After scoring his third Test hundred of the tour, Virat Kohli brought his attacking form to the press conference too, saying he was left with no good reason to respect Mitchell Johnson and some of the other Australia players after verbals flew "throughout the day" at the MCG.
The squabbling reached its peak when Johnson fielded in his follow-through and threw back at the striker's stumps. Unlike with Mohammed Shami and Steven Smith on day one, there was a genuine case for Johnson trying to run Kohli out, and the throw was headed for the stumps when it hit Kohli, who was trying to get back into his crease. Kohli believed it was an attempt to hit him and an argument ensued, which needed the intervention of the umpires.
"I was really annoyed with him hitting me with the ball, and I told him that's not on," Kohli said. "'Try and hit the stumps next time, not my body.' You have got to send the right message across. I am not there to take to some unnecessary words or chats from someone. I am going there to play cricket, back myself. There's no good reason that I should respect unnecessarily some people when they are not respecting me."
Kohli said this attitude from Australia helped him play better, which he said might be one of the reasons why five of his nine hundreds have come against them. "It was going on throughout the day," Kohli said. "They were calling me a spoilt brat, and I said, 'Maybe that's the way I am. 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 is very hard for them to stay calm, and I don't mind an argument on the field, and it really excites me and brings the best out of me. So they don't seem to be learning the lesson."
When he comes up against a team that does stay calm, unlike Australia, Kohli said he can still make do. "You always have a few who can't keep calm in every team. So I have my targets," Kohli said with a cheeky grin.
It was the grin of a man who had scored a superlative century. According to Kohli, Australia have been saying things about India's habit of crumbling under pressure only because they are up in the series. "Good for them," Kohli said when told of Smith's comments about the Indian team before the match. "Some words coming out of their mouth. They have the right to talk I guess. They are two-nil up right now. Would have been interesting if it had been 1-1, and the same sort of sentences or words had come through from them.
"It is funny. When you are on top you can sort of say anything you want. It's when the chips are down that you have got to stand up. Say what you have to say and then go out there and prove it. When we played in India there weren't so many words coming back from them. Which was surprising. We are two-nil down, we still took them on today, and showed what we can do with the bat, which is the character of this Indian team."
At the suggestion India might have done something similar to Johnson - fire him up into a match-winning performance - in Brisbane, Kohli said: "There he was batting, and there was no pressure on him as a batsman. That's not his job. His job is to take wickets and he was going at 4.7 an over today. Didn't get a wicket throughout the day, and I backed myself to take him on even if I keep talking to him. You cannot then back off after saying a few words and then not show it with your skill. I decided whenever he comes on to bowl I will back myself and take him on. I don't mind having a word back neither does he, so we kept going on."
Before Kohli eventually fell to what turned out to be the last ball of the day, he had scored 68 runs off 72 Johnson deliveries. Kohli gave part of credit to fellow centurion Ajinkya Rahane for being the calming influence when things got too heated, and also taking Johnson on.
"I was confident of my batting but I can go through with that phase," Kohli said about whether he wanted to take a pause and reassess when words were flying. "But Jinks helped us as well from the other end. He kept taking him [Johnson] on, didn't let him settle into a rhythm, which was very important for us with the new ball especially. That's how you play Test cricket, that's how your partner helps you and vice versa. If he is in a spot of bother, I keep taking on the bowler. It was good to bat out there with Jinks today. I am glad he kept taking on the bowlers when I had a chat with them."
Kohli said he still had respect for some of the Australian players but Johnson wasn't one of them. "I respect quite a few of them, but someone who doesn't respect me I have no reason to respect him," Kohli said. "There were words in Adelaide as well where they said, 'No unnecessary respect for him.' I said, 'I don't need it. I am out here to play cricket, not to hear anyone's respect. As long as I am scoring runs, I am happy with it. If you like it, good. If you don't, I am not bothered.' I don't really need to care about what they think as far as respecting me or me respecting them is concerned. I have got a nice friendship with a few of them. Friendly chats, but someone who is not backing off, someone who is saying anything that comes to mouth I have no reason to respect him."
Ryan Harris, who took four wickets in India's first innings and whose strikes in the final session pulled back a rampaging batting line-up, was taken aback by Kohli's comments. He was at loss for words, before he said: "We all respect him. He's a pretty good player so I don't know where he gets that from. I respect him, and I know all the boys in the change room respect him because he has come out and his bat does the talking. Where he gets that from I am not sure. There's a bit of banter on the field, but if that doesn't stay out there and comes up here, he needs to have a look at that."
Harris was of the view Johnson was going for a genuine run-out when Kohli was hit. Kohli was outside the crease when Johnson threw. "There were a few things out there today that were said," Harris said. "I think the thing that fired him up the most was when Mitch threw the ball at the stumps and he was in the way."
When pressed further, Harris suggested Kohli did go looking for trouble. "We try not to say too much to him, but sometimes he brings it on himself, I guess, when he starts it. It's never personal, it's always a bit of fun.
"It's interesting to hear him say [all] that. It's probably a good thing. Because he's probably worried about that. We need him to worry about that instead of batting. If he's worrying about stuff like that, hopefully his batting goes downhill. That's probably the way we think."