Cup captains encouraged to follow Kohli’s lead

Somerset: World Cup captains, beginning with Pakistan, have been urged to follow the lead of Virat Kohli and encourage their supporters to not boo Steve Smith and David Warner.

The Indian skipper has been praised for his gesture towards Smith on Sunday when, while batting, he appealed to thousands of Indian supporters at The Oval to stop jeering the former Australian captain as he made his way to third man to field.

Kohli pointed to the crest of his own shirt, making it clear supporters should cheer for India but not boo the man who has returned from a year-long ban for his role in the ball-tampering saga. He then shook hands with Smith and apologised for the crowd's behaviour.

Australian captain Aaron Finch later acknowledged Kohli's gesture but there hasn't been any contact between the two nations since.

Tony Irish, the chief of the Federation of International Cricketers Association, praised Kohli for the spirit he had demonstrated.

"I think it was a fantastic gesture from Virat, firstly. This is a role the players can play in these types of situations, when something has happened and in this incident, a player has paid the price for it, for that to linger to over a player's head, the players have got quite a lot of influence, especially a guy like Virat, helping that situation to move on," he said.

"I think it's fantastic and it just shows the spirit of the game is still on field."

Smith and Warner have been jeered through Australia's opening three matches, with Smith booed after every ball he faced while batting against Afghanistan in Bristol.

Australia's next assignment is against Pakistan in Somerset on Wednesday, with Pakistani supporters again expected to far outnumber their counterparts, although expected heavy rain could be a factor in the match even going ahead.

Irish said Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed would have the option of following Kohli's lead should the crowd target Smith.

"It's always interesting when a player comes back from something like this, the first couple of international games they play to see how the crowd reacts. This is the biggest stage of all," he said.

"I think it [Kohli at The Oval] was a great gesture. I think all international captains are generally the most influential players on the field and can take a leaf out of Virat's book there and help those kind of situations."

Australian coach Justin Langer had called on supporters to show more "respect" for Smith and Warner but that failed to make an impact. However, Kohli's statement is likely to resonate, for he is the biggest name in the game, leads a side that has a billion supporters and is the face of the most powerful organisation in world cricket.

Indian great Sunil Gavaskar, who has also clashed with the Australians over the years, also praised Kohli for showing what "sportsman's spirit is all about".

Those close to Warner say the booing only encourages better performances from him, while Smith has said it is like "water off a duck's back".

Australia had the option of allowing Smith and Warner to make low-key returns from their bans late in the one-day series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in March but it most likely would not have stopped the jeering here.

"It was not a soft landing, he [Smith] was coming back on to the biggest stage of all. These games, every single game counts, and I think that comes out in the way the fans are," Irish said.

"A softer landing may have been to play in a half-empty stadium somewhere where in bilateral cricket there is not so much riding on every game. I can guarantee fans are going to get into the game a lot more in these events. I thought that he was going to get a bit of a hostile reception but it was fantastic to see the way Virat handled it the way he did."

Kohli said the booing had been unacceptable.

"So I just felt for him [Smith], and I told him, I'm sorry on behalf of the crowd because I've seen that happen in a few earlier games, as well, and in my opinion that's not acceptable," Kohli said.

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