Australia v India Tests
Cheating? Kohli's press conference inference
India skipper cranks up the heat on already spicy series with a cutting accusation after second Test win
Andrew Ramsey at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru
7 March 2017, 11:03 PM AEST
A Test series that promised spice and over the past two days bordered, at times, on spite has seen its battle lines radically redrawn now that India’s skipper Virat Kohli has effectively accused Australia of cheating.
Not that Kohli, a demonstrably animated and agitated character on the field throughout the second Test that delivered a 75-run win that he rates the best of his captaincy, used that exact phrasing.
But in a defiant post-match media conference that came red hot on the heels of his rival’s Steve Smith’s diplomatic hosing down of numerous on-field spot fires, Kohli left no doubts about his views on the Australians.
Quick Single: Ashwin skittles Australians as India level series
Accusing them of repeatedly seeking clarification from support staff housed in front of television screens and laptops in the team dressing room as to whether it would be prudent or not to employ the DRS protocols.
A system that India has only recently agreed to adopt in Test cricket, and an element that has stood as a contrast between the teams in this series where the home team has squandered many reviews and the Australians been significantly more successful in their application thereof.
That point of difference is now a flashpoint after Smith admitted he had turned towards the dressing room upon being given out lbw at a crucial moment of Australia’s ultimately failed pursuit of 188 for victory this afternoon.
“I was looking up at our boys,” Smith said in his media conference immediately after his team was skittled for 112 in barely 35 overs.
“I shouldn’t have done that, it was a bit of a brain fade.
“It's the first time it's happened.”
Smith went on to play down the increasingly belligerent clashes between players from both teams that punctuated the second Test, and which led on-field umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth (both from England) to routinely intervene in spats.
And to speak personally and publicly with Kohli on at least half a dozen occasions as temperatures rose further on the final afternoon.
Quick Single: How crossed wires cost Marsh his wicket
“Me and Virat were just having a little bit of chat out there,” Smith said when asked about the apparently abrasive atmosphere in the middle.
“There was not much in it, just a bit of fun, a bit of banter and that's the kind of things that happen in this game of cricket.”
“It’s nice to occasionally engage in those kind of conversations on the field, and it was all in good fun."
But Kohli, clearly stirred by Nathan Lyon’s pre-match return to the well-worn aphorism applied to rival captains that ‘if you cut the head off the snake the body will wither’, was in no mood to smooth the troubled water.
Instead, ladling accelerant upon it by dismissing Smith’s claims of a brain fade and adding that he had twice witnessed examples of Australia seeking off-field guidance for video reviews during his two brief stays at the crease in this Test.
A practice that is contrary to the playing conditions of Test cricket, and a breach that Kohli claims he reported to ICC match referee Chris Broad during the course of the match.
Although it is understood that the only instance of which the match officials were aware was Smith’s very blatant breach in the heat of this afternoon’s battle, and which they moved quickly to step in and quash.
Quick Single: Smith caught up in DRS drama
"I saw that two times happening when I was batting out there,” Kohli said tonight. "I pointed it out to the umpires, that it’s happened twice and I have seen their (Australia’s) players looking up there for confirmation and that's why the umpire was at him (Smith).
“Because we observed that and we told the match referee as well, and we told the umpires they had been doing that for the last three days and that had to stop.
"There’s a line that you don’t cross on the cricket field, sledging and playing against the opponents is different.
“I don’t want to mention the word, but it falls into that bracket.
"I would never do something like that on the cricket field."
Asked if that word was ‘cheating’, Kohli replied to his inquisitor without a hint of a smile: "I didn't say that, you did.”
But he went on to pointedly rebut Smith’s explanation of his lapse as a momentary “brain fade”, and also took aim at Lyon’s ‘head of the snake’ observation that was itself a reference to Dale Steyn’s use of the same cliché before South Africa’s series in Australia last November.
And then turned his guns on former Australia Test vice-captain Ian Healy who had, on radio in Australia days earlier, claimed that Kohli’s over-the-top on-field aggression and antics were beginning to diminish the respect he was held in the ex-keeper’s eyes.
Quick Single: Fiery Kohli losing my respect: Healy
“Honestly, if somebody makes a mistake while batting that’s – for me, personally – a brain fade,” Kohli said.
“The way I left the ball in Pune, getting hit on the off stump (without offering a shot), that was a brain fade.
“But if something is going on for three days, that’s not a brain fade - it’s as simple as that.
“I don’t want to say more on that, the videos are out there for everyone to see and it was getting repetitive and that’s why the umpires knew that it might happen again.
“I saw it two times when I was batting, I can vouch for that.
“We take our decisions on the field ourselves, we don’t look for confirmation upstairs.
“I think that’s one thing that’s pretty consistent with us.”
In rating India’s win that came after their humbling in Pune and being marginally outplayed over the first two days at Chinnaswamy, Kohli gave an insight to the emotion that fuelled his on-field persona.
His exaggerated celebrations at wickets, clear displeasure at being given out when another of his DRS reviews was disallowed, his gestures to the Bengaluru crowd to get behind his team whenever he felt adrenaline levels were starting to dip.
And he indicated that he had taken the ‘head of the snake’ as a personal sleight that his team was unable to perform if he did not produce a significant effort, as he has failed to do with the bat in four innings of this series.
“It was a quite emotional game for us, quite draining as well,” Kohli said. “A lot of people were talking about the head of the snake, I think the snake did pretty well by itself.
“It’s not about one individual here, if they keep focusing on the head of the snake then the snake can sting from a lot of directions.
“I think some people need to keep that in mind, but by far the sweetest victory for us.”
And he cited an infamous moment from Healy’s career when the Australian was furious about being given out caught behind in a Test in 1997 and gestured to the crowd before hurling his bat on return to the dressing room at Centurion Park.
Suggesting that he was about as prepared to cop criticism from the ex-player as he was to tread the diplomatic line when discussing matters that transpired on the field.
“In his eyes?” Kohli shot back when asked what he made of Healy’s comments. “We’ve got 1.2 billion people in India, one person doesn’t make a difference to my life.
“Also you need to go and search on YouTube when he was given out down the leg side.
“I heard he said something about me not having good behaviour with the umpires.
“I think you all should YouTube that video and I think that says it all.”
The third Test starts in Ranchi on March 16.
The off-field war will wage unrelenting over the next few days.