How friendship between one-time enemies has blossomed
Virat Kohli was preaching love not war as he offered a surprise olive branch to Australia and vowed not to exploit the sudden physical frailty of batting superstar Steve Smith.
Australia's most important player returned to the nets on match eve and after a long process of warming up his stiff back eventually got his sore body back into rhythm. It's doubtful though Smith will be at 100 per cent capacity when he walks to the crease on day one in Adelaide.
Kohli refuted suggestions he could double-down on a bid to pepper Smith with short-pitch bowling due to his back problem, as one example of a deep-seated respect between cricket's two best batsmen.
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The pair took the unusual step of interviewing each other on match eve, in a revealing piece in which Kohli explained why he made the extraordinary move to order Indian supporters at the World Cup clash in London last year to stop booing Smith.
India-Australia relations have been marred by the Monkeygate scandal and a bitter tour of the subcontinent in 2017 when Kohli all-but accused Smith of cheating.
But ahead of his one and only Test of the summer, Kohli has declared he has softened his volatile ways and that Australia are no longer the bullies they once were.
Ahead of the Vodafone Test Series, @stevesmith49 and @imVkohli took the time to interview each other in a special Q&A and go in-depth on their cricketing journey so far.— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) December 16, 2020
Enjoy! #AUSvIND pic.twitter.com/7tpcLD6OM2
"When you hold grudges or have unnecessary tension between teams or individuals - it is
absolutely pointless," Kohli said.
"You're still going to be professional and make sure you're positive and aggressive in your body language and the way you go about things on the field. But I don't think things are going to be as personal as they used to be.
"It could be a combination of playing IPL together, Australia changing their approach to an extent, and also as I said - just the way things have panned out this year.
"The unnecessary stuff has been filtered out."
India are expected to target Smith with short-pitch bowling in a bid to follow the blueprint set out by New Zealand's Neil Wagner last year which appeared to stifle the world's best.
But Kohli denied India would seize on Smith's back injury, after the Aussie star batted for a couple of hours and felt better than Tuesday when a back spasm stopped him from training at all.
"I don't think the back has got anything to do with us changing our plans to him or any other batter," Kohli said.
In an insightful production into the two superstars by cricket.com.au, Smith thanked Kohli for stopping the boos at The Oval in 2019, as Kohli explained his reasons for stepping in to protect a foe who he had famously attacked in the past.
Kohli said Smith deserved forgiveness and the shot at a second chance.
"Things happen on the field and you have your moments against opponents that you play," Kohli said on the cricket.com.au special.
"To me there was an incident that happened, you guys realised what had happened and you came back after a long time having gone through everything that you had to.
"I feel like in life nothing can be that permanent that you carry it on for life.
"People make mistakes and they learn from it and I felt like it's not fair to target an individual personally, that's what I felt at that at moment. Instinctively I told them not to boo you.
"As much as you play against each other, there's a human side to things as well … yes, you're competitive on the field, but you don't want to go nasty as such.
"Long term you do realise the importance of things from a larger perspective and I felt that wasn't right at that moment."
Smith said he actually relished the boos.
"There was a lot of negative stuff towards me when I first came back and I like to prove people wrong," he said.
"So it's kind of like 'you guys are booing me, screw you. I'm going to try and do whatever I can to either keep you quiet or make you come at me even more'.
"I just want to perform and entertain."
Originally published as How friendship between one-time enemies has blossomed