Indians running scared ahead of decider, say Aussies
VIRAT Kohli's endless swagger cannot mask the fact India is starting to resemble a very nervous cricket team.
The feeling around a pumped-up Australian camp is that Kohli and his foot soldiers are "scared".
A team of superstars that hadn't lost a game in 20 matches coming into this series is suddenly on the brink of losing to an Australian squad dubbed the worst to ever tour India.
The Australians believed right from the moment they shocked India in Pune that the hosts have been looking over their shoulders, terrified at the prospect of having their castle walls stormed.
It helps explain the attitude of an Indian side that clearly arrived for the second Test in Bangalore looking for a brawl to wake itself up.
The tactic worked, but Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh's fighting partnership in Ranchi has handed momentum back to Australia, and enormous pressure is now on India to save itself from embarrassment in Saturday's series-deciding Test in Dharamsala.
When it comes to Kohli, the suspicion is his personal state of panic about his own spiralling form has been the reason behind his wild behaviour on and off the field.
"They were scared of us beating them in India," said injured quick Mitchell Starc on Fox Sports.
Fellow pace boss Josh Hazlewood believes Kohli in particular is feeling the heat, with home-ground advantage now neutralised, and his stress levels possibly impacting on his teammates.
"Before we came over they were expected to win 4-0," Hazlewood said.
"The pressure is still firmly on them being 1-1 going into this decider.
"I think the whole Indian team has (felt the pressure) and probably the skipper more so.
"It's just that they are expected to win in their own backyard, just as we are at home.
"The more pressure we can put on the better."
Australia is in equal parts confident and wary about the corner it has Kohli boxed into.
"A little bit of both I guess," Hazlewood said.
"For every time he doesn't get runs he's closer to that big knock and being a class player it's going to be at some stage.
"Hopefully it's not this next game."
Australia only needs a draw to retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy, meaning the onus is on Kohli to manufacture a result in Dharamsala.
That said, Australia is going in for the kill and believes it has taken home advantage out of the picture.
If Australia can finish things off in this winner-takes-all deciding Test, it will go down as one of the great achievements in the history of the baggy green.
Only a few Test matches ago Australian cricket was in crisis, with six players dumped and a national selector walking away from his post.
But now a 13-year drought on Indian soil could be broken by Steve Smith's team of fighters.
Triumphs away from home wouldn't get any sweeter.
"We can draw it, but obviously we want to win it," Hazlewood said.
"Win 2-1 and win a series in India, which rarely happens.
"The mood in the camp is pretty exciting. We had that win in Pune, it feels quite a while ago now, but we've competed for every day of Test cricket so far.
"We're pretty excited that if we can put a couple of good days together here in Dharamsala against a great opposition, we can come away with a win, which is something you'd never forget."