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Kohli calls for an end to jeering of Smith
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Kohli calls for an end to jeering of Smith

India captain Virat Kohli took a firm stance against the booing of Steve Smith by the Indian contingent in the stands during his side's 36-run victory over Australia at the Oval on Sunday.

Ever since Smith and opening batsman David Warner returned to international cricket after serving one-year bans for their involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, they have received a hostile reception by crowds throughout the World Cup campaign.

In the aftermath of India's triumph over the defending champions, Kohli expressed his sympathy with Smith and deemed the taunts by the Indian supporters "unacceptable".

Kohli actively intervened to subdue the chants of "cheater" directed towards Smith fielding on the boundary during India's innings, as he gestured his compatriot fans to instead applaud for the former Aussie captain.

This act of sportsmanship was acknowledged by Smith, who passed a smile to his Indian counterpart and later shook his hands in gratitude.

"Look I think what's happened has happened, long back. The guy is trying to play well for his side. It's not good to see someone down like that to be honest," Kohli said.

"We've had a few issues in the past, a few arguments on the field, but you don't want to see a guy feeling that every time he goes out to play."

There has previously been bad blood between the two star batsmen - most memorably when Kohli called Smith's attempt to seek help from the dressing room during a review as a "brain fade" in a Test match in Bangalore two years ago.

'Don't want fans to set a bad example'

Having had numerous run-ins with the Australian side resulting in a heated rivalry, a different side of Kohli was on display at the Oval where he defended Smith against the boisterous crowd.

"He (Smith) is coming back, he's playing hard and just getting on with it. There were a lot of Indian fans here and I just didn't want them to set a bad example," said Kohli.

"He didn't do anything to be booed, he was just playing cricket. If I was in a position where something had happened to me, where I had apologised, accepted it and then came back I wouldn't like it either.

"I just told him 'sorry on behalf of the crowd'. In my opinion I didn't think that was acceptable," he added.

Smith and Kohli both struck fast-paced half-centuries in the match, but Kohli's sublime 77-ball 82 was the one which ended up on the winning side. While Smith and Warner have been scoring prolifically since their respective comebacks, the duo has faced backlash for their low strike rates.

'Lucky to have two solid openers'

India found themselves in a dominant position mainly due to the terrific 127-run opening partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.

The two have been in a league of their own as they effectively weathered the new-ball threat posed by Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins to establish a strong foundation for later batters to build upon.

Kohli labeled his flamboyant openers as "world class" and believed the talented players' consistency to be one of the key reasons behind India's success in white-ball cricket.

"They both have a big-match temperament and we are lucky to have two such solid openers in our team who when they play well provide a lot of confidence to the dressing room," the captain said.