For a considerable period of time, Virat Kohli has been a favourite punching bag of Australian fans and the media here. They have called him arrogant, high-handed, brazen and even indisciplined. The adjectives the media Down Under used on Sunday to describe the Indian cricket captain, however, were the exact opposite.
Kohli's gesture to ask Indian supporters at The Oval during India vs Australia match to stop booing Steve Smith and applaud him instead has been widely appreciated as the true hallmark of sportsmanship spirit in a gentleman's game. Smith was being booed by a section of Indian fans and was also called a cheater in a rather distasteful throwback to the infamous ball-tampering incident in Cape Town. Kohli, who was on the batting strip at the time, noticed the chants coming from fans behind where Smith was stationed, gestured towards them and then to Smith and signalled they should applaud him.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) June 10, 2019
While his fans and cricket enthusiasts in general have highlighted the character of Kohli even in the face of an intense rivalry, even Australian media saluted the world's No. 1 batsman in ODIs and Tests. Cricket Australia termed it an 'impassioned defence of Smith' while Sydney Morning Herald described it as a 'noble stand.' A news.com.au report on the incident was a little too harsh and said Kohli 'defied thousands of Indian cricket fans at the World Cup, putting them in their place and protecting Aussie rival Steve Smith.' The Australian headlined their article as 'Kohli stuns Smith hecklers.'
Several Australian news outlets had been quite scathing in their opinion of Kohi previously and have, in the past, bared their fangs against him in a bid to charge up bilateral series between the two teams. While the rivalry remains every bit as intense, there is also a great deal of bonhomie between players - many of whom play for the same teams in the Indian Premier League.