There’s a lot to play for in Ranchi

Virat Kohli (left) with Steve Smith

Kolkata: The stage is set. Both India and Australia are ready to bounce back in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and take on each other in the third Test beginning in the JSCA Stadium in Ranchi tomorrow.

India-Australia battles have always been more than a mere cricket match. It has always been more than an exhibition of glorious cricket. It has always been a battle of extreme emotions, aggressive mindsets and clash of temperaments. The current Test series has been witness to enough war of words and controversies. Sledging as usual has been in the forefront. But now, it’s time for the war to resume on the ground. With MS Dhoni no longer in the helm, Team India has a highly emotional skipper in Virat Kohli who never minces words.

Kohli unlike Dhoni, doesn’t like to hide his emotions and is more aggressive, which reminds us of Sourav Ganguly’s era as India’s captain. But Kohli very well knows that this attitude of his can only be afforded, provided he is backed by good performances by the team.

The JSCA stadium which is to host a Test match for the first time tomorrow, will miss the local boy, Dhoni on the pitch. This undoubtedly will be tough to digest for the spectators. It would be interesting to see whether Dhoni, who has quit Test cricket and is currently playing for Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, makes it to the stadium.

Coming back to Australia, the team has suffered a huge blow after star bowler Mitchell Starc was sent home following a foot injury. Pat Cummins will serve as his replacement. Also, Mitchell Marsh has been dropped following a shoulder injury. This doesn’t eliminate the threat though, as Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood can be deadly with the red ball. David Warner, who has been quiet by his standards in the previous two Tests will be looking to make it big. Lastly, let’s not forget skipper Steve Smith. The Australian captain who was embroiled in a controversy over the DRS, will definitely want to slam his critics with a solid show with the bat. He is one man who can take away the match from the home side.

India, on the other hand, will want to relieve some pressure from the bowlers by putting runs on the board. The ordinary show of the batsmen in the previous Tests is something that is a worrying factor. The rare failure of Kohli has exposed the loopholes in the batting line-up. Kohli needs to get back to form in his team’s interest. However Kohli knows this well and will look to do what he does the best, destroy the opposition!

Already the tension is building up and with Smith rubbishing his counterpart’s allegations that he looked in the direction of the dressing room for taking the DRS, the Ranchi Test makes up for a memorable battle between the two arch rivals. “It was a little bit disappointing. I think that obviously I made a mistake and I came out and said that. What I did was wrong and I know that. But that was the first time it has happened. I know as a team we don’t do that. And I think his comments… I think he said that we did it twice while he was out there. I don’t think he was out there long enough for two appeals. He’s entitled to his opinion, but from my point of view he’s completely wrong,” Smith was quoted by the media.

Kohli, on the other hand, wants to move on and he made it clear at the pre-match press meet in Ranchi. “As I said, we need to move on and focus on the game tomorrow and we have two more Test Matches to go. As I said, two sides to the coin, I could be speaking about it again and things are not going to move forward. Everyone sitting here has their own interests and choose to ask what they want to. But our focus remains on the game and we need to look forward,” the Indian skipper pointed out.

Well, the battlelines are drawn! And there’s a lot which is at stake in Ranchi.

(With inputs from Cricinfo)

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