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Two of cricket’s greatest modern players, Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, have opened up on their personal relationship in a candid sit-down chat ahead of Thursday’s first Test in Adelaide.
The Australian and Indian superstars are generally considered the best current batsmen in the game and will be one day regarded as genuine legends once they retire.
And while they share a fierce rivalry on the field, they are actually close friends off it.
Kohli remembers his first time crossing paths with Smith when they were both young players trying to break onto the international scene about 14 years ago.
“We played a practice game, against England, not you guys… during the World Cup when we were all lined up in the stadium for the inauguration, and your team was lined up and I saw you and Josh (Hazlewood),” Kohli said.
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“Phil Hughes was there as well, I saw all you guys, and we just walked past and lined up. But I think our first interaction was at the academy you, Davey (Warner), and Moises (Henriques) was there… it was a fun day, I loved that camp.”
Smith is now a gun batsman but Kohli saw him first as a young leg-spinner who was touted as the next Shane Warne.
“I remember you at the academy, going through your leg-spin action and everyone was like ‘this guy is the new Shane Warne’,” Kohli said.
“Now 10 years later you average 60 in Test cricket.”
Smith began his international career as a spinner but was never set on it staying that way.
“I’ve always seen myself as more of a batsman. As a kid growing up I always batted, but bowled as well because I wanted to be involved in the game was much as possible,” Smith said.
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“I bowled quick until I was 14 or 15, then started bowling spin. Australia went through a turnstile of spinners after Shane Warne finished, and I was a blond little podgy leg spinner so I fitted the bill.
“People were like ‘the next Shane Warne’ but I never really believed that. I love it but leg-spin takes so much work, and I didn’t want to let my batting slip at the same time.
“It was 2012 when I got dropped… I thought ‘what’s my best way to get back in the Australian side and have a successful career?’ and I thought right, it’s time to let go of spin.
“It was a big decision but one I’m happy with now.”
Since then the pair have met many times on the field and they’ve formed a bond away from cricket as well.
Smith saw just how kind Kohli is during last year’s World Cup.
Smith had been copping it still from the sandpaper scandal that saw him, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft banned the year earlier.
During a World Cup game the Indian crowd was taunting the Australia and Kohli stepped in to ask the fans to tone it down.
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Smith sent Kohli a text message that night to thank him for the gesture.
“Things happen on the field and you have your moments against opposition you play… to me there was an incident that happened and you guys realised what had happened, you came back after a long time after going through everything you had to,” Kohli said.
“I feel in life nothing can be that permanent that you carry that for life. People make mistakes and they learn from it.
“It’s not fair to target an individual personally, that’s what I felt at that moment and I asked them not to boo you. It was just instinctive.
“As much as you play against each other there’s a human side as well. There’s always instances you’re going to keep meeting as individuals.
“You’re competitive on the field but you don’t want it to be nasty.”
Kohli and Smith will meet at Adelaide Oval on Thursday to kick off the first Test.
The Indian captain will miss most of the series, though, when he heads home to India for the birth of his child.
Smith paid credit to his opponent for putting family first.
“Credit to you for making that decision to go home and be with your wife for the birth of your first child,” Smith said.
“It’s a milestone. I’m sure you’ve had a lot of pressure to stay and play.
“We’re human beings, we have a life outside cricket and I’m sure you would be kicking yourself if you missed the birth of your first child.”