BITTER RIVALRY CONTINUES
India and Australia go into Third Test with revenge in mind
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.
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.