Fiery Kohli spices up a gripping day

Fiery Kohli spices up a gripping day

Virat Kohli has some words to say to his Australian counterpart Tim Paine in Perth on Sunday. AFP

When India toured Australia in 2014-15, the now-retired stumper Brad Haddin who had many run-ins with Virat Kohli in the series, told him, “it’s all about you, isn’t it?” when the Indian skipper expressed his displeasure to his batting partner M Vijay for refusing a quick single. Four years later, India are back again in Australia and things don’t appear to have changed much.

There is a lot of love and respect -- even if it appears to come grudgingly at times -- for Kohli this time around but he remains the focus. He is as animated in his celebrations, he is as emotional in his behaviour and he is as prolific with the bat.

Barring a few stares and friendly banters, the series so far had been devoid of any major incident but on a hot Sunday here at the Optus Stadium, the tempers between players too rose high, and not surprisingly Kohli was at the forefront of a heated action.

After conceding a 43-run lead to Australia, despite Kohli’s masterpiece of a century, India knew they had to bowl out Australia cheaply to give themselves a realistic chance of taking a 2-0 lead in the series. They bowled with fire. Aaron Finch had to retire hurt after being hit by Mohammad Shami screamer on his right index finger and Marcus Harris was left shaken when a Jasprit Bumrah 142.5 kph snorter banged on his helmet. The wickets, however, weren’t easy to come, leaving the Indians frustrated. As impatience seeped in so did gamesmanship.

Kohli-cam, a term for tracking each of Kohli’s moves on the field, was on almost each ball, showing every single move of his on the field – his ranting and bantering and his gesture to commentators and fans and over-the-top celebrations almost threatened to steal the spotlight from a gripping battle between ball and bat.

"Virat Kohli is a great player,” said Nathan Lyon later. “He plays on emotion, we all know that, and to be honest I'm not too concerned how Virat reacts or the way he conducts himself, I'm just worried about what we can control in the Australian dressing room and I thought as bowlers we came out today and performed pretty well, and this afternoon that was good, hard Test cricket. As players, that's what we want to be a part of and I'm pretty sure as a spectator that’s what fans want to see,” he remarked.

Kohli was always almost at an earshot from Peter Handscomb, who had claimed a controversial catch to end Kohli’s stay at 123 earlier in the day and had a few words to exchange with his rival number Tim Paine towards the end of the game.

As Paine battled to survive the hostile Indian attack, Kohli told him, “Don’t mess with it (your wicket), otherwise, you will go 2-0 down in the series.”

Paine had his retort ready though. “You still have to bat last, big head,” he replied.     

Even after the day’s play, the two skippers continued to have a go at each other as they headed towards their respective change rooms, promising another spicy day.