LONDON (Reuters) - Virat Kohli won a match with the bat and hearts with his sportsmanship after silencing Indian fans who booed Australia’s Steve Smith in Sunday’s World Cup contest at the Oval.
Smith and team mate David Warner have faced hostile crowds since returning from year-long bans for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa early last year.
A section of the predominantly Indian crowd at the Oval booed Smith when the Australian was stationed at third man and Kohli noticed.
The India captain, who went on to score a typically fluent 82, raised his hand to draw the crowd’s attention, gestured for them to clap the Australian instead, and shook his head before resuming batting.
The International Cricket Council shared the video on its Twitter handle calling it “absolute class”.
“I think what’s happened has happened long back. The guy is back, he’s trying to play well for his side... it’s not good to see someone down like that, to be honest,” Kohli told reporters.
“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.”
Smith’s 69 was the highest score in Australia’s unsuccessful chase against India who won the high-scoring contest by 36 runs.
Kohli said he apologised to Smith for the behaviour of the India fans.
“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,” added Kohli.
“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.
“So 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.”
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in London; Editing by Ken Ferris