Maybe Dharamsala Will Cool Aussie-Indian Tempers
Mind ganes are very much part and parcel of an India-Australia series. For long now it has ceased to be just a contest of skill on the field.
Given the high stakes involved between two intensely professional and evenly matched sides and with ego, prestige and oneupmanship very much in the mix a match-up between India and Australia is not for soft hearts. The players are excepted to handle sledging and even unacceptable behavior on the field and needling utterances off it along with how to play an effortless cover drive or how to bowl a well disguised googly.
The on-going Test series is no different. There has been a lot of aggression and emotion on the field and there is no doubt that the players have crossed the line quite often. Each team blames the other which means there can really be no respite from the tension on and off the field. Just as we thought that things were cooling off a bit following the break between the second and third Tests certain unsavoury incidents at Ranchi showed that all is still not well between the sides and there is a possibility that things could spin out of control in the final Test at Dharamsala.
After all the teams are level at one match all with everything to play for and in this super charged atmosphere of a high profile contest what will be needed at Dharamsala is firm handling by the officials for the players are likely to get carried away at the slightest provocation. Under the circumstances the umpires and the match referee would do well to nip things in the bud and take firm action if the players step out of line.
There is enough ill feeling already thanks to seamy incidents in the first three Tests but what has made the tension even more palpable is the Australian media terming Virat Kohli as the Donald Trump of world sport and Mitchell Starc hinting that India are scared of losing to te Australia. Admittedly these too constitute mind games even if both these statements have a grain of truth in them. For some now Kohli has been keeping in check his nasty temper with the captaincy possibly being a contributory factor.
This was welcomed for he could remain aggressive without crossing the line. In this series however the old Kohli regretfully seems to be back symbolized by his unsubstantiated charge against the Aussies that they attempted to consult the dressing room on more than one occasion during the DRS process/ Perhaps the pressures of failing with the bat is telling on him. With just 46 runs from five innings he is having his worst series ever.
Another factor could be that the Aussies are proving to be tough opponents and Kohli is feeling the heat. What was predicted as another cakewalk for India in the wake of a triumphant run of 19 Tests without defeat is turning out to be an extremely close contest with the Aussies displaying resilience and a never-say-die attitude qualities they are well known for. This is where Starc has a point when he hints that the Indians are feeling the pressure. And it is this pressure that sometimes allows emotions to get out of control.
That said it must be admitted that the Australians are not blameless either. The behavior of some of their players has been lamentable. Even if Steve Smith has admitted he was wrong in his role in the Reviewgate incident at Bangalore what he did could not have done anything to better the badly strained ties between the two teams. I suppose the two captains will have a major role to play at Dharamsala if things are not to get out of control but that is easier said than done in the present atmosphere which needs just a little tinder box to spark off a major explosion.
Ultimately as I said it will be up to the officials to keep a tight control over the proceedings for as things stand in a match that in all probability could decide the winner of the series one can expect the underlying tension to surface over and over again. Perhaps the cooler clime of Dharamsala and the picturesque venue could help in keeping frayed tempers under check.
From a purely cricketing point however it must be said that the Dharmasala game, is amouth watering prospect. There has been a lot of good cricket played in the series as befitting the top two ranked Test sides though some of it has been camouflaged by the unhappy happenings. To go into the final Test with the teams level and everything to play for is the stuff that dreams are made of and if only the players can control their aggression and emotions the Test could be a sight for the gods.