Kolkata: The time when the Australian cricket team led by Steve Smith arrived on Indian soil back last month, the team was given little to no chance of winning a Test, let alone the series, but three fiery Tests that followed against the top ranked hosts, the time has finally come to brace for the acid test — the decider, that begins in Dharamsala on Saturday.
There have been plenty of bad blood between the two sides in the first three five-dayers, especially between the two captains Virat Kohli and Steve Smith. The cricketing relations between the two countries has reached a nadir and a certain section of the media too played the role of the instigator.
The off-field controversies between the two teams had resulted in intense on-field action, something that has been on display so far in the series, and the trend is expected to carry over to the Dharamsala pitch as well. Ahead of the final match though the focus is almost entirely on Virat Kohli.
Indian captain admitted that he is not hundred percent fit going into the match, with a threat of “aggravating the injury in the field”. While Kohli has under-performed massively when it came to batting his presence and tactfulness as a leader has spurned the team on throughout the series. Team India will surely miss the charismatic batsman from Delhi if he is ruled out for the third and final test. Shreyas Iyer has earned a call up to the squad as a cover for the batting superstar.
The Indian camp probably doesn’t want to give away any psychological advantage to the opposition ahead of the decider. Perhaps that was also the reason that the skipper, even though doubtful, came for the mandatory pre-match media conference.
A section of the Australian media had taken on the Indian captain on behalf of its cricket team, with wide ranging comments from “leader of snakes” to comparing him to the US President Donald Trump. All these for his critical comments about Steve Smith s DRS Brain Fade and later allegations of Australian fielders making fun of India physio Patrick Farhart.
When asked as to how he has been able to manage the roller coaster ride of emotions, Kohli’s reply had a certain tone of sarcasm to it.
“I have always stuck by the right things. Always done the right thing, always said what I wanted to because I feel it is right. I have no regrets about it. I have nothing to go back and change. The only thing — I am surprised so many people are getting affected by just one individual, so good luck to them. If it’s selling their news, good luck to them,” Kohli said without referring to a section of Australian media and former players, who have been relentlessly critical of him.
If Kohli is declared unfit for the final game then middle order batsman Ajinkya Rahane is most likely to lead the side against the Australians.
Team Australia having lost out on the services of pace spearhead Mitchell Starc and all rounder Mitchell Marsh ahead of the Ranchi Test, their replacements in Glenn Maxwell and Pat Cummins made the most of the opportunity granted to them. While the former scored a century to shatter the notion of him being nothing more than a limited-overs slogger, Cummins grabbed four wickets in his first Test appearance since his debut back in 2011. Warner like Kohli hasn’t quite lit up the series with his batting and will hope to go out big in the final test.
With the high-voltage rubber locked at 1-1, the Border-Gavaskar trophy hangs in the balance. It would be a tad unrealistic to expect things to not heat up between the two sides when they face off at Dharamsala. While the teams cannot change what has already happened in the tour so far, they certainly can ensure that the series ends on a good, but competitive, note. Let’s not forget, most of the warring players from both camps will eventually be playing alongside each other in the Indian Premier League that begins barely a week after the end of this tour.
(With inputs from PTI)