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Kohli’s anger over third-Test turf war

Before return to tricky track today, India captain says debate over the pitch is a media concoction — and that focus should be on "a bizarre display of batting"

INDIA captain Virat Kohli expressed anger today with the ongoing debate around the pitch in Ahmedabad, blaming England’s two-day defeat in the third Test solely on “a bizarre display of batting.”

Kohli has overseen two thumping victories on big-spinning surfaces since England took the series opener in gentler conditions in Chennai.

There has been no shortage of critique of the pitches — a largely partisan matter until the official pitch ratings are published. But before the series returns to Ahmedabad for the fourth and final Test tomorrow, Kohli positioned the debate as a concoction of pundits and reporters.

“There’s always too much noise and conversation around spinning tracks,” he said. “If you win a Test on day four or five, no-one says anything. But if you win in two days everyone pounces on the same issue.

“I’m sure that if our media is in a space to contradict those views it could be a balanced conversation. But unfortunately everyone plays along with that narrative and keeps making it news until the time it’s relevant.”

His feistiness on the issue has done little to alter expectations that the ball will spin hard and early again at the Narendra Modi Stadium – unfortunately dubbed after the Indian prime minister, having once carried the name of independence hero Sardar Patel – as his side look to confirm a spot in the World Test Championship final.

But he asserted: “The reason for our success as a team is we haven’t cribbed about any pitches we’ve played on. We lost in New Zealand on day three in 36 overs and none of our people wrote about the pitch. It was about how India played badly in New Zealand.”

“We need to be very honest with ourselves, what space we are talking from,” he said. “What’s the idea behind continuing this narrative and what purpose does it serve to continue this one-sided conversation?”

England have suggested that the pink ball used in the day/night Test skidded unpredictably. But the claim did little to persuade the home skipper.

“Why don’t we focus on the fact that the batsmen were just not skilled enough on that pitch to play properly,” he said. He admitted that it was “a bizarre display of batting by both teams,” though this surely reflected more on England given his side’s cruise to 49-for-0 in their final innings.

England captain Joe Root remained focused on the bowling, and admitted that the decision to go in with four seamers in the previous Test had been a mistake.

“You look at the side for the last match and we got that wrong, we read the pitch wrong in terms of the way we selected the team,” he said.

“We didn’t envisage it would spin as much. If the pitch is anything like the last one of course Dom [Bess, the young off-break spinner in line for a call-up] would be a fantastic option on this surface.”

“It would be a brilliant achievement to leave here two-all,” he said. “It would be a monumental effort from this group of players. So there’s loads to play for.”

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