After spending over 11 hours off the pitch, Team India skipper Virat Kohli returned to the middle amid a huge round of applause from the spectators -mostly school kids -at the JSCA International Stadium here on Saturday. But his ‘guest appearance’ lasted no more than 37 unconvincing minutes.
The Indian captain contributed a meagre six runs off 23 balls, and was even mocked by Glenn Maxwell in the course of his innings.
Kohli, who injured his right shoulder while trying to save a boundary on Day One of the third Test match, did not field during the remaining part of the Australian innings. He was cleared to bat at his usual position (No. 4) under the rules as his injury had been sustained on the field and during the match.
With opener Murali Vijay falling to Steve O’Keefe three balls before the lunch interval, Kohli walked out to bat in Cheteshwar Pujara’s company after the break. There was no immediate reaction from the Aussies even as Kohli betrayed no pain or discomfort while facing up to the pacers and spinners.
It was Maxwell who tried to get under Kohli’s skin. Pujara glanced the third ball off the 81st over, bowled by Pat Cummins, to the mid-wicket boundary. Maxwell, much like Kohli had done on Day 1, gave it a hot chase and dived to save one run for his team. He was clearly not hurt, but TV cameras caught Maxwell touching his shoulder with an impish smile on his face even as he got back on his feet. It was not quite in-your-face stuff, but certainly uncharitable on the part of Maxwell even if he had done it in jest.
The whole drama ended next ball as Kohli drove at a wide half-volley from Cummins without moving his feet and the ball flew to second slip, where Smith held a wonderful reflex catch.
The Aussies celebrated wildly as Kohli cut a sorry figure while trudging back to the pavilion.
Maxwell’s gesture, however, did not go down well with the Indian team. “We have taken note of it. Let’s see what happens in the second innings,” said Murali Vijay, hinting that the Indian players may give it back to Maxwell.
The Australians, too, were unhappy when Kohli came out of the Indian dressing room to the balcony and clapped after Australia had their second review struck down in the morning session.
Australia’s bowling coach David Saker, however, tried to play down the incident. “I know he (Kohli) came out and clapped… I don’t know if it was directed at any one in particular, but that’s the way he’s been playing this series,” Saker opined.
“It’s really a cut-throat series for everyone and it’s first versus second, there’s a lot of pressure on him. In fact, there’s pressure on everyone at the moment.