Melbourne: Former Australia captain Allan Border has come to the defence of Virat Kohli, saying his antics might be over the top but the game needs characters who show passion.
The Indian skipper has come under criticism for his sledging and heated exchanges with Australian counterpart Tim Paine during the tense second Test in Perth, which at one point needed the umpire to intervene.
Test great Mitchell Johnson also slammed Kohli for failing to acknowledge the crowd’s applause after he was controversially given out in the first innings for 123, and for his frosty handshake with Paine at the end of the game.
Kohli’s animated wicket celebrations have also widely frowned upon while India great Sunil Gavaskar hit out at his “selection blunders”.
And in a stunning rebuke, veteran Bollywood star Naseeruddin Shah described him as “not only the world’s best batsman but also the world’s worst behaved player”.
“Kohli’s cricketing brilliance pales beside his arrogance and bad manners,” added Shah on Facebook.
But Border said the game needed characters like Kohli.
“I haven’t seen anyone sort of carry on so much as a captain when his side takes a wicket,” he said in a Fox Sports podcast Thursday. “It’s really over the top but it’s good in a way. You can see some passion about what he’s trying to do.
“There’s not many characters in our game at the moment,” Border added.
“The professional era has sort of beaten that out to a certain degree. It’s good to see guys with that passion, drive and a bit of character.”
Border, who played 156 Tests, including 93 as captain, said he believed Kohli was passionate by nature, but also motivated by a “quiet” squad and the desire to win India’s first ever series in Australia.
“To drive the team to be No. 1, which he’s achieved, but to win away from home is one of those important things you notice as a captain,” he said. “I think he’s feeling that pinch.”
The four Test series is tied 1-1 with the next one starting in Melbourne on Boxing Day.
Meanwhile, Kohli’s 25th Test ton in the second Test against Australia in Perth, helped him consolidate the No. 1 Test batting spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings, released on Thursday.
Among other Indians, Kohli’s deputy Ajinkya Rahane gained three spots to No. 15 while stumper Rishabh Pant has jumped 11 spots to a career-high No. 48.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who recently became the first Kiwi to make it to 900 points, remained in second spot while banned Australian Steve Smith continued in the third. India’s Cheteshwar Pujara also held on to his No. 4 spot.
Australia opener Usman Khawaja, whose gritty knock of 72 in the second innings helped Australia set India a target of 287, moved up one slot to No. 12 while his skipper Paine jumped from No. 55 to No. 46.