x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

India facing yet another fight

Six internationals have 15 days to explain their conduct following an unruly incident in a pub in St Lucia after being heckled by fans.

India's Yuvraj Singh and five others, including Zaheer Khan, were served with a show-cause notice for their involvement in a pub brawl in St Lucia.
India's Yuvraj Singh and five others, including Zaheer Khan, were served with a show-cause notice for their involvement in a pub brawl in St Lucia.

BANGALORE // If being dumped out of the World Twenty20 before the semi-finals was not painful enough, nearly half the Indian squad have other problems to ponder. Six of them, including Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, have been served with show-cause notices for their involvement in a pub brawl before they left St Lucia.

Ashish Nehra, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja were the others given 15 days to explain their actions. No action was taken against Suresh Raina, who will lead a new-look team to Zimbabwe later this month, or Murali Vijay. However both are believed to have been part of the group that went into the Rodney Bay Marina's Tequila Joe's establishment and left it with at least one player sporting torn clothes.

By all accounts, the players were provoked by vicious abuse directed at one of their own. The abusers have long since melted back into the night. The Indians may have been unwitting victims in this case, but the Caribbean is no stranger to cricketers behaving badly. In the 1990s, players from Pakistan and New Zealand got into trouble for smoking marijuana on the pristine beaches. Early in the new millennium, five South Africans were also caught having puffs of the same drug. When they were not smoking, they were drinking, imbibing vast quantities of Red Stripe and the rums that each island is so proud of.

During the 2007 World Cup, the match between England and South Africa in Barbados came to be tagged The Battle of the Bottle, such was the extent of inebriated antics on either side. Now, it is the Indians' turn to be caught cold on a Pirates of the Caribbean set. After Sri Lanka had confirmed MS Dhoni and his men would take nothing more than air miles back with a thrilling final-ball win last Tuesday, the players headed out for dinner with a 9.30pm curfew.

According to Kolkata's The Telegraph, this is what happened next: "Tequila's was already packed with cricket fans, many of whom came from other parts of the West Indies and North America. They'd been drowning their sorrows and, on seeing the Indian players, got really agitated. About four of them almost charged at Jadeja and held him responsible for India's ouster. "They were abusive with a capital A, leaving Jadeja stunned. That's when his mates, chiefly Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra, came to his rescue ? They told the drunk fans that they had no right to abuse anybody from the team ? 'Criticise, but don't abuse' was the message."

The message was not heeded, and doormen were needed to step in to prevent the situation getting uglier. Now that the players are home, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is offering no solace either. In private, the players have been told not to talk, to keep their own counsel and not offer sound bites to newspapers or television. When the same media outlets sensationalise the story, they can offer no defence.

For the board in India, this Caribbean chaos has come at the perfect time. After India's exit, there was plenty of criticism for the mandarins, for everything from the schedule of the Indian Premier League (IPL) to the poor fitness levels of the players picked. The serving of the show-cause notice deflects attention back to the players. During the IPL season, late-night parties were held both to raise funds and also to get "the stars closer to the fans". That was always a very bad idea, especially with alcohol involved. This fracas sets a dangerous precedent.

"The World Cup's seven months down the line and [the over-the-top reaction] has been quite scary," one player told the Hindustan Times. "I'm going to send my family away during the cup, because we lose, someone might try and burn my house down." After their pallid displays in the West Indies, India's players need to introspect on a variety of issues, ranging from playing the short ball to keeping trim. But it's the yobbish fans who know nothing of the essence of sport that really need a bout of soul-searching. @Email:sports@thenational.ae