MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Virat Kohli blasted a brilliant 169 to help India claw back into the third test on Sunday and was still firing missiles at the Australian team well after the close of play on day three.
The flamboyant batsman has not taken a backward step on the tour, compiling three defiant centuries and fighting fire with fire in the face of Australia’s verbal pot-shots.
He was dismissed by Mitchell Johnson to finish play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but subjected the paceman to his worst day in the field in years, smashing him to the fence in three consecutive balls in one over.
Having driven India from a position of some peril in the morning to 462-8 at stumps, a tough-talking Kohli raised the stakes again for the rest of the series, saying he respected only “some” of the hosts’ players.
“They were calling me a spoilt brat,” Kohli told reporters. “I said ‘maybe that’s the way I am – I know you guys hate me and I like that’.
“I don’t mind having a chat on the field and it worked in my favour, I guess.
“I like playing against Australia because it’s really hard for them to stay calm.
“I don’t mind an argument on the field. It really excites me and brings the best out of me, so they don’t seem to be learning the lesson.”
Having struggled on tour in England and brought a middling batting average of under 39 Down Under, Kohli now has the record to match the swagger.
Not even retired great Sachin Tendulkar managed three test centuries on tour of Australia and the last Indian batsman to achieve the feat was Sunil Gavaskar in 1977.
Kohli’s average has soared above 44 and his imperious 262-run stand with fellow centurion Ajinkya Rahane (147) was a record fourth-wicket partnership at the MCG.
It was also the third-best by any Indian team in Australia and the eighth highest by any touring outfit in the country.
When Kohli strayed from his crease, Johnson raised the tension by flinging a shot at the stumps that struck the batsman in the back.
Kohli winced but got back to his feet and after smashing Johnson for four, strode up to the 33-year-old to express his displeasure.
Kohli leaped for joy when he notched his ton, blowing a kiss off his bat to his glamorous girlfriend and Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma watching in the stand.
After a lofted off-drive for four off Johnson, he blew two kisses at the bowler.
“I respect a few of them but if someone doesn’t respect me I’ve got no reason to respect them,” added Kohli.
Australia paceman Ryan Harris, who took 4-69, appeared surprised when he heard the comments and reminded Kohli to keep the chatter out in the middle.
“We try not to say too much to him, but sometimes he brings it on himself I guess when he starts it,” Harris said. “It’s never personal, it’s always a bit of fun.
“It’s interesting to hear him say that. It’s probably a good thing. If he’s worrying about stuff like that, hopefully his batting goes down hill.
“If that (banter) doesn’t stay out there… he needs to have a look at that.”