India, Australia aiming to move on from DRS controversy

March 15, 2017

RANCHI, India (AP) — The week since India’s dramatic, series-leveling win in Bangalore has been dominated by the rancorous debate over Australia skipper Steve Smith’s “brain fade” moment that magnified a flaw with the Decision Review System, and his counterpart Virat Kohli’s reaction to it.

When the teams meet in Ranchi, where the toss on Thursday could again determine the result on a contentiously prepared pitch, players on both teams will be focused on one primary objective: taking a 2-1 lead in the four-match series.

Australia’s against-the-odds 333-run win in the series-opening match at Pune ended India’s long unbeaten stretch in tests on home soil and, for the first time in a long time, put pressure on Kohli’s leadership. The Australian cricket team traditionally hasn’t performed well in subcontinental conditions, and many had tipped another series sweep for India.

The loss stung the top-ranked Indian team, and it reacted with a heightened level of aggression in the second test, which it came back to win by 79 runs on a tense fourth day despite giving up a first-innings lead.

“Whatever happened in Bengaluru stays there,” Kohli said. “We are in Ranchi now, and looking forward to this game. There is a lot of cricket to be played still.”

“If people choose to write or speak about me, it’s their choice,” Kohli added. “It doesn’t matter if people praise or criticize me.”

The International Cricket Council took no action against Smith, who admitted to looking up to the dressing room for help in determining whether he should challenge an umpire’s decision to give him out in the second innings, or against Kohli for his angry reaction.

Under the DRS, players can consult with a teammate on the field about whether to review an umpire’s call, but the decision needs to be made on the field. The umpires quickly approached Smith and told him he’d lost the right to review that decision. Kohli complained bitterly on the field, and used a post-match news conference to say the Australians had been using the tactic throughout the test.

The tension escalated when the head of Cricket Australia defended the integrity of the team, saying Smith’s episode was a once-off mistake, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India threatened to make a formal complaint to the ICC.

The situation simmered slightly when the rival cricket boards negotiated a truce that ensured both captains would be available to play in Ranchi.

Kohli has said he stands by the comments he made after the Bengaluru test. Smith, who met with the match officials on Wednesday before the Australian team practice session, said he also planned to meet with Kohli and match referee Richie Richardson ahead of the toss.

“Today the talk with officials was about making cricket the winner in this test. I expect the same tomorrow as well,” Smith said. “But Virat has stood by his comments, so maybe we will get a chance to clear that up. I might ask him a few questions tomorrow.”

The other constant contentious topic on the tour has been over the condition of the pitches, and the wicket at the JSCA International Stadium ensured that continued. The ICC rated the crumbling Pune pitch as poor, and the Bangalore pitch as below average.

The wicket square was watered in Ranchi on Tuesday and there were still dark patches visible on the surface on the eve of the match, hinting at inherent moisture. The city had also received substantial rainfall.

The surface is expected to take turn as the match progresses, likely increasing the degree of difficulty for the team batting last.

Pat Cummins is expected to replace injured Australia pace spearhead Mitchell Starc — and play his first test in more than six years — and Glenn Maxwell is considered favorite ahead of Marcus Stoinis to fill up the vacant No. 6 spot created when allrounder Mitchell Marsh had the leave the tour to have shoulder surgery.

For India, opener Murali Vijay is fit again and is expected to reclaim his spot from Abhinav Mukund. India could continue with six batsmen and retain Karun Nair.