Virat Kohli has become a more respectful and calmer captain, according to one of the many Australians to have incurred the Indian icon’s wrath.
As India begins its Australian tour with a series of T20 matches against Australia, starting with a game in Brisbane at the Gabba tonight, Kohli must sense a unique opportunity.
India has not won a Test series in Australia since it first visited in the summer of 1947-48.
This summer, though, with an Australian batting line-up shorn of its most prolific run-scorers in Steve Smith and David Warner, India will never have a better opportunity to achieve an historic result.
Despite its inability to secure the Border-Gavaskar trophy away from home, Kholi has thrived in Australian conditions.
In eight Tests in Australia, he has amassed 992 runs at an average of 60.5. Kholi has produced five Test centuries in that time. Supported by a battery of fine young fast bowlers on this tour, it shapes as a winning combination.
Kohli has adopted a pugnacious approach in previous clashes with Australia, often verbally peppering the opposition while arguing about various issues.
But the 30-year-old has offered an olive branch as he plots India’s bid for a maiden Test series win in Australia, insisting he has matured and won’t seek to start any on-field spats.
Kohli’s declaration came 18 months after a fiery series in India that prompted the run glutton to declare he was no longer friends with any of the Australian players and never would be.
Kohli later claimed those comments were blown out of proportion. But there was no hiding the obvious bad blood.
Ian Healy wasn’t in India but he did cop a broadside from Kohli in that series, having critiqued the skipper’s on-field behaviour.
A fired-up Kohli hit back by referencing an incident from nearly two decades ago, when Healy was banned for showing dissent during a Test.
“He’s learned to play with more respect these days. I love the way he plays,” the former Australia keeper Healy said.
“Since then, I’ve felt he has played more respectfully to the ethics of the game and I think he’s been a lot calmer. Which he should be, for a great player.
“He did also forget that just before saying that, I did say he is the best batsman I have ever seen. So selective memory, but that’s OK. I’ve been happy with his improvement.
“Now our Australian team is going to show similar improvements.”
The Fox Cricket pundit, speaking prior to Kohli’s arrival, doubted that the coming four-Test series would be spiteful.
“It’ll be very competitive but you don’t have to get personal and you don’t have to mouth off,” Healy said.
Healy, having been suitably impressed with Kohli’s four tons in India’s previous Test series in Australia, is in no doubt the superstar will once again be the tourists’ talisman.
“He’s always the one to watch. He’s coming off an English tour where his side wasn’t successful, so he’ll be really keen to do well here,” he said.
“You don’t predict that even the best bowlers in the world will trouble a batsman like that.
“But we’ve got some firepower. They’ll be capable of giving him a really hard session or two. It’s up to him whether he can get through it.”