Star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin led with a six-wicket haul as India defeated Australia by 75 runs with a day to spare in the second Test at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium Bengaluru on Tuesday.
Chasing a target of 188 runs, Australia were bundled out for 112 in their second innings shortly after tea on the penultimate day. India have now levelled the four-Test series at 1-1. The Indians bowled superbly on a pitch which has developed quite a few cracks, making it difficult for batting.
Ashwin did the most damage with figures of 6/41. Fast bowler Umesh Yadav displayed excellent speed and swing to return 2/30 while fellow pacer Ishant Sharma and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja bagged a wicket each. The Australians found it difficult to score against Jadeja who gave away only three runs in his eight overs which included five maidens.
While captain Virat Kohli would have been a relieved man after his team's victory, having faced some flak for his side's heavy loss in the first Test in Pune as well as for his loss of form with the bat, he minced no words in the press conference that followed. Kohli returned to the fiery ways of the old while conveying his thoughts on various topics — from Ian Healy criticising him for on-field sledging to Steve Smith's 'brain fade' of consulting his team-mates in the dressing room for DRS.
Presenting excerpts from the presser, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the stormiest media interactions in the history of the 'gentleman's game':
On the use of the DRS, and the problems pertaining to it:
See, there are loopholes in every technology and system, there’s no two ways about it. People are bound to make mistakes. At the moment, the call that’s made on the field stays, and that’s what everyone is playing with, and there have been a few instances where it’s been a little tricky. It’s been doubtful for people to understand what’s exactly going on. Benefit of doubt used to go to the batsman before, but now that seems to have gone out of the window, and we have also not been that consistent with taking the right DRS calls; I think we need to get better with that. But one thing being that we take our decisions on the field ourselves. We don’t ask for confirmation upstairs, so I think that’s one thing that’s pretty consistent with us.
On the Bengaluru win being more fulfilling in his captaincy so far:
For sure. Till now, this is the best one definitely. I don’t want to say too much, because the game panned out the way it did, and there’s not much left to say. It was quite an emotional game for us, quite draining as well. Everyone got along together, we showed the team spirit, and a lot of people were talking about the head of the snake, but I think the snake did pretty well by itself. So it’s not just about one individual. I’m pretty happy if they keep focusing on the head of the snake, and the snake can sting from a lot of directions. I think some people need to keep that in mind, but I thought [this was] the sweetest victory for us.
On the Indian bowlers setting the game up on the second day:
For sure. I said that in the post-match [presentation] as well. I think the first session on day two – we gave away only 45-odd runs and picked up two wickets when they could have taken the game away from us — they were 40 without loss [overnight]. I think that was probably the momentum change that we needed, and throughout the day we didn’t give more than 200 runs, we picked up six wickets. I think that for us was quite important, and something that you look for as a team. Someone has to step up and do the job for you. I think (Ravindra) Jadeja was outstanding in the first innings along with our fast bowlers. Their spell again was very very good, relentless pressure from one end by Umesh (YAdav) and Ishant (Sharma) and then Jadeja picking up those wickets later on.
Those are the kind of things you need as a team to change the tide that’s going against you. One thing is that we never stopped trying. We didn’t give in, we didn’t let the opposition totally roll over us, we knew if they didn’t get a big first-innings total, Day 3 – end of Day 2 and Day 3 – is the best time to bat here and Day 4 is going to be very difficult. We saw the first-class stats, and no team chased 120 also in the fourth innings, so we knew, once we get 150-plus, we have a fair chance to go at them, and eventually we surprised ourselves by winning by 75. Honestly, I thought it was going to be closer than that.
On Steven Smith’s “brain fade”:
I saw that happening two times when I was batting out there. I pointed it out to the umpire as well, that it’s happened twice, that I’ve seen their players looking upstairs for confirmation, and that’s why the umpire was at him. When he turned back the umpire knew exactly what was going on, because we observed that, we told match referee also, and the umpires, that they’ve been doing that for the last three days and this has to stop. Because there’s a line that you don’t cross on the cricket field, because sledging and playing against the opponents is different. But… I don’t want to mention the word, but it falls in that bracket. I would never do something like that on the cricket field.
(Follow up to the previous question) Is that word “cheating”?
I didn’t say that. You did.
On the team dealing with pressure after the Pune humiliation:
We had spoken even before this Test match about, if they are saying that they need to get me out and the team will fall apart, I told everyone else, it’s an opportunity for you. Let the pressure come, I have no problem, it doesn’t make a difference to me whether I perform or not, I just look to learn from failures. If you perform well and the team wins, then obviously you’re pleased, but you just want your team to win.
We addressed it, and said, let their focus be on this, and if they don’t focus on the others, they’ll let the momentum slip, and that’s exactly what happened. They basically played into our hands. But at the same time you need two-three people to step up and take responsibility, and I feel that the partnership between Ajinkya (Rahane) and (Cheteshwar) Pujara, in a situation where the momentum was against us in the series, was outstanding. In the last two years, it’s one of the top two partnerships, or maybe number one, because retrieving the lost momentum and giving the team the lead was a question of character, and they both showed why they are India’s best Test batsmen.
On Healy's criticism of his on-field tactics:
[I’ll lose respect] in his eyes? We’ve got 1.2 billion people in India. One person doesn’t make a difference to my life. And also I think you should go and search on YouTube, when he was given out in Centurion, down the leg side. I heard he said something about me not having good behaviour with umpires — I think you all should YouTube that video and I think, yeah, that says it all. Just see that video and next time you ask me the same question.
Whether the two instances mentioned were brain fades or that he avoided the word 'cheating':
Honestly, if someone makes a mistake while batting, for me personally, that's a brain fade. The way I left the ball in Pune, you know, getting hit on the off-stump. That was a brain fade. But if something is going on for three days, then that's not a brain fade, as simple as that.
I don't want to say more on that, videos are out there for everyone to see. It was getting repetitive, that's why the umpires also knew that it might happen again. I saw it two times when I was batting, I can vouch for that.
On his dismissal (a contentious one) in second innings:
I felt my bat had touched the ball before the pad. It stays with the on-field call if the umpires don’t think there is enough to overturn the decision. That is also a thin line that can go against you or work for you. Everyone makes mistakes, batsmen get out after making mistakes. There are doubtful moments in batting too when you don’t understand what to do. So this can happy with anyone, so I wouldn’t like to put it against me. But it’s one incident that you might feel it’s not out, but your partner might feel it’s out. There were both opinions on it to whoever I spoke with. Some thought there was pad, some thought there was bat. So the on-field call that stayed was by the rules eventually. I didn’t take it against anybody. Like I said, their focus was on us. So that’s good, let it be like that.
Whether the Indians were a bowler short, going with four for this match:
I don't think so, because we knew the Bangalore wicket, since it has been relaid there have been only one or two bowlers doing the job. One or two bowlers have been getting a lot of wickets. If you see this Test match as well, Lyon got eight in the first innings, then Jadeja got six, then Hazlewood six and Ashwin six. So I think one bowler has stood out, even in the first-class season we saw that. You know, from that feedback, we knew that we had to play an extra batter just to strengthen up a batting a bit, because we were shaken up in Pune a little bit. And you need guys to have that bit of cushion. So when you put runs on the board in either of the innings, then obviously it helps the bowlers to come and put pressure on the batsmen. I think it was more to do with how the games have panned out here and that's why we decided to go with that combination.
Talking generally about the whole season:
We can't do much about the Ranchi pitch, you know how it's always been. It's always been slow and low, they know exactly what to expect there and we know what to expect as well. It's how you mentally prepare, mentally what kind of zone you're in as a team. I think this was the kind of game we needed to sort of forget that hiccup in Pune and move forward again as a pack. Yeah, the spinners have been outstanding and they will definitely look to back their strengths and dominate the home season as they've done so far.
On KL Rahul's growth as a batsman, especially in the last three Tests:
I think the last three innings have been his best three innings so far. And I told him this, you'll cherish the ones that you don't get hundreds in, but they're so valuable for the team and you'll understand their importance later. And that happens to every batsman, I think he's in a very good zone. He wants to convert his own starts into big hundreds, which he's done in the past, but because it has been a bit difficult in the past with momentum not going around our way, I think he's stuck in really well. He's shown a lot of character and I'm sure in the coming games he'd like to push that score forward and put the team into a more consolidating position. Hats off to the way he's played. Young guy, big series, team up against the wall and he's shows character, you know, three times out of four innings, so outstanding.
Ups and downs of the series so far:
The people involved in the game know exactly how it went. If you dissect the game, you understand where we lost momentum, where we played well, where we didn’t. So we keep it simple: we will improve on things we didn’t do well, and continue doing things we did. We don’t take too much load. You want a wicket to fall, sitting outside you think why it isn’t falling. But a bowler knows that it’s coming. So that’s a difference in mindset between people outside and us. If we think the same, we’ll become frustrated. But yes it’s been challenging, the last seven-eight days. But I said only one thing, and that is that we will win together and lose together. Not like we will start running here and there, two people saying we need rest. Nothing like that, we will stay together. We took two days off in Pune, and even when we came here, I said the result doesn’t matter. We will just enjoy and appreciate the moment. That if we have won together, we will also lose together. We will stick together as a team.
With inputs from IANS