ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
‘I’m sorry’: Kohli’s impassioned defence of Smith
India captain labels negative reception for returning Australian ‘unacceptable’ and called on English crowds to halt booing
Louis Cameron at The Oval, London
10 June 2019, 02:04 PM AEST
Virat Kohli revealed he apologised to Steve Smith on behalf of Indian supporters who booed him at The Oval on Sunday, insisting the former Australia captain doesn't deserve the reception he's received during the World Cup.
The Indian captain who once suggested friendships with Australian players had been irreparably damaged after a spiteful Test series launched an unlikely and impassioned defence of Smith both during and after his side's 36-run victory on Sunday.
After a wicket fell during India's batting innings, Kohli gestured animatedly towards a bay of mostly Indian supporters at the Vauxhall End of the ground who had heckled Smith. He made a clapping gesture and aggressively pointed to the Indian logo on his helmet, clearly urging them to support their side rather than boo Smith.
Smith observed the gesture and made a point of shaking Kohli's hand.
"Just because there's so many Indian fans here, I just didn't want them to set a bad example because he didn't do anything to be booed in my opinion. He's just playing cricket," Kohli told reporters after the match.
"He was just standing there, and I felt bad because if I was in a position where something had happened with me and I had apologised, I accepted it and I came back and still I would get booed, I wouldn't like it, either.
"I just felt for him, and I told him, ‘I'm sorry on behalf of the crowd,’ because I've seen that happen in a few earlier games as well and in my opinion that's not acceptable."
Smith and Kohli are no strangers to one another.
The pair most notably clashed during the 2017 Bengaluru Test when Kohli effectively accused Australia of systemic cheating after Smith looked towards his dressing room for help with a review on an lbw decision.
Relations between the two sides have improved substantially and Kohli remains close with several Australian players, including Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis.
With India fans giving Steve Smith a tough time fielding in the deep, @imVkohli suggested they applaud the Australian instead.Absolute class 👏 #SpiritOfCricket #ViratKohli pic.twitter.com/mmkLoedxjr— ICC (@ICC) June 9, 2019
Smith has even admitted to adopting elements of Kohli's subcontinental batting approach into his own game, while the pair caught up during the recent Indian Premier League.
"What's happened has happened like long back, the guy is back, he's trying to play well for his side," said Kohli.
"Even in the IPL I saw him, it's not good to see someone down like that, to be honest.
"We've had issues in the past. We've had a few arguments on the field. But you don't want to see a guy feeling that heat every time he goes out to play.
"What's happened has happened. Everyone has known that. He's come back. He's worked hard. He's playing well for his side now."
The fact Smith had found himself on the boundary at all was itself a rare occurrence.
Neither he nor his former vice-captain David Warner have fielded in the deep as both continue to recover from elbow surgery as the pair, who at full fitness rank among Australia's greatest ever fielders, gradually return to throwing at full capacity.
Smith has said the hostile reception from English crowds during the World Cup hasn't affected him, labelling it "water off a duck's back" after he made a century in a warm-up game last month.
Both Smith (69 off 70 balls) and Kohli (82 off 77) made half-centuries on Sunday, but the Indian's knock proved decisive, suggesting their recent series defeat at home to Australia had provided further incentive for his side.
"We were more motivated to win today because of the fact that we lost the series in India, being 2-up," Kohli said of India's recent 3-2 ODI series defeat to Australia.
"We had to be at the top of our game, as I said, and couldn't have asked for a better game in all three departments."
2019 World Cup
Australia's squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
Sync Australia's World Cup schedule to your calendar HERE
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE