Cricket: Leadership of testy skippers in spotlight

By David Leggat

Australia's captain Steve Smith, left, and David Warner, second left, celebrate after winning the first cricket test match against India in Pune, India, Feb. Photo / AP
Australia's captain Steve Smith, left, and David Warner, second left, celebrate after winning the first cricket test match against India in Pune, India, Feb. Photo / AP

Australia's captain Steve Smith met the Dalai Lama this week, no doubt seeking inspiration before what's been touted as the biggest challenge of his leadership.

The fourth and final test against India starts in the hillside city of Dharamsala on the edge of the Himalayas today.

The most fractious series in recent memory is locked 1-1. Australia hold the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

India must win this test so why risk it all by playing in a city with temperatures expected to be closer to 20C than 30C? It makes little sense after what we've seen so far in the series.

Smith has hit two centuries in the three tests, been called a cheat by his amiable opposite Virat Kohli over his sneaky peek up in the stands for advice on whether to refer an appeal in Bangalore, and apparently slept a total of 10 hours over the five days of the third test in Ranchi.

Speaking of Kohli, he's made just 46 runs in five innings in the series but has been a dominant figure with his posturing, arguing, bullying and mocking demeanour at Australian players.

How match referee Chris Broad didn't punish him for his appalling behaviour on the field in the second test at Pune is anyone's guess but it cast the International Cricket Council, by extention, in a poor light.

According to India's edition of Forbes magazine, Kohli has contracts with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and his Indian Premier League which amount to US$4m. His official website lists 17 different endorsements, blue chip of course, such as Pepsi, adidas and Audi.

But put all that in context.

Leading India to defeat against Australia will hurt. Plus, expect his repeated failures to deliver runs to be weighing heavily on him. So expect more hijinks in this test.

No one stands up to Kohli, and more shame on the Indian administrators. Try this for a thought: the former Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh, himself no angel on the field, once observed: Why would India worry what 20 million Australians thought of him, when set alongside one billion Indians?

Expect some pitch shenanigans, too. The man regarded as the India's No1 pitch arranger arrived in Dharamsala a couple of days ago to oversee preparations. Whatever pace was in the pitch is likely to disappear on his watch, after India saw the impact of speedster Pat Cummins in the high-scoring draw in Ranchi.

There is genuine dislike between the teams. That's no chest-puffing fakery either.

So while the aggression has at times been way over the top, it has also been compelling viewing, if you can square those elements.

A draw will do for Australia in Dharamsala so India will come hard at them.

- NZ Herald

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