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Bitter series ends on a sour note

Cricket

India captain Virat Kohli has laid bare the bitter divide between his team and Australia, declaring he will never be friends with any member of the opposition involved in an incredibly heated four-Test series.

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The contrast between Kohli and Australia skipper Steve Smith, the two protagonists in a series that featured plenty of bad blood and captivating cricket, could hardly be sharper following India’s eight-wicket win in the series decider.

Smith offered an apology for letting his “emotions, actions falter a little bit throughout this series”, adding the tourists were outplayed by the top-ranked Test side in Dharamsala.

Kohli fronted the press despite playing no part in the high-stakes clash because of his shoulder injury. The firebrand paid tribute to Australia’s “relentlessness” and skill, but was scathing of their character.

Kohli claimed prior to the first Test he was “really good friends with all these guys off the field”. Yesterday, though, he confirmed that is no longer the case and never will be.

“It has changed,” Kohli said.

“I thought that was the case, but it has changed for sure.

“That has certainly changed and you won’t hear me say that ever again.”

Smith expressed hope last week the bitter rivals would share a beer following six weeks of acrimony. Based on Kohli’s comments that almost certainly won’t happen.

Smith asked Ajinkya Rahane, who led India in the absence of Kohli and is a teammate of his at Indian Premier League club Pune, about the prospect after play. India’s stand-in skipper replied he would get back to Smith.

Smith has a history of run-ins with Kohli. The pair have never been close.

Kohli’s pre-series comment raised a few eyebrows in the touring party, with many wondering who he was talking about.

Kohli, who folded with the bat in all five of his innings during the series, refused to answer a follow-up question about what sealed the falling out.

The 28-year-old accused Australia of systematically cheating in the second Test by seeking illegal advice from support staff regarding reviews. The only example was Smith, who contritely called his misdeed a “brain fade”.

Kohli was left seething by the conduct of Glenn Maxwell and other Australians during the third Test, feeling they mocked his shoulder injury.

Kohli shook his head after a low catch from Murali Vijay was ruled not out by the third umpire in the fourth Test, which prompted Smith to bark “f***ing cheat” on the balcony of Australia’s rooms.

“I have been very intense and in my own little bubble and at times I have let my emotions, actions falter a little bit,” Smith said.

“I apologise for that… that’s something I can really learn from.”

Kohli, who took exception to many things uttered by Smith, Nathan Lyon and other Australians during the series, declared India will never “take a backwards step from anyone”.

“This team, regardless of whether we are on top or not, we speak,” Kohli said.

“We take it very well and we give it back even better.

“A very wise person told me that when a person is down, the weak come out and speak about him. It takes courage to speak about someone when they are on top.”

While Smith can be proud of Australia’s turnaround since the horrors of Hobart, disappointment was the overriding emotion of the skipper after his side’s eight-wicket loss to India in the series decider.

Smith’s side threatened to complete Australia’s second Test series win in India since 1969 after shocking the top-ranked side during the series opener in Pune.

They had control of the second and third Tests early on, lost it, then showed good fight to front up to the fourth and final Test with the series level 1-1.

The tourists’ push for a series victory, so full of promise during the past six weeks, unravelled during collapses in their first and second innings of the final Test.

It ended not with a bang, but a whimper. India hauled in the victory target of 106 with ease before lunch on day four of the final Test, completing a 2-1 series win.

“We have fought very hard throughout this series and to fall over at the final hurdle hurts,” Smith said.

“The boys are hurting. It’s always tough when you lose a series at the final hurdle but the guys are going to take so much out of this.

“This team has grown so quickly. We are still a very young side, it wasn’t too long ago we were at Hobart and it was the end of the world.

“So I am proud of the way we have been able to turn things around and really compete in these conditions … it’s a really big stride for this team and individuals as well.”

The tourists snapped a nine-Test losing streak in Asia when they won in Pune last month. Smith feels they’ve proven they can shelve their natural games and perform under pressure on the subcontinent.

“We have competed in every Test. We can take a lot out of the way we played, the plans we had, but we just needed to do it a little bit longer,” Smith said.

“We played some very good cricket… it’s been great to be in the series until day four of the fourth Test.

“It was a magnificent series, probably one of the best I’ve been a part of.”

Smith finished as the leading run-scorer of the series with 499 runs. Ravindra Jadeja was named man of the match and man of the series, having top-scored in India’s first innings of the decider then grabbed four wickets.

Both sides turned up to the scenic venue at the foot of the Himalayas on day four knowing Australia required a miracle to make things interesting, let alone genuinely threaten to snatch victory.

Fittingly in a series stacked with twists and momentum shifts, India’s routine run-chase hit a snag during a dramatic 14th over when Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara were both dismissed.

Ajinkya Rahane, leading the side in the absence of injured captain Virat Kohli, restored order by smacking consecutive sixes off Pat Cummins.

“They had the belief of making things happen in these conditions… they kept bouncing back,” Kohli said of the tourists.

-AAP

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