Indian Premier League 2017
IPL should cool any Test tensions
Ricky Ponting shares his views on how Smith and Kohli will handle tonight's IPL battle
16 April 2017, 04:45 PM AEST
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting is confident the Indian Premier League will continue to cool any lingering tension between Indian and Australian players following their fiery four-match Test series.
The former Test skipper has also backed the conduct of his contemporary Steve Smith during the recent Border-Gavaskar contest, saying Australian fans would have been proud of how the 27-year-old "puffed his chest out" and led from the front during four fiercely competitive Tests that Ponting said was "some of the best Test cricket I've seen in a long time".
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Recent Test foes have become T20 friends for the next month or so, with seven members of Australia's Test squad lining-up alongside some of their Indian rivals at their respective IPL franchises.
Smith and Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane are playing together at the Rising Pune Supergiant while Glenn Maxwell and Murali Vijay (Kings XI Punjab), David Warner and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Sunrisers Hyderabad) as well as Pat Cummins and Karun Nair (Delhi Daredevils) also sharing a dressing room.
And while India's skipper Virat Kohli won't count any of his recent Test opponents as teammates, he will play alongside Australians Shane Watson, Travis Head and Billy Stanlake at the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Smith and Kohli are tonight set to come together on a cricket field for the first time since the Test series when RPS take on RCB at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the venue for the spiteful second Test last month.
Ponting pointed to the example of himself and long-time adversary Harbhajan Singh as evidence that the IPL can cool any smouldering heat from internationals battles. Ponting and Harbhajan had a spirited rivalry at Test level before they joined forces in two title-winning campaigns at the Mumbai Indians later in their careers.
The fiery Indian off-spinner even hailed Ponting a "fantastic" coach when the Australian took the reins at the franchise.
While Kohli indicated following the series that some of his personal friendships with the Australian players had been tarnished forever by the controversial Tests, Ponting is hopeful any bad blood will be forgotten over the coming weeks.
"I know (Kohli) has come out and said that he might not have any friends in Australian cricket anymore, but I'm sure those bridges can be mended over the next couple of months," Ponting told cricket.com.au last week.
"He's going to be sharing a change room with Shane Watson and a few other Australian players as well.
"I think that's been one of the great things about the IPL. It's been able to bring players from other countries a lot closer than ever before.
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"I ended up coaching a team that had Harbhajan Singh in it and we never got on at all when we were playing against each other. But you find a way.
"If it's all about your team having success, you can't have those niggling things going on.
"I played a lot of series against India where things got a little bit heated on the field, but pretty much as soon as the series was over and we went back to play IPL or whatever the next series was, that was forgotten about."
Smith was at the centre of the biggest flashpoint of the recent Test series, the DRS controversy in the second match in Bengaluru that was followed by an allegation from Kohli that Australia had used the tactic at numerous times during the Test.
And during the fourth Test in Dharamsala, Smith was captured by Star Sports mouthing what appeared to be “f***ing cheat” in the away team dressing room after Vijay’s catch of Josh Hazlewood was overturned.
At the end of the series, Smith apologised for his conduct during the tour, saying he'd let his emotions get the better of him at times throughout the series.
But Ponting was full of praise for Smith's captaincy, saying he led the side "exceptionally well" during an at-times spiteful series.
"He made one little mistake with that DRS thing in that one Test match, but otherwise I think he's done an amazing job," Ponting said.
"With the series that has the build-up and the hype and then the tension that happened through all those Test matches, I don't think he has to apologise to anybody.
"He handled himself exceptionally well and I'm sure the players appreciated the way he was.
"And I think as a captain that's what you have to do. You have to stand up if you believe things are wrong and be the man who's going to lead the way for the team. And I think he did that brilliantly.
"He puffed his chest out and played with his heart on his sleeve and I think that's what all Australians would love to see from their captain.
"I was a bit the same (during my career); when you wear your heart on your sleeve and you want the best for you and your team so much, sometimes your emotions can boil over a little bit.
"And I think that's what happened with Virat and probably some of the Australian players during that series.
"That's some of the best Test cricket I've seen in a long time. Conditions obviously helped that and made that happen. It was Test cricket, at the highest level, two highly-ranked teams going head to head and I loved every moment of watching it."
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And Ponting expects Smith and Rahane to continue to put any ill-feeling from the series behind them over the coming weeks.
"Kohli was the one who came out and said ... things might be lingering on after the Test series, but we don't know how Rahane and these guys are going to react to it," he said.
"They might've have thought it was as big a deal for them as it was for Virat. Virat is a lot more emotional than a lot of the Indian players.
"Smithy will handle it fine. He's known Ajinkya for a long time and has played with him for a long time.
"They're big boys and they'll sort it out."