The mental games Virat Kohli has been subjected to in this series are his own doing. No one since Sachin Tendulkar has dominated Australia cricket team with such authority in recent times, and hence the visitors have every right to feel jubilated at not letting Kohli run away with the series.
Look at the flipside to this situation though. With Virat Kohli courting so much attention from the visitors and their media, the rest of the India cricket team has been allowed to breathe easy and go about their job. KL Rahul has been consistent as opener while Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara finally flourished together in Bangalore.
And if everything goes well, Murali Vijay is expected to return to the team in Ranchi Test for what should be his 50th match after recovering from a shoulder injury. With such a strong batting spine, Anil Kumble won’t mind settling for a series win even if Kohli doesn’t score in the next two Tests.
But trust the competitive streak inside Kohli that shouldn’t allow him to rest till he gets back at his favourite opponents. With everything to play for in the series, there can’t be a better place than MS Dhoni’s backyard for Kohli to remind the Australians of his class. And, maybe, the India captain needs it for himself too.
The last time Kohli had flopped four times in a row against Australia was in the forgettable 2011-12 tour. But this string of failures should prick him more, simply because of the way it has questioned his technique. Apart from the first-innings dismissal in Pune, where he was caught at slip trying to go after a wide Mitchell Starc delivery, the rest three came off deliveries coming into Kohli.
He shouldered arms playing for spin in Pune’s second innings, went on the backfoot to be trapped plumb in Bangalore before being adjudged leg-before to a Josh Hazlewood delivery that stayed low.
Like any other stroke-maker, Kohli likes the ball coming on to the bat. It explains why five out of his six centuries scored against Australia came Down Under. But then again, Kohli has visited Australia more than playing them at home.
Clearly eager to let his bat talk, Kohli was seen leaving nothing to chance at Wednesday’s practice in Ranchi. One of the first to enter nets, he batted out a long session against three types of bowling. Starting against the pace and swing of a recovering Mohammed Shami, Kohli moved on to coping with some short-pitched stuff from one of the support-staff members before finally settling down against Jayant Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja. Throughout the net session, Kohli looked unperturbed by the bowling.
Scoring still won’t be easy on a slow and low Ranchi pitch where Australia are expected to retain Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe. With Pat Cummins too in the fray, this Australian bowling attack is head and shoulders above the ones against whom Kohli had scored four double centuries in the last four series. But given his penchant for thriving on adversity, Kohli can be banked upon to deliver a special innings soon.