It was a prickly Test match in Ranchi in every way imaginable, the shoulder injury to Virat Kohli adding fuel to fire when it could so easily have been used as the balm to soothe frayed tempers and wounded egos.
Charges and counter-charges have flown thick and fast from both camps, helped along by motivated extraneous forces, and it was a surprise that there were no overly unsavoury incidents in the aftermath of Reviewgate in Bangalore.
The third Test at the JSCA International Stadium witnessed its fair share of ugly moments, not least when Glenn Maxwell clutched his right shoulder in mock pain. It was a fairly tasteless gesture from an otherwise fun-loving, happy-go-lucky character who was among the first Australians to congratulate Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha on their getting to significant batting milestones.
The Australian media has targeted Virat Kohli for special attention right from the start of the tour, and it was no different on Monday (March 20) at the conclusion of the game when the first – and as it turned out only – question from the touring Australian contingent centred around Steven Smith’s earlier remarks that Kohli had told Smith and the Australian players that they were being disrespectful of Patrick Farhart, the physio of the Indian team who is of Lebanese origin but who is settled in Australia.
Farhart, who has worked as the physiotherapist of Australia and has been involved with Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, worked overtime to get Kohli’s right shoulder fit for battle. After missing nearly 100 overs of Australia’s first innings, Kohli batted briefly and marshalled his forces during the entire length of the Australian second innings that lasted exactly 100 overs.
“It is funny,” Kohli smiled at the questioner. “All our guys ask about cricket and the first thing you ask is controversial. But it is ok. These things happen on the field. Four-five of them took Patrick’s name, I don’t know why. His job is to treat me. I did not find the reason behind it (taking Farhart’s name), I could not understand. You must ask him (Smith) why they started taking his name.”
Smith had sung a different tune a few minutes earlier. The host broadcaster had erroneously portrayed the Australian captain as grabbing his left shoulder after catching Kohli at second slip in an apparent dig , when the hand in question was that of Peter Handscomb from gully, who was celebrating the dismissal. “I was a bit disappointed,” Smith said of the broadcaster’s act, then quickly added like an errant schoolboy, “I didn’t actually do anything. Virat was having a go at me saying I was disrespecting Patrick Farhart. If I was to do anything, I’d say he did a terrific job to get Virat out on the field. He’s a terrific physio.” Why Kohli dragged Farhart into the picture in the first place, if he actually did so, was something Smith threw no light on, even as he sidestepped a question on his opinion of the ‘Moxwell’ jibe.
In Bangalore at the conclusion of the second Test, David Warner had said that what happened on the field must stay on the field. His comments were in reference to Cheteshwar Pujara reminding him of the number of times R Ashwin had had his number, a comment Pujara reiterated in a video interaction between Ashwin and him on the Indian board’s official website. Clearly, Smith doesn’t share his deputy’s point of view, because he was happy to reveal on his own accord what exchanges had taken place in the middle.
Smith, though, insisted that this Test match had been played in the true spirit of the game. “There’s always a little bit of tension when Australia and India are playing in Test matches,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s being played in the right spirit on the field, it’s been a tough hard grind. That’s how I’d explain it, no issue with that.”
The final act of what has been a no-holds-barred contest in every sense of the term remains to be played out in Dharamsala from Saturday. Whether the cooler climes of the mountains will help assuage simmering emotions, however, is debatable.