It was waiting to happen. A four-Test series between India and Australia was never going to be played between just the bat and ball. Someone was going to say something and the others were going to jump in. It is after all, the nastiest rivalry in cricket.
Cricketing relations between Australia and India have become increasingly bitter following the 2008 Sydney Test ‘monkeygate’, with players going after each other on the field, even falling just short of accusing the other of cheating.
Had Steve Smith and David Warner been available for the ongoing Border Gavaskar Trophy, things would have exploded on the face of the cricketing world in Adelaide itself; the Aussies remember that in the previous Test series in India, Virat Kohli’s team accused them of trying to subvert the decision review system and use the help of the dressing room.
The scenario was different at the beginning of the series. Australia, led by Tim Paine, were more concerned about how they looked while playing the game. Results were important but secondary, no matter what they said to the media.
But with Kohli in the opposition camp, how long was that charade going to last? These are two teams who have grown to dislike each other. There is less begrudging respect and more grinding of the teeth.
Virat Kohli: "If you mess up, it's 2-0 here."— Cricket on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) December 16, 2018
Time Paine: "You gotta bat first big head."
The Skippers have an exchange at the end of day three 👀 pic.twitter.com/UGewRFi5dn
So when Kohli felt robbed after being adjudged caught at slip after scoring a superlative century in the first innings in the Perth Test, there was to be no going back.
For the entire Australian second innings, Kohli kept chirping away – to his bowlers, fielders, Australian batsmen – with an underlying aggression punctuating his tone.
When Usman Khawaja was hit in the ‘lower abdomen’ by Jasprit Bumrah, Kohli slapped his hands and shouted ‘yes boy’. When Paine came out to bat late on Sunday and missed a drive, Kohli reminded him that a mistake from him would see the Aussies trail 2-0.
Paine replied that it was India who had to bat later, and addressed the India skipper as ‘big head’. This was all picked up by the stump mic. Australia will remember the next time an Indian player gets hit.
A lot more things will be said in the Perth Test. Melbourne and Sydney will also see the nastiness turned up to 11, especially if Australia level the series in Perth. Because once the match starts, India and Australia can’t help but surrender to their basic instinct which is to shove the opponent as fast and hard into the ground as possible. It is what it is.
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