BIT­TER RIVALRY CON­TIN­UES

In­dia and Aus­tralia go into Third Test with re­venge in mind

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BIT­TER ri­vals In­dia and Aus­tralia re­sume their bat­tle for Test supremacy to­mor­row in Ranchi at the start of the third match in a se­ries that has al­ready dragged re­la­tions close to break­ing point.

In­dia won the Sec­ond Test in Ban­ga­lore to leave the se­ries tan­ta­lis­ingly poised at 1-1 but sim­mer­ing ten­sions boiled over when the hosts’ cap­tain ac­cused his op­po­site num­ber of abus­ing the de­ci­sion re­view sys­tem (DRS).

The In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil, which de­cided not to pu­n­ish ei­ther Vi­rat Kohli or Steve Smith over the flare-up, has called the two skip­pers to­gether for clear-the-air talks ahead of the match.

But for­mer play­ers on both sides have again been stir­ring things up ahead of Ranchi, a match in which In­dia must avoid de­feat if they want to win back the Border-Gavaskar tro­phy.

Aus­tralia’s hopes suf­fered a dou­ble blow last week when all­rounder Mitchell Marsh and pace spear­head Mitchell Starc were ruled out of the last two Test with in­juries.

In­dia’s con­cerns are cen­tred on the form of Kohli who has to­talled just 40 runs in the se­ries af­ter scor­ing dou­ble cen­turies in the last four Test se­ries.

The meet­ing be­tween Smith and Kohli was agreed to by their re­spec­tive boards amid warn­ings the se­ries risked de­gen­er­at­ing into an­ar­chy.

For­mer Aus­tralian skip­per Ian Chappell has been among the crit­ics of the ICC’s softly-softly ap­proach, say­ing things had been al­lowed to fes­ter.

“It’s been al­lowed to es­ca­late over the years, and no­body is step­ping in to stop it. It’s go­ing to cause a huge prob­lem one day on the field,” he wrote on the web­site of Aus­tralia’s Chan­nel Nine net­work.

The snip­ing has con­tin­ued since Ban­ga­lore with In­dian spin­ner Ravichan­dran Ash­win ac­cus­ing Aus­tralia of re­sort­ing to tac­tics rem­i­nis­cent of an Un­der-10 team.

But Aus­tralia have been play­ing their own mind games, with their lead­ing spin­ner Nathan Lyon say­ing all the pres­sure is on the hosts.

“Ev­ery­one said that we are go­ing to lose 4-0. It’s 1-1, we’re one win away from re­gain­ing the tro­phy and that’s what we are here to do,” said Lyon, who took a ca­reer-best 8-50 in Ban­ga­lore.

“The pres­sure is right on In­dia — there is no pres­sure on us.”

While In­dia should be un­changed, Aus­tralia are ex­pected to call up Pat Cum­mins for Starc and Glenn Maxwell or Mar­cus Stoi­nis will re­place Marsh.

With In­dia still strug­gling to find an ef­fec­tive open­ing com­bi­na­tion, the hosts need Kohli to re­dis­cover his form.

For­mer Aus­tralia fast bowler Mitchell John­son has sug­gested Kohli’s out­burst against Smith was due to frus­tra­tion at his low scores.

But In­dian bat­ting great VVS Lax­man said it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Kohli came good.

“If I was an Aus­tralian, I would be wary of a back­lash, maybe in Ranchi, maybe in Dharam­sala, maybe in both places,” he wrote on the crick­et­coun­try web­site.

Af­ter Ranchi, the fi­nal Test be­gins in Dharam­sala on March 25. AFP

It’s been al­lowed to es­ca­late over the years, and no­body is step­ping in to stop it. It’s go­ing to cause a huge prob­lem one day on the field.

IAN CHAPPELL

Vi­rat Kohli (sec­ond from left) speaks to the um­pire as Aus­tralia cap­tain Steven Smith (right) walks off the ground af­ter be­ing dis­missed in the Sec­ond Test on March 7.

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