What’s the story?
Even as the second day of the Bengaluru Test witnessed a riveting contest between bat and ball, rival captains Virat Kohli and Steven Smith added to the drama by having a go at each other. The star batsmen were seen trading barbs at each other in an intense game of one-upmanship.
“Kohli and Smith are going at it. Between overs, Virat was into Smith. It looks like Smith is going back as well. Smith has made a lot of runs in the last 12 months, two years. I can't recall anybody getting under his skin or saying a word to him.
“Virat (has made up his mind) 'we're not letting Steve Smith play his game, living in his bubble and making more runs. I'm going to stir him up and get something out of the Australian captain’,” former Australian skipper Michael Clarke said on Star Sports.
At the end of the second day’s play, opener Matt Renshaw revealed, “There was a bit of talk but I think that’s because just (Smith and Kohli) were trying to unnerve each other and trying to get under (each other’s) skin.”
Both Smith and Kohli had set the stage for a fascinating tussle by engaging in pre-match banter. The former claimed that the visitors had placed India under immense pressure by clinching the opening Test in Pune by a massive margin. However, the latter shrugged it off and responded that the Australians were just resorting to mind games.
The heart of the matter
After getting dismissed for 189 in their first innings and watching the Aussie openers cruise to 40/0, India needed a strong start to the second day to get back into the Bengaluru Test. Eager to control the flow of runs, Kohli opted for slightly defensive fields. His bowlers stuck to their plans and challenged the persistence of the tourists.
Looking to utilise the variable bounce on offer, Kohli gave lengthy spells to Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. While the fast bowlers kept plugging away, he got in on the act by giving a verbal dosage to Smith and Renshaw. Even as the Indian skipper urged the Bengaluru crowd to find their voice, his counterpart did not shy away from the sledging episode.
By trading flamboyance for tenacity, Australia managed to weather the turbulent phase and end the second day at 237/6 with their lead already at 48 runs. India will be hoping to strike early on the third day in order to pull themselves back into the contest.
Unlike most other Indian captains, Kohli prefers to wear his heart on his sleeve. Realising the importance of a change in body language, he tried to fire up his teammates. With Smith responding in a typical Australian manner, the atmosphere turned into a pulsating one. It remains to be seen who will have the last laugh in their absorbing battle.