Sydney : Rival captains Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India and Michael Clarke of Australia may have their hands full trying to keep frayed tempers in check during a potentially explosive World Cup semi-final on Thursday.
The two teams have shared a tumultuous relationship both on and off the field in recent years and another flare-up cannot be ruled out in front of a packed Sydney Cricket Ground.
It was at the same venue in 2008 where the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ incident involving Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds and Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh took place and almost saw a Test series being called off.
Harbhajan was suspended for three matches for allegedly calling Symonds a “monkey”, but the ban was overturned when India threatened to walk out of the tour, claiming the off-spinner was wrongly accused.
The bad blood continued during India’s Test and one-day series in Australia prior to the World Cup when heated on-field exchanges led to several players being penalised.
Three Indian players, Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, and Australian left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc were charged for a breach of the International Cricket Council’s Code of Conduct.
Australian opener David Warner was the worst offender, having been reported both in the Test and one-day series, and was publicly told off by Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland to “stop looking for trouble.”
Warner risks missing the World Cup final should Australia qualify if he is found guilty of a third breach of the Code of Conduct on Thursday.
Australian all-rounder James Faulkner predicted that the sledging will be fast and furious at the SCG.
“There are going to be words said and it’s going to be a really tough contest,” Faulkner told reporters on Monday.
“I think there is always sledging in the game. If there is not, you’ve got problems. It’s the nature of the game. It’s a semi-final. Cut throat. Neither team will be backing down.”
Australian teammate Glenn Maxwell is certain that Warner, who squared up to Rohit Sharma during the Test series telling the batsman “to speak English”, will not get into trouble again.
“He is fine,” the all-rounder said. “He does not say much — any more.”
Allrounder Shane Watson will be another one under the radar of Sri Lankan match referee Ranjan Madugalle, who fined him 15 percent of his match fees for a heated exchange with Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz during tense moments of Friday’s quarter-final in Adelaide.
ICC chief executive David Richardson said before the tournament that match referees would come down hard on misbehaviour on the field and repeat offenders will be hit with bans.
But Maxwell is confident the involvement of Australian players in the Indian Premier League will help to keep the lid on — even though that was not seen in the preceding bilateral matches.
The belligerent batsman, who has turned out for Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, said the glitzy Twenty20 tournament helped him get closer to Indian players.
“Personally, I get along with them really well,” he said. “Playing in the IPL, you get to know a lot of them, spend time with them, go to dinners with them and you start to develop real friendships and you stay in touch with them as well.
“It makes it hard when you play against them because you’ve got to still have that fine line of keeping it competitive on the field but they’re also your mates.
“So you’ve got to continue trying to play as if you’re playing your worst enemy every time.”