Mumbai: Indian captain Virat Kohli faced stiff criticism both Down Under and at home after his side’s crushing loss to Australia in the second Test.
Former Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson called Kohli “disrespectful” and “silly” over his heated exchanges with fellow skipper Tim Paine during the Perth Test.
Former India great Sunil Gavaskar meanwhile hit out at “selection blunders” and the Indian Express daily slammed Kohli’s “explicit lack of confidence” in some of his players.
Kohli and Paine exchanged barbs, at one point prompting intervention from the umpire, during the game that Australia won by 146 runs to level the four-match series 1-1.
It was reported that Kohli belittled Paine as just “a stand-in captain” — a claim angrily denied by India’s team management.
The retired Johnson said the famously combative Kohli’s antics were unnecessary.
“At the end of the match, you should be able to look each other in the eyes, shake hands and say ‘great contest’,” he wrote in a column for Fox Sports. “Virat Kohli could not do that with Tim Paine, shaking the Australian captain’s hand but barely making eye contact with him. To me, that is disrespectful.
“Kohli gets away with more than most cricketers simply because he is Virat Kohli and he gets placed on a pedestal but this Test left the Indian captain looking silly,” he added.
After the game both Paine and Kohli played down their on-field sledging, which was picked up by stump microphones.
Kohli described it as simply banter that was part and parcel of Test cricket.
“As long as there is no swearing the line doesn’t get crossed. And no personal attacks,” he said.
He added that the remarks in Perth were nothing compared to their Australian tour in 2014, when he claimed to have been called a “spoilt brat”.
But Johnson said Kohli’s behaviour made a mockery of his pre-series claims that he was a changed man and didn’t plan to initiate any confrontations.
“What we saw this Test says otherwise,” he said. “From my experiences with him and what I am seeing as an observer now, not much has changed. It was disappointing and that is not the only area where he let himself down.”
Johnson and Kohli have history. In 2014 at Melbourne, Johnson threw the ball that hit Kohli in the back when attempting a run out, sparking a heated debate.
Gavaskar said that the roles of Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri need to be assessed if India fail to perform in the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.
He said that since India’s tour of South Africa at the start of the year, picking the wrong players “has lost matches which could’ve been won.”
If India fail to win the next two matches, “the selectors need to think whether we are getting any benefit from this lot — the captain, coach and support staff,”
Gavaskar told Aaj Tak TV news network.
The Indian Express said that the biggest bone of contention in Perth was not selection but that Kohli “has little confidence in some of his teammates”.
“It’s a viciously self-fulfilling prophecy: the more you think they can’t do it, they won’t be able to do it,” the paper said.
It cited the non-selection of Ravindra Jadeja, and Kohli saying that fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin would probably not have played even if he had been fit.
“Kohli quite rightly rates (Australian spinner Nathan) Lyon highly, but one wonders how Ashwin and Jadeja would feel about their captain’s assessment of them,” the paper added.
“India can still win this series, but for that to happen, Kohli will have to back his players. “
Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns
Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.
“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.
“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”
“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.
The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.
Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.
Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.
Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.
Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.
“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.
“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.
Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect
London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.
Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.
Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.
While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.
It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.
While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.
“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.
“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”
The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.
Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto
London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.
The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.
“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.
“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”
Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”
Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.