Before Virat Kohli was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for showing his middle finger to a section of the SCG crowd, Steve Bucknor was the man on the cricket field who most often found himself censured for raising a finger in the air. In fact, it even led to him being removed from a Test match.
In this instance, the mood is rather different. In the span of a week, two young Indian cricketers have been photographed flipping off the fans. First it was Kohli during the Sydney Test which India lost by an innings, and now it is Ishant Sharma who stuck up a middle finger at some fans as the Indian team left a go-karting ally and stepped onto the bus.
Suddenly, the middle finger is attracting as much criticism as Gautam Gambhir's wafts outside off stump. For the last few years Indian cricket has come to be defined by images of youthful rebellion, of spiked and gelled hair, tattoos and bling, Ed Hardy tees and ripped designer jeans, designer watches and flashy cars. Young Indian players did not shy away from giving it back to overseas bullies; Robin Uthappa sledged Matthew Hayden, Sreesanth gave Andrew Symonds a piece of his mind, and Kohli has never been far from giving lip to his opponents on the field.
Attitude is fine, aggression can be too. Unfortunately, more than any sort of rebellion or coolness, what such actions highlight is how flappable some of India's young cricketers are. Kohli and Ishant have been snapped raising their middle fingers during a very tough time for the Indian cricket team, in the middle of a disastrous tour and in a country where visiting teams have been most prone to venomous comments from the public. Clearly, the two Delhi-born cricketers haven't learned from their illustrious team-mates like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman who have conducted themselves with utmost poise and presence wherever they been. Especially when the chips have been down.
After the SCG incident, Kohli tweeted that he had done so because of abuse to his family. Ishant will probably have you believe the same thing. Flipping your middle finger at heckling fans is immature, and shows that the pressure has got to you. It's just a finger, but speaks much louder than words. Ask Liverpool's Luis Suarez, who was banned for a match after indecently gesturing at a section of Fulham's fans during an English Premier League match.
What Kohli and Ishant have failed to do is curb their emotions, and now it has landed them in hot soup. Kohli has been fined, and while Ishant will probably get away because he flipped the fans off the cricket field, his actions have been thoroughly unbecoming for a sporting ambassador of India.
In Hollywood, flipping the paparazzi is common place. In India, it is also becoming more common for celebrities to do. Ranbir Kapoor did it in Rock Star, Sonam Kapoor in Players (the two debuted in the same Bollywood film, together, so maybe there's something there). In the past week, it has been anything but cool or rebellious. It has shown how flappable two of the most promising Indian cricketers are.
No boys, sticking your middle fingers at the camera does not make you cool.