to different situations will differ dramatically. The only connect between Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, for instance, is their excellence at tennis. In every other aspect they are hugely dissimilar.
That said, Kohli's diatribe was not only misplaced, but uncalled for. As a public figure, he has to show greater resilience about what is written and said about him. If he has serious objections about this, there are avenues for redressal -- informal as well as legal -- which he can well pursue.
Kohli is a passionate young man, which is a virtue. But a short fuse can be a handicap. Moreover, he is now longer just a fiery 'Young Gun'. He is the Test captain of India, a position that calls for self-restraint and a sense of decorum. Hopefully, he will handle himself with great equanimity in the future.
To come back to Wednesday's matches, Pakistan pulled off a big 129-run victory against UAE which hoisted them to 4th position in Pool B, but Australia's win over Afghanistan was even more emphatic - by 275 runs, the biggest in World Cup history and the second-biggest ever in ODIs.
UAE did well to bat out 50 overs against Pakistan without getting bowled out. In fact, they denied Misbah-ul-Haq's side the margin (145 runs) to get ahead of West Indies in the net run rate in Pool B. Yet, Pakistan have now climbed to number 4, dislodging Ireland who were badly thrashed by South Africa just the other day.
"This was the third score above 400 in the past week itself, which makes 300 -- considered virtually insurmountable 20 years back, commonplace."
With India and South Africa clear front-runners, Pool B is heading for an exciting finish in the league phase with West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland all strongly in the running - and Zimbabwe still the joker in the pack -- for the remaining two places to make it to the quarter-finals.
In Pool A, Australia appeared to exact revenge for their narrow defeat against New Zealand on hapless Afghanistan. When the Aussies batted first, it was clear that the youngest nation in the sport was condemned to a leather hunt, and so it turned out to be.
David Warner, Steve Smith, Glen Maxwell all boosted their form, run tallies and averages in taking Australia to a World Cup record score of 417. This was the third score above 400 in the past week itself, which makes 300 -- considered virtually insurmountable 20 years back, commonplace.
The competitive edge that one hopes to see in a tournament of this kind was missing. I suspect the lack of depth in experience more than ability is beginning to show up. But it would be unfair to think that only the associate members are lowering standards, as was being argued by the end of the day, as West Indies bowlers were also hit for 400-plus by the South Africans earlier.
Despite their performances in this World Cup, I think the ICC should do a serious study of how to increase the number of teams playing in such tournament and work robustly towards improving their standards, rather than dumping them for the 2015 tournament where only 10 teams are likely to play.
"By curtailing the number of participating countries in ICC tournaments, the game is shrinking not growing."
In fact Sachin Tendulkar, brand ambassador for WC 2015, argued for 25 teams in future tournaments at a dinner engagement the other night. Martin Crowe, former New Zealand captain, has suggested 18 teams, with matches reduced to 40-overs a side.
Essentially, Tendulkar and Crowe are saying the same thing even if they sound different: that by curtailing the number of participating countries in ICC tournaments, the game is shrinking not growing.
To make associate member teams more competitive, as has been mentioned in this space earlier, I think it is incumbent on full member countries - especially India, Australia and England who have forged an alliance which pretty much controls the sport - to play the weaker sides more often.
There is no great magnanimity in this: rather, this is the responsibility that comes with power.