Melbourne: Never the one to shy away from an on-field showdown, feisty Indian batsman Virat Kohli said being called a “spoilt brat” by the Australians brought the best out of him as he smashed a career-best 169-run knock to keep the touring side afloat in the ongoing third cricket Test in Melbourne on Sunday.
“It was going on throughout the day. They were calling me a spoilt brat and I said ‘maybe that’s the way I am. You guys hate me and I like that’ I don’t mind having a chat on the field and it worked in my favour I guess,” a combative Kohli said at the end of third day’s play which India finished at 462/8, still trailing by 68 runs.
“I like playing against Australia because it is very hard for them to stay calm and I don’t mind an argument on the field and it really excites me and brings the best out of me. So they don’t seem to be learning the lesson,” said Kohli.
The most dramatic moments of the day involved Kohli in a verbal spat with Mitchell Johnson after the pacer ended up hitting the Indian while attempting to run him out.
Talking about Johnson, Kohli said, “In Brisbane he was batting without pressure because that’s not his job. His job is to take wickets and he was going at 4.7 an over today, and he didn’t get a wicket throughout the day and I backed myself to take him on even if I keep talking to him.
“I decided whenever he comes on to bowl I will back myself and take him on. I don’t mind having a word back, neither does he, so we kept going at it.”
Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane put on 262 runs for the fourth wicket in reply to Australia’s first innings total of 530 runs. There have been a lot of heated moments in this series and Sunday’s incidents were just another chapter to that saga.
“They have the right to talk I guess. They are 2-0 up right now. It would have been interesting if it had been 1-1 and the same sort of sentences or words had come through from them. When you are on top you can sort of say anything you want.
“It’s when chips are down that you have got to stand up.
When we played in India (in 2012-13) there weren’t so many words coming back from them. We are 2-0 down, we still took them on today, and showed what we can do with the bat, which is the character of this Indian team,” said a defiant Kohli.
When asked if he respected the Australian team, Kohli replied, “I have got a nice friendship with a few of them. I respect quite a few of them, but someone who doesn’t respect me I have no reason to respect him.”
“There were words in Adelaide as well where they said no unnecessary respect for him. I said I don’t need it. I am out here to play cricket, not to earn anyone’s respect. As long as I am scoring runs, I am happy with it.”
Kohli said he relishes the challenge of playing against Australia and was delighted with the way the third day turned out for his side.
“I am very proud of the way we played today and we backed ourselves throughout. I am not disappointed at all. Before coming here I told myself I am going to be positive. There is no reason why I should change my game from ODI cricket to Test cricket because sometimes we end up thinking too much and forget about playing our natural game,” said Kohli.
“You saw Ajinkya Rahane today and he crossed me to a hundred and that was brilliant. At no point did I tell him to back off and not play his game and that is what is working for us as a batting unit,” he added.
Kohli and Rahane came together at the crease when India were 147/3 in the morning session and then weren’t separated until after tea.
They became the first pair to post 200-plus for the fourth wicket at this ground. Rahane scored 147 runs while Kohli scored his fourth Test hundred in Australia and third of this series against this opposition.
“I was criticised for not getting big hundreds. It is disappointing to get out on 115 or 120 after having done all the hard work so those are the times when I told myself to take more time. Today I got a good feel of building up a big hundred, so did Rahane which is good for the team.
“If you get big partnerships we give ourselves more chances of being in the game wherever we play. It’s all about correcting your mistakes and learning from your innings be it a hundred as well. Next time if I am in a situation again, I will want to convert it into a double hundred,” Kohli said.
“I was actually a little surprised the way Rahane went after Johnson, clearing his leg and all. He is a compact player, and I didn’t know he was going to go after him in this surprising way. But it was pleasing to watch, a guy backing himself, playing for the first time in Australia, taking a bowler on who is looking to get into rhythm, who bowls long spells for them, who bowls quick, who bowls good bouncers,” he added.
Australia were disappointing in the field on the day as they dropped three very easy chances.
“They set very high standards for themselves in the field. Today it was actually surprising to see them dropping three catches, so many misfields and easy singles for us. I don’t remember the last time I have seen them being inconsistent in the field,” said the batsman.
“It would have been nice had I not got out. But still we have Mohammad Shami who is playing well, and Umesh Yadav can play the big shots too. We will try to get close to 500 runs, and then if we can get two or three quick wickets it will be an enjoyable game,” Kohli signed off.