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Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar has called out his own country for allowing Virat Kohli to miss the remaining three Test matches in the Australia-India series to attend the birth of his first child while asking another player who is yet to meet his newborn daughter to serve as a net bowler.
Gavaskar, the record-setting opening batsman who missed the birth of his son, Rohan, while touring New Zealand in 1976, went on the offensive in a column for Sportstar following India’s defeat in the First Test in Adelaide.
He questioned why Kohli had left while fast bowler Thangarasu Natarajan remained separated from his family.
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Natarajan’s daughter was born while he was playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League, which was held in the United Arab Emirates from September to November because of COVID lockdowns in India.
He was named in India’s touring party for Australia and travelled directly to Sydney from the T20 tournament. After making an impressive impact in the visitor’s 2-1 T20 series win, Gavaskar said Natarajan was asked to stay on for the Test series.
“But not as a part of the team but as a net bowler,” Gavaskar wrote. “Imagine that. A matchwinner, 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.”
Gavaskar’s stance divided opinion in India.
“The reason Kohli is different from Natarajan is that the former has the power of advertisers, the freedom to set rules in the BCCI, a pliant BCCI admin, social media troll army, and media sucking up to him for access. The latter has a yorker,” author Arnab Ray wrote.
“Disagree with Gavaskar. No one is forcing Natarajan to bowl in the nets. He realises it’s a stepping stone for him. Kohli deciding to go back is a personal choice. Cricket is his profession, a part of life, not his entire life. If that renders him unfit to play, sure, fire him,” replied columnist Kartikeya Tanna.
“Gavaskar could have criticised Kohli for his lacklustre captaincy, arbitrary selection decisions, clashes with Rohit Sharma, past clashes with Anil Kumble – so many things. But he decided to make a personal and spiteful remark,” wrote Kunal Singh.
Gavaskar also took aim at the lack of security star spinner Ravi Ashwin has endured during his Test career despite his world-class production home and away.
Ashwin took 4-55 and 1-16 in the First Test to take his career tally to 370 Test wickets at an average of 25.
“For far too long Ashwin has suffered not for his bowling ability of which only the churlish will have doubts, but for his forthrightness and speaking his mind at meetings where most others just nod even if they don’t agree,” Gavaskar wrote.
“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.”