India vs Australia third Test: Time for the head of the snake - Virat Kohli - to send the Aussies running for cover

Ashim Sunam
Virat Kohli, sledging, Ranchi Test, India vs Australia, third Test

The last two series that India played -- against New Zealand and England -- Virat Kohli and his men did not involve in much verbal chatter on the field. But, the ongoing Test series against Australia has been the opposite for many a reason, with sledging at its peak, run-scoring being difficult, and to spice things up more, controversies and drama grabbing the headlines.

Read: What does Ranchi have in store for cricket fans? 

Welcome to a typical India vs Australia Test series, where tempers, most of the times, boil over.

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There is something about India and Australia, when they play one another. Is it animosity or their competitive nature?

Let's bring some history into it.

The 2007-08 series in Australia had the "monkeygate" episode and Mitchell Johnson's confrontation with Kohli in 2014-15 series was epic. And why should this series be any different? We have Steve Smith's DRS 'brain fade' moment in the second Test. So there you go, the stage is all set for a brilliant third Test match in Ranchi, with the series nicely poised at 1-1.

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In this Test series, something unique has taken shape. The talismanic India captain Kohli has failed to read the line of the ball, getting bowled and leg before wicket on three of the four occasions.

As a result, his record in the series with 40 runs has been poor, considering he scored 309 runs against New Zealand in 3 matches and 655 runs against England in 4 Tests.

There is a serious need for Kohli to get back to his run-scoring ways. There is no doubt about his talent or his run-scoring ability with the willow, but he has to find his batting rhythm. It has been quite some time since Kohli has had such a barren run, so the India skipper will be feeling the pressure.

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It is his time to walk the talk.

Kohli has time and again, opened up about how he excels under pressure, and he has shown that with numerous, successful run-chases. But, the pressure of a Test match, and especially this series, is a different matter altogether with fielders crowding around the bat even if you are born and brought up playing spin.

Along with it, close-in fielders are chirping away all the time to distract Kohli, who needs to use his willow this time to silence one and all, including the Australian media, who have referred to him as a "dictator".

India are always a strong side at home, a difficult team to beat. But this series has not gone according to plan. Australia have come well prepared with spinners like Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keffe doing their homework well. Life has been difficult for Kohli and the rest of the India batsmen. 

Kohli needs to apply himself at the crease, play the ball on its merit as he has done with great ease against New Zealand, England and Bangladesh in this home season. He seems to be trying too hard to score runs against Australia. The class of Kohli is such that it does not demand him to over try. The problem for Kohli has been his failure to cross the 20-run mark. His best score has been 15.

Kohli needs to take it session wise, build his confidence back and play his normal shots, which can trouble Australia. If Kohli begins to score runs, India will look a completely different team. He is such a player, whose success rubs off on other players too, and lower order batsman like R Ashwin can also contribute handsomely with the bat. 

India have not been able to score good totals, which has been a concern. Hence, Kohli's performance in the third Test with the bat matters even more. India's highest total has been 274, scored in the second innings of the Bengaluru Test.

If Kohli can notch some important runs in Ranchi, India will be on the frontfoot, and with bowlers like Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, they can pile more pressure on the Australia batsmen, who despite their efforts have found the spin duo tough to handle.

Mind you, Ashwin and Jadeja can be even more venomous when they are backed by huge totals. Ashwin giving the ball more air and Jadeja bowling a tight line and length, without the fear of being hit for boundaries, can trouble the Australia batsmen.

It is time for the head of the snake to bite Australia with his willow, unleashing his venomous drives and flicks to lay Australia flat in Ranchi.

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