Kohli is winning the war of the words

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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209 Have your say

    In 25 years of watching cricket, I have never seen a Test captain display the kind of histrionics we witnessed from Virat Kohli during the second Test.

    From Day 2 onwards, Kohli was like a rampant bull on the field – glaring, gesticulating, challenging, mocking and abusing.

    Yet he wasn’t out of control. Kohli’s naked aggression and fury was calculated and clever.

    He might have failed again with the bat, but make no mistake, Kohli was a significant reason India completed a rousing come-from-behind win. Undoubtedly concerned about the sleepy state of his side during their first Test loss and ordinary first-day effort at Bangalore, Kohli took it upon himself to energise his charges and change the tone of the series.

    Up to that point, relations between the sides had been relatively genial. There had been plenty of back and forth, but little spice to these exchanges.

    The Australians appeared relaxed, whether batting or bowling. I bet this would have irked Kohli, who has experienced first-hand the hostile environment the Australians create for touring teams.

    Kohli wanted Australia to feel as though they were under siege. He sought to shove the tourists entirely out of their comfort zone. With the series slipping through his fingers, the skipper’s admirable passion and competitive gusto flooded the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

    Despite not bowling a single over, he managed to will himself upon the contest in the field.

    He did this not just through the typical captaincy route of employing attacking fields and voraciously encouraging his teammates, Kohli also targeted each and every Australian batsman with verbals, which seemingly ranged from parody to taunts to outright scorn.

    Even that didn’t satiate Kohli’s hunger for cricketing chaos. So he frequently turned his back on the game, faced the stands and gestured animatedly to the crowd. Kohli wanted the spectators to match his fierce intensity. He wouldn’t be happy until the Australians felt as if the whole of India had turned against them.

    At his behest, the stadium became a cauldron. This environment energised the Indian players, while clearly having a negative impact on some of the Australians.

    India's captain Virat Kohli

    His manic fidgeting aside, Australian skipper Steve Smith typically is a sketch of serenity at the crease.

    Smith often becomes agitated while in the field and smears his heart across his sleeve. With blade in hand, however, he rarely is riled by any antics from bowlers or fieldsmen. That wasn’t the case in Bangalore.

    As Indian paceman Ishant Sharma pulled faces at him and Kohli berated him from the slip cordon, Smith slowly began to lose focus.

    Soon he was engaging with both men, as well as spinner Ravi Jadeja, who mocked Smith’s twitching and twiddling. This was a win for Kohli.

    The Indians distracted Smith and provoked him into behaving in an unnatural manner. The Australian captain’s final act of the match was a self-confessed “brain fade”, when he looked to his dressing rooms for assistance while weighing up whether to use the DRS.

    Australian captain Steve Smith leaves the field

    Moments earlier, when Smith had been adjudged LBW to Umesh Yadav, Kohli had twice screamed “F–k off” at him amid a vicious send-off. Several times across the Test the TV cameras caught Kohli giving similarly foul-mouthed farewells to dismissed Australian batsmen.

    This was unacceptable from Kohli, and the same goes for the comparable send offs Mitchell Starc is fond of delivering.

    As Smith trudged off the Chinnaswamy for the last time in the Test, he looked well and truly frazzled. His opposite number had got under his skin. Kohli had claimed victory in the war of words.

    The Indian skipper didn’t stop there, though. He sensed that his bullying behaviour had rattled the Australians so, even once the Test was finished, he continued to turn the screws on them. He could have left the ICC to deal with Smith’s DRS blunder, but instead Kohli whipped the media into a frenzy with his pointed criticisms and accusations.

    This seemed as calculated as his on-field onslaught. Kohli wanted the Australians to feel under pressure for as long as possible, to make this loss follow them around for as long as possible.

    His aim since Day 2 had been simple – mental disintegration.

    The Australians pioneered this strategy of raking their opponents over the coals in any way they saw fit. Now Kohli has turned it against them. How Australia handle this stress will help determine whether they can stay in this series.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (209)

    • Roar Guru

      March 15th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Red Kev said | March 15th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      This is a really interesting take on the situation Ronan, thank you. It would be somewhat amusing if Stephen Waugh’s greatest disciple turned out to be Virat Kohli.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 10:40am
        WQ said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Many a true word has been spoken in gest Red Kev

      • March 15th 2017 @ 12:16pm
        Pope Paul VII said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

        Steve Waugh never resorted to this histrionic behaviour.

        While I do hate incessant inane abusive sledging

        I did enjoy Waugh’s gall in giving it to the mighty West Indians Viv Richards while bowling (Perth 1999) and Curtly Ambrose while batting (Port o’ Spain? on a bowling green) 1995.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 3:55pm
          Andy said | March 15th 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

          Well as the article says Kohlis sledging was not inane, it was always serving a purpose and it worked.

          • March 15th 2017 @ 5:37pm
            Pope Paul VII said | March 15th 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

            mental then

      • March 15th 2017 @ 12:31pm
        Pope Paul VII said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        sorry, Perth 1989.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 8:08am
      Oingo Boingo said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Quite hypocritical in a sense , that if Australia had implemented the same tactics, our media would be wheeling out the ever faithful ” Ugly Australian ” tag.
      The Aussies need to fight fire with fire herr or they’re gone .

      • March 15th 2017 @ 8:21am
        Sir Alfie said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        Agree OB. Aussies do it and we’re labelled “ugly and out of control”, Indians do it and they are just passionate and tactical……

        • March 15th 2017 @ 10:34am
          Rossy said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          The double standard is striking and I’ve been saying it for years. Kholi is the worst behaved player in world cricket – not to mention he specifically influences personally the doctoring of wickets! No one has the balls to take on the ICC sorry, BCCI and actually do something.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 11:23am
          Bee bee said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

          Disagree, we won’t win a verbal slanging match in India. To win the war of mental disintegration the key is (don’t disintergrate). Stay completely unfazed by their verbal abuse and wait for them to turn on each other.

          • March 15th 2017 @ 2:07pm
            Worlds Biggest said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

            Agee with you Bee, our boys need to knuckle down and let the barbs go through to the keeper so to speak. You won’t win a slanging match in India, just perform on the field to quiet them.

          • March 16th 2017 @ 8:24am
            col in paradise said | March 16th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

            Exactly….spot on….take it and give it back with bat and ball…and watch them turn on each other like they did in the first test….

        • March 15th 2017 @ 11:42am
          qwetzen said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          Or “a pack of wild dogs”. I haven’t spoken to Roebuck for 5 or so years now after his disgraceful Sydneygate rant..

          • March 15th 2017 @ 11:51am
            Rossy said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

            Sadly for Peter, he hasn’t spoken to anyone I’m afraid.

            • March 15th 2017 @ 1:45pm
              Ray Charles said | March 15th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

              Gold! Roebuck almost single handedly ended Australia’s dominance of World cricket with his carry on.
              PS I was sure handedly was a word.

          • March 15th 2017 @ 4:15pm
            George said | March 15th 2017 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

            He quite rightly suggested Katich should be captain.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 8:16am
      Bindi said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Both teams have to stop this. It is going out of hand.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 8:46am
      AdrianK said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Bring back the “real” Warner! He could start in a bar, taking a swing at the smallest, youngest member of the Indian side. Then unleash him in the field.

      Who else do we have to go toe to toe with Kohli? Wade has stamina – just needs to ramp it up from “nice Garry”

      • March 15th 2017 @ 2:01pm
        Adrian said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        The real Warner was stopped from doing it when he was banned for 3 months by Cricket Australia.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 3:58pm
        Andy said | March 15th 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

        No one but Usman is both smart enough and calm enough; Warner and Wade are neither, Smith is smart but not nearly calm enough and Starc as a bowler is too far away when he isnt bowling to be useful.

    • Columnist

      March 15th 2017 @ 8:51am
      AJ Mithen said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Nice piece Ronan. Interesting to see how we react when the blowtorch is turned on us, isn’t it.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 10:35am
        Rossy said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        What do you mean the ‘blowtorch’ – unsportsmanlike behaviour?

        I thought everyone wanted this kind of thing ‘out of the game’?

        Seemed to be the case when Australia was the alleged transgressors. Now it’s merely ‘interesting’

        What’s interesting is the one-eyed hypocrisy from most on the global cricketing media and fans.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 11:27am
          Bee bee said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

          Not easy to point out hypocrisy when we introduced this tactic.

          This tactic is old, Australia can move beyond it. Time to just Renshaw them. Smile, take your time, hit them to the boundary.

          • March 15th 2017 @ 12:40pm
            Riccardo said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report


            Should be easier with Starc out.

            Chances of the Australian Team (and some of its fans) adopting such a strategy?



          • March 15th 2017 @ 4:31pm
            Hugo au Gogo said | March 15th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

            I think you’ll find WG Grace was a noted sledger. Aussies didn’t introduce it and its been going on for 100 years at least. Though there did used to be some humour occassionally…..

            • March 15th 2017 @ 10:15pm
              Bee bee said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:15pm | ! Report

              I imagine our ancestors sledged Neanderthals out of existence.

              But more recently; mental disintergration was a thing. It was a Steve Waugh era thing. And it was a team tactic not just random temper tantrums.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 11:44am
          Jacko said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

          Rossy Aus are world leaders at sledging and attempted mental disintregration. For 25 years now I have watched a bowler come out before every series and claim who his bunny is and how he will be destroyed thru-out the series… Aus meets their match and cant handle it.

          Apparently a throat slitting gesture is worse than verbally threatening a batsman with a broken arm! Thats the Aussie captain who said that.

          The problem is the ICC who has decided that this behavior is not worthy of punishment. If this was not allowed years ago and had been stopped and punished every time then it would not be happening or the player would be suspended. Now if anyone is no worse than last test the ICC has nothing they can do as they have allowed this already

          • March 15th 2017 @ 11:52am
            Rossy said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

            Agree, but surely those who follow and comment on the game should be consistent.

            If you condemned the Australians how can you praise the Indians?

            • March 15th 2017 @ 12:32pm
              Pope Paul VII said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

              also these Aussies are pretty chilled

          • March 15th 2017 @ 12:48pm
            Nudge said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

            So an Aus bowler coming out before the series and claiming an opposition batsman will be his bunny is bad is it Jacko? And a hand gesture of slitting someone’s throat is no where near as bad as telling someone they are about to get a broken arm? Good one mate

            • Roar Guru

              March 15th 2017 @ 3:13pm
              Chris Kettlewell said | March 15th 2017 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

              And the broken arm comment was basically about standing up to a massive bully who loved to bully opposition players but couldn’t take it himself!

              • March 15th 2017 @ 4:17pm
                George said | March 15th 2017 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

                You mean like McGrath or Warne?


              • March 15th 2017 @ 6:13pm
                matth said | March 15th 2017 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

                I think Warne could take it just fine. McGrath on the other hand.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 9:01am
      AlanC said | March 15th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Yep, well written Ronan. You could see the change in both teams as the energy in the stadium built.

      He would have made a great gladiator in the Colosseum.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 10:37am
        Rossy said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        He would have been a terrible gladiator, gladiators couldn’t beg the stadium be doctored to their personal preference or have the benefit of performing a majority of the time in front of favourable audiences.

        Comparing this spoilt brat to a gladiator is laughable.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 11:46am
          Jacko said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

          Geez how did you lose that other eye…..your blindness to one of the two sides involved is laughable

          • March 15th 2017 @ 11:53am
            Rossy said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

            You honestly think he is comparable to a gladiator?

            • March 15th 2017 @ 1:53pm
              Bee bee said | March 15th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

              Yes. Because popular gladiators were given advantages. You could say they adapted/doctored the conditions to get the result the crowd wanted.

              We knew this would happen. Hence the preparation. Now we have to adapt just as we did in Pune to this new challenge.

              Can Australia do it. Prob not. But fun to watch them try. Have to think this is the greatest challenge in World cricket right now.

          • Roar Guru

            March 15th 2017 @ 12:38pm
            Anindya Dutta said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

            Well said Jacko. Alas one-eyed reactions on this topic has been rampant here for some from the moment the heat has been turned back onto the Aussies.

            • March 15th 2017 @ 12:46pm
              Riccardo said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

              As a fan of the game, the great Australian Teams and the great Australian Commentary Team (not this current lot) I’m loving it.

              I recall in the World Cup on these shores not so long ago Starc at his aggressive sneering abusive best absolutely laying into our guys.

              Seeing it on the other foot is…wonderful.

              Not only that, it really adds to the spectacle.

              That said the pitch thing is becoming an issue that the impotent ICC should address and the big outcome of DRSGate should be the tightening up of its application.

            • March 15th 2017 @ 1:48pm
              Rossy said | March 15th 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

              If you want to see one-eyed check out the comments section of Cricinfo for all the wonderfully balanced and rational contributions from our Indian friends.

              • Roar Guru

                March 15th 2017 @ 2:31pm
                Anindya Dutta said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

                Yes they are bad. And that is why I don’t engage there. Some here I must say are not much better. So depends on which eye is closed I guess.

              • March 15th 2017 @ 3:08pm
                matth said | March 15th 2017 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

                Well both my eyes are closed, which is why I only ever batted at 11.

              • March 16th 2017 @ 8:34am
                col in paradise said | March 16th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

                Hey try the Times of India cricket on line..the comments sections there are always amusing – and you can easily stir up some off field banter !!!….look this series is always hotly contested and it makes for very entertaining cricket..will say think Kohli does get away with a bit more than other players or captains but hey – Its Cricket !!!..

                The biggest problem is bad pitches…especially when a team like India really doesn’t really need to tailor them that much…seems they just cannot help themselves!!!

        • March 15th 2017 @ 6:21pm
          AlanC said | March 15th 2017 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

          What’s laughable Rossy is your obvious lack of knowledge regarding gladatorial contests – oh, and the whining about how unfair it all is…

          Plus you’ve gone and made me agree with Jacko for once so please at least open one eye.

          • March 16th 2017 @ 10:32am
            Rossy said | March 16th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

            Please enlighten me with your extensive ancient Roman knowledge and explain Virat Kohli is a ‘gladiator’

            Look forward to it.

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