After getting booed in almost every match of the ICC World cup 2019, this is exactly what Smith and Warner needed, some support. When Kohli, who is one of the most influential voices in world cricket, stood up for them, it sent a strong message to all other teams and captains, as well
New Delhi: India have made it two in two, after defeating Australia by 36 runs on Sunday (June 9) at Kennington Oval in the ICC World Cup 2019. It was a brilliant batting performance by India as all their batters, who batted in the game, made very good contributions. Shikhar Dhawan was the star of the game as he scored his 17th ODI hundred and sixth at the ICC tournaments.
With this convincing victory over Australia, India have sent a very strong message to all the other teams that they are the 'team to beat' in the tournament and one of the top contenders for lifting the trophy. However, it wasn't the only strong message that was sent across from the middle.
Indian captain Virat Kohli won the hearts of millions of cricket fans across the world when he stood up for Steve Smith. After the fall of Hardik Pandya's wicket, a section of Indian supporters tried to get under Smith's skin with 'cheater, cheater' chants. Kohli, who was batting at the time, walked up to that section of the stadium and gestured to stop the chants. Kohli instead made a 'clap' gesture and pointed towards Smith, who acknowledged his gesture with a hand-shake.
Later, when Smith came out to bat, another section of the crowd started booing and chanting 'cheater cheater'. This time Kohli was fielding at mid-wicket and he immediately looked up that section of the crowd and requested them with folded hands to cut it out again.
Here's what Kohli said at the post-match press conference.
"There are so many Indian fans here, I just didn't want them to set a bad example, to be honest. He didn't do anything to be booed, in my opinion. He's just playing cricket. I mean he's just standing there and I felt bad because if I was in a position where something had happened with me and I'd apologised and accepted it and I came back and still I get booed, I wouldn't like it either.
"So I just felt for him and told him 'sorry for... on behalf of the crowd'. We've seen that happen in a few earlier games as well. In my opinion, that's not acceptable."
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After getting booed in almost every match of the ICC World cup 2019, this is exactly what Smith and Warner needed, some support. When Kohli, who is one of the most influential voices in world cricket, stood up for them, it sent a strong message to all other teams and captains, as well. Now, it is very likely that other captains and players will also stand up and guide their fans if needed.
It was a moment that will now, possibly, change fans' behavior towards Smith. It was a moment that will make things easier for him. It was a moment that Smith will never forget. And it was a moment that will find a place in Smith's autobiography if he ever decides to write one.
In the past, Kohli's press conferences after or before playing Australia used to attract a lot of attention because of his aggressive statements and, sometimes, controversial remarks. But, his press conference last night (June 9), is being talked about for all the right reasons, and this shows how Virat Kohli has improved as a human being. From showing the 'middle finger' to Australian fans in Australia to telling Indian fans to clap for Smith, the Indian captain has come a long way.
In the last seven years, Kohli has outperformed every batsman in the world, with his outstanding consistent display of batting across all formats of the game. He breaks and creates records in almost every series he plays. He scores so many runs and smashes so many hundreds that a vast majority of his fans and cricket pundits have failed to observe the astonishing improvement in his behavior towards his opponents and how he has started giving them the respect they deserve, and sometimes, even more.
Before India's first game of the ICC World Cup 2019, South Africa's speedster Kagiso Rabada termed Kohli as "immature" in an interview.
"I was just thinking about the game plan, really, but Virat, he hit me for a boundary and then he had a word. And then when you give it back to him, he gets angry. I don't get the guy. Maybe he does it because it gets him going, but that comes across as very immature for me. He is a phenomenal player but he can't take the abuse," Rabada said in an interview with ESPNCricinfo.
But, when Kohli was asked to reply to Rabada's remarks, he refused to be drawn into a public war of words and said he would prefer to sort out all issues between them.
“I am not going to use the press conference to talk against Rabada. If there is anything for me and Rabada to discuss, we can do that man to man. He is always a skillful bowler, he has the potential to run through the opposition, so we need to look to play him accordingly."
Kohli has always been the most difficult challenge for his opponents on the field, but it was easy to target him off the field, at press conferences. He used to fight fire with fire and give cracking replies to anything said against him. But, from what we have seen in the last few months, Kohli is not only improving as a batsman with every passing game, he is also improving as a human being and turning out be a great ambassador of the game, like his idol Sachin Tendulkar.
Last Updated 12:24 PM IST