Sidharth MongaAssistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has slammed the reaction Virat Kohli got from the Sydney crowd as “disgraceful”. Kohli walked out to a mix of cheers and loud boos from the SCG crowd on Thursday. He was subject of “Kohli is a w***er” chants in Melbourne, and was booed in Perth.
“If it was booing then it’s absolutely disgraceful,” Ponting said on Seven. “I said that in the Perth Test as well. Show some respect.”
Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts wasn’t too happy with it either: “I don’t like seeing that,” he told SEN Radio. “We talk about making Australians proud, we talk about the fact our goal is to win but our non negotiable expectation is to compete with honour and I’d urge our fans to support the game with honour. It’s bigger than all of us, respect our visitors, give them the best possible experience of our country, hopefully beat them on the field, but in all seriousness we need to go about this with respect whether we are a player, administrator, fan, broadcaster. Respect is a really core foundation of the game and hopefully we can see that evident.”
Commentator Tim Lane was more scathing of the crowd. “I must say I thought the reception he was given as he came out was poor and it was graceless in that he is the captain of a visiting team,” Lane said on Macquarie Sports Radio. “To welcome a visiting captain like that … is classless. He has not done anything wrong, he has just been too good…
“We should be better than that as a nation. I didn’t like it. All Kohli has been guilty of is leading his country in Australia and winning. If the people don’t like it, they should at least recognise it and applaud it.”
Kohli has always polarised opinion, in Australia more than any country. On his first tour of the country, Kohli was photographed flipping the bird to someone in the crowd, which led to an ICC sanction. On his last tour of the country, he won over the crowds with four centuries and as co-captain of a side that gracefully made last-minute adjustments to schedules in the wake of Phillip Hughes’ tragic death. Even in this Test, Kohli was so supportive of the Glenn McGrath foundation that he wore pink gloves; his bat had a pink grip on to go with the pink MRF sticker as well.
Kohli, though, has also been mindful of the crowds in Australia. In the lead-up to the Test, he spoke of how much they get behind the home team. “It’s not only the team you are playing against, it’s the whole nation because they get behind the team so well,” he said. “When you walk in to bat, you feel there are 40,000 people who want your wicket, not just the 11 guys on the field. So we understand as cricketers how difficult it is and purely just to take that challenge on, we want to win here.”