Tensions still boiling high

Cricket Fourth Test : Sparks continue to fly as Cricket Australia chief Sutherland takes a dig at Kohli

Tensions still boiling high

It was meant to be a competitive series. When has an India-Australia contest not been? But the way this series has run over a knife's edge throughout has given an unpalatable touch to it. Coming to the fourth and last Test, the off-the-field tensions continue to simmer in the cool backdrop of soothing Dhauladhar ranges circumventing the HPCA stadium.

It is not hard to see that the relentless attack of the Australians centres on Virat Kohli. The outspoken Indian captain was unflinching in his criticism of Australia in manipulating the DRS system during the second Test at Bengaluru. It didn’t go well with the Australians, who wished the one-off “brain fade” moment of Steve Smith to be taken on the face value.

It is unprecedented the way former players too have chipped in to fan the hostilities. Ian Healy and now Geoff Lawson have questioned Kohli’s behaviour. Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland, when asked in a recent radio interview, whether Kohli should apologise for accusing the Australians on DRS said, “I'm not sure he knows how to spell the word (sorry) but perhaps at the end of this long and cut-throat series let's hope the boys can come together and have a bit of a laugh and reflect on that.”

Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar, after the third Test, termed the Australian media as the extended “support staff” of the team. It came on the heels of reports that the on-field banter between the two sides has been leaked to the Australian journalists.
More sparks have flown since an Australian daily equated Kohli with Donald Trump of word sports. However, there have been voices of reason too. Former Australian captain Michael Clarke admitted a couple of Australian media were trying to tarnish Kohli’s image, and how he shouldn’t bother about them. 

A normally sedate Cheteshwar Pujara, meanwhile, had strong words on this. “I think it’s really sad to hear such comments. We fully support Virat and he is one of the great ambassadors of this game. I think the focus has shifted somewhere else, which shouldn’t have happened. We are very much focussed on the game. He is a great leader and he is a great ambassador for the game, so we are fully supporting him. We are looking forward to the next game rather than worrying about anything else,” Pujara told reporters on Thursday.

When reminded about Smith’s contention that the momentum was with Australia going into the final Test here, Pujara’s reply was as straightforward. “Not really, I think we've bowled well. They scored 450 and we were able to score more than 600. And I think at one stage they were 4 down at lunch. The session where we didn't get a wicket was between lunch and tea. But overall they were six down, and I think we definitely had an upper hand in the last game. Although we didn't win the game, we just had to bat once and they had to bat twice, that credit I think goes to the bowlers.”

Undoubtedly, the cricket has been engrossing in the series, and sides have striven for a result. But the persistent mud-slinging between the two has dampened the joy of a sporting battle.

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