Virat Kohli has been a pillar of India’s home domination ever since he hit the international cricket scene in 2008
As India took to the field against Australia during the third Test at Indore, Virat Kohli played his 200th international match on home soil. India are 2-0 up in the four-match series which has seen the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel being the brightest stars for the hosts. Virat has been a pillar of India’s home domination ever since he hit the international cricket scene in 2008.
In 199 matches at home so far, he has scored 10,829 runs in 221 innings at an average of 58.22. He has scored 34 centuries and 51 half-centuries at home, with the best score of 254*.
However this time around, the pressure will be on Virat, who has been searching for big runs in the longer format since 2020. His numbers for 2020 (116 runs in three matches at an average of 19.33 with one fifty in six innings), 2021 (536 runs in 11 matches at an average of 28.21 with four fifties in 19 innings) and 2022 (265 in six matches at an average of 26.50 with one fifty in 11 innings) are too underwhelming for someone of his stature.
However, Virat looked in complete control during his short innings of 44 and 20 runs in both innings of the second Test in Delhi and Team India would hope that their biggest batting star will end his three-year-long drought of big runs, which will also boost India’s chances to qualify for ICC World Test Championship finals, to be played in London from June 7 onwards.
Virat has managed 76 runs in three innings in this series at an average of 25.33.
India will also aim to overcome the Australian challenge at Indore to make it 3-0 and secure qualification for the WTC final. Skipper Rohit Sharma also believes in focusing on the present and taking on the Aussie challenge at Indore.
“It will be a great achievement for us [to reach the WTC final], but we know that we need to cross that final hurdle, and for that, we need to win the next game as well, so the focus is on this Test, how we can win this game, and not look too far ahead, because after this game we have got one more Test match to be played, and then after that, there are two months of IPL,” Rohit said as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
“There is a lot of time to think about the final, but right now it is very important for us to focus on this one and see how we can turn it around and win this game as well, because in the last game, we were put under pressure for sure, we can expect the same here as well, so we need to be ready for that,” added Rohit.
Regarding whether KL Rahul or Shubman Gill will play in the match, Rohit said that things are not decided yet.
“As far as Gill and KL both are concerned, they train and practice [for long hours] before any game…As far as our 11 is concerned, we have not finalised on it. I would like to do it at the toss and I prefer to be announced at that point in time,” Rohit Sharma further said.
He also pointed out that KL Rahul being removed from vice-captaincy is not a big thing and he was given the post only because the team lacked veterans.
“All 17 players in the team has a chance. The team will back those who are talented. Stripping vice-captaincy doesn’t mean anything big. He was made the vice-captain because maybe there was not many experienced players at that time. It is not a big thing,” Rohit said.
KL had a disappointing 2022 with the bat and has not started 2023 very brightly either. On the other hand, Shubman Gill is in red-hot form in white-ball cricket, having hit a double ton against New Zealand this year.
Overall in 30 matches last year, KL aggregated 822 runs at an average of 25.68, with nine half-centuries.
This year, he has scored a paltry 38 runs in three Test innings.
Overall, he has totalled just 148 runs across five international matches at an average of 29.60, with one half-century and the best score of 64*.
On the other hand, Australia will be aiming that they win the rest of two matches and will be playing for their respect, having lost their chance to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
For that they will need their Steve Smith, leading in absence of Pat Cummins, who is in Australia due to family health issues, to fire with the bat.
The 33-year-old boasts an exemplary batting record as captain, with 3793 runs at 67.73 with 15 hundreds, three of which came on his last Test trip to India in 2017.
Encouraged by his success in the past, Smith is hopeful that the leadership role can help him regain his form with the bat, with him having registered scores of 37, 25*, 0 and 9 in the series thus far.
Smith expressed his frustration with his dismissals in Delhi Test while speaking to media.
“I have played, what, 95 Test matches (94) and I do not think there has been too many times I have walked off the field and I have gone, ‘what the hell am I doing?'” Smith told reporters on Tuesday.
“I was pretty angry. There has not been too many times in my career where I have actually come off and just been bedazzled by what I’ve done. It wasn’t my finest moment. Certainly, something to learn from, I am still learning as well. It was not the way I wanted to play, particularly when I had the field set for all of us – they had the field out,” said the Australia captain.
Smith conceded that the visitors faltered as a result of their hasty approach, something he plans to remedy in the remaining two Tests.
“We probably just rushed things a little bit and it is something we will talk about …when we have got them on the ropes, we can slow things down. We do not have to play at such a high tempo and risky tempo. Because we had them where we wanted them, we had men out and the ability to get off strike. We just rushed it. We have got to learn to adapt a little bit better,” he added.
While Australia has lost pacer Josh Hazlewood and veteran opener David Warner for the rest of the series due to injuries, they will be boosted by the returns of quick Mitchell Starc and all-rounder Cameron Green, who sustained finger injuries during the home series against South Africa and missed the first two Tests against India.
India’s Test squad for the third and fourth Test against Australia: Rohit Sharma (Captain), K L Rahul, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, KS Bharat (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Umesh Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat.