OPINION | India vs Australia: Emotions tend to get the better of Virat Kohli
A captain should try and maintain an even emotional keel wherever possible but Kohli is not one who adheres to this dictum.Updated: Dec 23, 2018 10:19 IST
The first two matches in the Australia versus India series have confirmed what Test cricket needs more of — two evenly matched teams with strong bowling attacks, operating on pitches that provide encouragement for the leather flingers.
It has been compelling Test cricket with some determined batting and a bit of theatre thrown in. It probably didn’t hurt that there was also a bit of danger included in the Perth Test where batsmen were occasionally fending for their safety.
While most bowlers in the series have had their moments, Nathan Lyon has been outstanding. Virat Kohli is far and away the most skilful of the batsmen on show, with Cheteshwar Pujara displaying un-matched defiance and Marcus Harris being the most promising newcomer.
In the captaincy stakes tyro Tim Paine has had the better of Kohli, whose emotions tended to get the better of him in the tense atmosphere of the Perth Test. A captain should try and maintain an even emotional keel wherever possible but Kohli is not one who adheres to this dictum.
His dismissal in the first innings — a disputed catch — seemed to derail his train of thought for the remainder of the match. From then on his attention was divided between getting the upper hand with his Australian counterpart and attempting to win the match. The moment a captain’s attention is drawn from the sole objective of winning the match, he’s in trouble.
The conjecture over Kohli’s first innings dismissal highlights the ICC’s clouded thinking over catch referrals to the third umpire. It’s the actual referral of the catch to video replay that causes most of the controversy and that process should cease immediately.
The decision should be made on the field where the umpires, if they know what to look for, are the best judges of what has happened. Because of the fore-shortening effect, the replay of low catches is always inconclusive. In most cases, a fielder who claims a catch is then perceived as a cheat by the ‘evidence’ shown to the public.
This is not fair to the fielder. If such flimsy ‘evidence’ was brought into a court of law it would be summarily dismissed by any self-respecting judge or magistrate. And on the evidence available so far, the Indians-are-good-players-of-spin theory should also be scrapped.
Even Kohli has had his troubles when facing Lyon and despite his first innings century in Adelaide, Pujara has often been reduced to the negative tactic of charging pad first with the bat trailing in his wake. Lyon is a fine bowler and much improved since he started to curve the ball away from right-handed batsmen. His dismissal of Kohli and then Murali Vijay in the space of seven runs was classic off-spin bowling; one delivery clipping the outside edge and the other curving away and spinning back through the gap between bat and pad.
The Indian batsmen need to find a way to combat Lyon and that doesn’t include replicating the suicidal approach of Rishabh Pant. This absorbing series has people talking positively about Test cricket. For the home team it’s brought the welcome news that fans are responding to Australia’s fighting brand of cricket.
However a perfect indication of the battle Test cricket is waging to stay relevant came the night following the thrilling second Test. Without any time to savour the titillating Test, the BBL staged the first of it’s many T20 contests.
And to make matters worse, the first day at the MCG — the first really meaningful Test match at the ground for sometime — will only be finished by a few moments before another of the seemingly endless BBL matches commence in another city.
This is the competition that confronts modern Test cricket — that and the short attention span of the fans. Consequently, Test cricket needs more matches like the first two Tests — hard fought contests between two evenly matched teams on a surface that gives every player a chance to excel.
(The writer is a former Australian Test captain and is writing exclusively for HT. Views personal)
First Published: Dec 23, 2018 10:13 IST