Shoulder clutch becomes a weapon of sledging as Virat Kohli taunts Australia
Tensions in India are mounting after Virat Kohli taunted Australia late on day four of the test at Ranchi, turning his shoulder-injury clutch into a weapon of sledging.
Earlier in the match Kohli had sustained a shoulder injury when diving in the field for a save on the boundary. Staggering up from the dive, Kohli had clutched his shoulder - an action that would become the fodder for the on-field folly that would follow.
On day three of the test, Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell made a diving save in the same midwicket vicinity of the boundary where Kohli had sustained the injury. He would rise from the dirt clutching his shoulder in mockery.
The action appeared to rile the India captain, who on day four of the third test, on Sunday, took great pleasure in celebrating the late dismissals of David Warner and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon with the same gesture.
There was feeling in the sledge for Kohli who had been dismissed in the first innings the ball after Maxwell's taunt. Kohli had been cleared to bat after sustaining the injury on the first day of the test. He was out for six runs.
The wickets of Warner and Lyon late on day four of the test put India firmly in control of the test though, after Cheteshwar Pujara completed a double ton earlier in the day, accompanied by a century from Wriddhiman Saha.
Their efforts had put the hosts in front by 152 runs at the first innings declaration of 603-9. At the close of the day's play Australia were 23-2, some 129-runs behind.
The sledging came after Kohli and Australia captain Steve Smith met before the test in an effort to calm tensions following a controversial second test in which the visiting captain's use of the DRS system triggered a spat.
Trouble started when Smith appeared to have sought advice from his team's dressing room when making a decision on whether to seek a review of an umpire's decision.
Later in the test, Kohli was determined to upset Smith's batting prowess, and greeted the Australian captain with several choice words as he marked his guard. He did not relent throughout Smith's perilous stay at the crease.
The pair were constantly at it. Not even the drinks break provided sanctuary for Smith from Kohli, who was intent on getting inside his opposing number's head.
"Steve Smith has made a lot of runs in the last 12 months, two years; I can't recall anybody getting under his skin or saying a word to him," former captain Michael Clarke said in commentary for Star Sports.
"Virat [has decided] 'we're not letting Steve Smith play his game, living in his bubble and making more runs, I'm going to stir him up and get something out of the Australian captain'."
The section of the field where the shoulder injury occurred has since been dubbed Kohli's corner, an ominous sign for future tours of India with the Ranchi venue enjoying its debut as test venue this match.
Maxwell, known for playing to the crowd with gestures and banter as observed at Eden Park in New Zealand in 2015, has had a match to remember in Ranchi after scoring his maiden test ton on day two.
But he has been largely overlooked as an off-spinner, despite the pitch providing plenty of assistance to the tweakers.
Maxwell delivered just four overs in India's mammoth first innings of 210 overs - keeping Australia out in the field for the longest amount of time in a single innings since 1975.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann did not disagree with the bowling choices of Smith, saying after the close of play on day four that it was the captain's call.
"We did speak about it, chopping and changing it a little bit. The game was always on a knife's edge so you always want your best spinners going," Lehmann said.
"[Maxwell] probably could have bowled a few more overs, but I thought the spinners toiled really hard as well. That's a call the captain makes out there and I'm happy with that."
Clarke took a different view of Smith's tactics while commentating on Star Sports.
"On good batting wickets, if you keep doing the same things then you're going to keep getting the same results," Clarke said.
"Keep him [Maxwell] involved in the game as much as you can. Because he's got that Midas touch about him, he just finds a way to get a run-out or a wicket.
"Australia missed a trick yesterday. They were quite defensive with their fields, a new batsman came out and there were three or four guys on the boundary."
Day five of the third test was due to start at 5pm Monday (NZT). The four test series was level at 1-1.
- Stuff with AAP