Anushka Sharma, India captain Virat Kohli‘s wife, has criticised Sunil Gavaskar for his “distasteful” commentary on Thursday and “accusing a wife for her husband’s game”. In an Instagram story posted the day after Kohli’s team, Royal Challengers Bangalore, lost an IPL match comprehensively to Kings XI Punjab, Sharma took objection to a part of the commentary where Gavaskar was discussing Kohli’s lack of practice with co-commentator Aakash Chopra.
ESPNcricinfo has reviewed the relevant footage from the Hindi commentary, spread over the second and third overs of Royal Challengers’ chase. This passage took place while Kohli was at the wicket and not after his dismissal, although it did make a mention of the two catches dropped by Kohli earlier in the evening.
“[Josh Philippe’s early dismissal] has given Virat Kohli a chance to play more overs [Kohli walked out in the 12th over in RCB’s first match],” Gavaskar said when Kohli walked out. “He dropped two catches in the field. So he knows he has to do something [special].”
After a bit of live action, Chopra said just after Kohli was beaten on a pull shot: “Players are playing after a long time. So you can see the rustiness. They are not yet fully ready… If you see his [Kohli’s] IPL record, he is unparalleled. But Sunnybhai, it is not easy to not play any cricket for six to eight months.”
“Absolutely,” Gavaskar said in response. “He hasn’t had the chance to do the practice you need. He always wants… he knows that the more he practises the better he will be. And during the lockdown, he has only practised against the bowling of Anushka as seen in that video. That is not going to be enough.”
Gavaskar was referring to a clip circulated on social media during the lockdown where a neighbour had shot Kohli facing throwdowns from Sharma on the terrace of their house. Chopra then went on to rue the lack of privacy for the couple. Kohli then got out for one, and the conversation moved on.
Following the criticism his comment attracted, Gavaskar said he hadn’t blamed Sharma in any way. . “Firstly, I would like to say, where am I blaming her, I’m not blaming her. I am only saying that the video showed she was bowling to Virat. Virat has only played that much bowling in this lockdown period,” Gavaskar told the India Today channel.
“It is a tennis ball fun game that people have to pass time during the lockdown, so that’s all, so where am I blaming her for Virat’s failures.”
In her post, Sharma said: “That, Mr Gavaskar, your message is distasteful is a fact but I would love for you to explain why you thought of making such a sweeping statement on a wife accusing her for her husband’s game? I’m sure over the years you have respected the private life of every cricketer while commentating on the game. Don’t you think you should have equal amount of respect for me and us?
“I’m sure you can have many other words and sentences in your mind to use to comment on my husband’s performance from last night or are your words only relevant if you use my name in the process?
“It’s 2020 and things still don’t change for me. When will I stop getting dragged into cricket and stop being used to pass sweeping statements.
“Respected Mr Gavaskar, you are a legend whose name stands tall in this gentleman’s game. Just wanted to tell you what I felt when I heard you say this.”
It is also worth mentioning here that when Gavaskar’s comments first went viral on social media, he was misquoted. The initial quote that went around accused Gavaskar of saying, in Hindi, that during lockdown Kohli had practised only with Anushka’s “balls”, and not “bowling” as Gavaskar had originally said.
*This article was updated with Sunil Gavaskar’s comments at 1.00pm GMT