Virat Kohli hits back in S.Africa pitch row
India go into the fourth and final Test starting Thursday in New Delhi with the series already in the bag after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in last week’s match in Nagpur.
It is the first time that South Africa, the world’s number one team, have lost an overseas series in nine years and India’s victories in Nagpur and in the first Test at Mohali were wrapped up within three days.
South Africa were also bowled out cheaply in the rain-hit second Test in Bangalore, which was drawn.
But while the match-winning heroics of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin have been widely praised, much of the coverage has been devoted to a row over the quality of the pitches which have left batsmen floundering.
No player on either side has scored a century and the debate was further fuelled on Tuesday by news that match referee Jeff Crow had rated the pitch at Nagpur as “poor”.
The normally prolific Kohli is averaging only 17 in the series. But in his pre-match press conference, he said there had been too much talk about the pitch and not enough about how well his team had played.
“Why are we not talking about the fact that we are 2-0 up in the series?” Kohli said.
“We are criticised about our game and technique when we don’t play well abroad. But when the visitors perform badly, it’s always the wicket.”
Kohli, 27, said he had never seen other teams being subjected to similar criticism.
“Teams have been bundled out under 100 for about six times in South Africa. I have never seen any articles written on that.”
The skipper played down the importance of Crowe’s verdict on the Nagpur strip, which could trigger a fine or an official warning.
“It’s an assessment that happens in every condition and at every ground. Unfortunately, the situation in our country is highlighted a bit too much and that’s a fact,” said Kohli.
– ‘Wicket looks good’ –
His opposite number Hashim Amla has also struggled during the series, failing even to score a half century on pitches he says have been some of the most challenging of his career.
Determined to salvage some pride before heading back home for a series against England, Amla said he had detected no demons in the Delhi pitch.
“I had a look in at the wicket yesterday, it looked good. But wickets can change overnight,” he said.
Amla said batting had been difficult on the tracks prepared for the series but he had enjoyed the challenge of facing up to India’s bowlers, led by Ashwin who has taken 24 wickets.
“We tried to prepare for the series as best as possible. Unfortunately the results haven’t justified it,” said Amla.
“You want to win every match and field the strongest eleven. We’ve got England series very close, it’s very important to get back to winning ways.
“We won the T20s and ODIs so it’d be good to cap the series with a victory.”
The two captains did not reveal their line-ups. But India are likely to be unchanged while South Africa were still undecided about key paceman Dale Steyn who has been nursing a groin strain.