Some things just stay the same. The Australian and Indian teams have assumed their usual combative positions and once again, created a childish and immature atmosphere, around what is proving to be, a tightly fought series.
Unfortunately, the nonsense that appears to arise each time these two sides meet, distracts from the contest. In the aftermath of the second Test, the DRS system, Virat Kholi’s attitude and Steve Smith’s integrity became talking points and were allocated more space and coverage than they deserve.
The third Test in Ranchi might have ended in a draw, yet there was no cessation of hostilities, with Kholi giving everything he had to the Aussies and the baggy green responding in spades.
Thankfully, their bats did most of the talking on the final day.
So the tension continues to rise and the scene is set for all-out war at Dharamsala when the final Test gets underway on Saturday.
There, little Virat and Stevie will continue their childish spat, something akin to a couple of kids at day care fighting over the chalk, claiming dibs on the sand pit or even worse, coming to blows at play time.
You remember day care, the place many of us visited before and after work in order to collect our children who we had trustingly left with complete strangers. The same staff that now have to step in and hose down the situation to which the two villains had contributed.
Both boys would be spoken to and told quite clearly how their actions were inappropriate, an incident report would be written, complete with a diagram of the human body indicating where any blows were landed and the parents given the sad news upon their arrival in the afternoon.
Parents and staff toe the party line and express how disappointed they were with their actions. Yet little Virat’s family have always disliked Stevie, who always played a little rough and Stevie’s family never really understood why Virat pranced around with such attitude and pride, seemingly looking for a fight.
It’s hard to locate the exact moment when all this nonsense actually began. I can distinctly remember watching the Indian teams of the early eighties and apart from Sunil Gavaskar’s dramatic walk off at the MCG in 1981, it seems that most of the matches were played in reasonable spirit.
The 80-81 series was drawn in Australia and the following two series, held in the mid-eighties where each team had a home advantage, were both drawn without a win achieved by either side.
The 1991-92 series was a drubbing for the Indians, yet a significant debut and an innings of sheer artistry took place in the city of churches.
Watching a glorious young batsman named Mohammad Azharuddin score a century as a rear guard action at the Adelaide Oval is still one of the best innings I have seen. The emergence of the great Sachin Tendulkar is still the everlasting memory of that tour, not some macho fuelled on-field nonsense where bullies attempt to gain the upper hand.
Therein marks the spot where something changed, after a four-year break the two teams reconvened for a Test in 1996-97 and a three Test series in 1997-98.
Now relabelled as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, there was something different. The Indians were a force with which to be reckoned. There was belief and a deep squad that wanted to do more than just beat Australia on spin friendly wickets on the subcontinent.
The little batsmen had become the master and led his team from the front like a warrior. He was ably supported now but still the fulcrum. He peeled off two big hundreds and averaged 111.50 in that 1998 series, one that saw India take a 2-1 victory.
The battle lines had been drawn and the rivalry would never be the same again.
The general trend of Indian teams coming to Australia and being beaten up on flat tracks where their spinners were nullified and the Aussie batsmen excelled, continued in 1999-00, but the tensions were brewing and the hungry Indians were bolder than ever.
The 2000-01 series in India is a landmark moment and fanned the flames further. This famous series will always be remembered for Matthew Hayden taking on the Indian spinners with a newly developed, reliable and effective sweep shot, designed to blunt the anticipated turn and inconsistent bounce. His 109.80 average was testament to the development in his game.
The Australian’s went to India in search of the final frontier and played with a ruthless aggression that pushed the home side to the brink. The history books tell us that the Indians found a way, yet the innings of VVS Laxman in the second Test and his partnership with Rahul Dravid turned the tide, without it Australia were winners.
Having already conquered the West Indies under the leadership of Mark Taylor, the Australians sought a series victory in India for the first time since 1969-70, yet would have to wait just a little longer.
Ironically, it was two years later that the Indians could claim some sense of progress with a tied series in Australia’s own back yard in 2003-04. The following season, Australia climbed their Everest, with a 2-1 victory away from home.
By this time there was no resetting the rivalry back to what it once was. Just as the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship has devolved and degraded across many sports around the world, cricket too, moved into an ugly period with the Indians and Australians providing some of the worst examples.
Then, we had monkey gate. Allegations of racist taunts made by Harbhajan Singh against Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds, now look, in retrospect, like the culmination of the previous ten years. It was flat out ugly.
A three-match ban was softened to a fine for Singh and Michael Clarke’s recent comments about Symonds, reflect a lingering unresolved tension that appears to pervade the contests between the two nations to this very day.
Since that time, each subsequent series has been won well by the home side. In fact, no side had won an away Test until the Australian’s victory in the first Test of this series in Pune.
Personalities will always clash in sport, as in life and a duel between two individuals might sometimes escalate. Shane Warne’s destruction of Daryl Cullinan comes to mind, where the leg-spinner seized an opportunity to mentally destroy a batsman of fine reputation. It was tense, but not ugly.
Glenn McGrath’s battle with Ramnaresh Sarwan unfortunately was, and Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad going toe to toe, or should that be bat to bat, in 1981, was more comical than brutal.
These duels and the hundreds like them are however, personal battles that often resolve themselves over time as the combatants develop a respect for each other. Sometimes this only occurs in retirement but common ground can mostly be found.
This doesn’t appear the case with the Australians and the Indians. There is palpable bad blood between these teams, real animosity and it is not a classy, mature or enviable look for the game when it rears its head.
Hopefully little Stevie and Virat get a dressing down from mum and dad, see beneath the surface of hyped media and sensationalism, and realise that they are just a couple of terrific cricketers, under enormous pressure, trying to lead their men.
If not, we are in for another round of macho chest puffing, snide remarks and poor sportsmanship that seems to come with the territory when the Australians and Indians go at it.
With everything on the line, it might be worse than ever before.