Gotta ground your bat!
Virat Kohli provided all onlookers with a moment to digest during India’s 36-run win against Australia in the World Cup on Sunday.
Steve Smith was sent to ride the boundary during the first inning of the much-anticipated match between the two rivals, and was greeted by an Indian-dominated grandstand that proceeded to boo the disgraced cricketer.
The booing was in reference to Steve Smith’s actions in South Africa last year. Along with David Warner and Cam Bancroft, Smith was banned for a year of cricket due to tampering with the ball.
The incident, named Sandpaper Gate, is clearly still fresh in opposition supporters’ memories; this wasn’t the first time this World Cup where either Warner or Smith were booed.
As the boos echoed around the stadium, Kohli, who was batting at the time, walked towards the grandstand, gestured toward Smith, and made a clapping motion.
After the match, Kohli was asked about his actions.
“I think what happened has happened,” Kohli said in a post-match press conference. “He’s come back, he’s worked hard, he’s playing well for his side now.”
“Just because there are so many Indian fans here, I just didn’t want them to set a bad example, to be honest, because he didn’t do anything to be booed in my opinion.”
“He’s just playing cricket.”
Smith noticed Kohli’s gesture, and during a break in overs, went and shook the Indian skipper’s hand.
Kohli’s actions received plenty of praise from cricket fans and observers on social media, however the continued booing throughout the warm-up games and the tournament itself suggests fans are yet to completely forgive Smith and Warner.
Despite the punishments included a yearlong ban of all Australian-associated cricket and the stripping of Smith’s captaincy, the continued booing, hatred, and continued abuse is arguably the worst punishment.
Sportsmen worldwide are under more scrutiny and pressure now more than ever, and with more attention than ever given toward mental illness, it’s ignorant to think this continued verbal barrage isn’t affecting those targeted.
Now that every man and his dog has access to channels to contact sportsman 24 hours a day, targeted and abusive attacks over social media are easier than ever.
It’s time to leave Smith and Warner’s actions in the past, and to admire them both as cricketers, rather than cheats.
As Kohli said: “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.”