Indian captain Virat Kohli says he is surprised at winning the ICC's Spirit of Cricket Award after "years of being under the scanner for the wrong things", referring to his past flare-ups. He won the award for his gesture at the 2019 World Cup, when he egged the crowd on to support and not boo Steve Smith soon after his return to international cricket from a one-year suspension for ball-tampering.
From once stopping short of calling his Australian rival a cheat to urging the crowd to back him, it has been an incredible turnaround for Kohli, one of the world's best batsmen alongside Smith. "I'm surprised that I have got it, after many years of being under the scanner for the wrong things," Kohli said in a statement issued by the ICC.
Explaining his reasons for backing Smith the way he did, Kohli added, "That moment was purely understanding an individua's situation. I don't think a guy who is coming out of a situation like that needs to be taken advantage of."
The passionate Kohli, who was once fined 50 percent of his match fees after he was seen showing the middle finger to the crowd as a reaction to some hostility from fans, is strictly against booing. "That should not be a representation of our fans and what we stand as a cricketing nation, a sporting nation.
"We need to all take responsibility towards that. Intimidate the opposition, definitely try and have an upper hand but in a matter that is not targeting someone emotionally.
"That is not acceptable at any level and people should be wary of that."
Nearly three years ago, Kohli stirred up a major controversy by virtually accusing the then Australian captain Smith of cheating in the usage of DRS. Smith had looked towards the dressing room for instructions at that time and had apologised for the "brain fade".
The incident had escalated tensions between the two sides during a heated Test series in India.