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Virat Kohli told passionate Indian crowd to go easy on Australia’s Steve Smith

Familiarity, it seems, only breeds respect for Indian captain Virat Kohli.

Few teams know each other as well as India and Australia, who played their ninth ODI match this year in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup at the Oval.

It’s one of the fiercest rivalries in world cricket, with Kohli admitting a recent home series defeat to Australia was the major motivation in his side’s 36-run victory.

  • India beat Australia by 36 runs at the Oval – where the vast majority of the crowd were supporting Virat Kohli’s side
  • Kohli says India were motivated by their recent series defeat by Australia

However, when Australia’s Steve Smith received a hostile welcome from a capacity crowd dominated by Indian supporters, Kohli knew he had to intervene, appealing to the crowd to get off his back.

“It’s not good to see someone down like that, you don't want to see a guy feeling that heat every time he goes out to play,” he said.

 “Because there's so many Indian fans here, I just didn't want them to set a bad example. He was just standing there and I felt bad for him.

 “I’m sorry on behalf of the crowd as, and in my opinion, that's not acceptable.”

 Kohli is certainly happy with his form as India head to Trent Bridge for a clash with New Zealand on Thursday brimming with confidence after opening wins over South Africa and the defending champions.

He made a dashing 82 to delight the partisan crowd though it was opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan, who hit 16 boundaries in his 109-ball 117, that shone brightest of all.

However, the Indian captain saved special praise for Hardik Pandya, who was promoted up the order to deliver quick runs and duly fired a freakish 48 off just 27 deliveries, including clubbing an enormous six straight over the head of Australian seamer Pat Cummins.

 India scored 120 runs in their final ten overs, Pandya’s seven boundaries, including three mammoth sixes, ultimately the difference between the teams.

“He's in a good space right now,” added Kohli.

“I’m really delighted to see him enjoying himself on the field. He's just having fun and playing the sport for the love of it.

“He is playing with a clarity of mind and striking the ball brilliantly. In the past he sometimes tried too hard but after the IPL he seems to believe he can clear the boundary whenever he wants.

 “He’s not trying to over-hit the ball, he’s just timing things so well. The bowler is always under pressure against him because he needs to get it absolutely right, that’s an amazing place to be in for Hardik.”