Interestingly, Steven Smith was part of the Bangalore squad along with Kohli in IPL 2010. © BCCI

Interestingly, Steven Smith was part of the Bangalore squad along with Kohli in IPL 2010. © BCCI

After saying he would never be friends with Australia’s cricketers anymore at the conclusion of an acrimonious Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, Virat Kohli has clarified that he wasn’t referring to the entire Australian team but ‘only a couple of individuals’.

Kohli had said before the start of the series in Pune last month that he is “really good friends with all these guys off the field”. However, responding to a query by an Australian journalist at the end of the series in Dharamsala, the Indian captain said he no longer considered the Australian players his friends.

“No, it has changed,” he had said after India claimed a 2-1 victory in a series that produced riveting cricket on the field. “I thought that was the case, but it has changed for sure. As I said, in the heat of the battle, you want to be competitive but I’ve been proven wrong. The thing I said before the first Test, that has certainly changed and you won’t hear me say that ever again.”

Kohli, though, clarified his views and said he remained on good terms with his teammates at Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Indian Premier League franchise he leads. Kohli led four Australians – Mitchell Starc, Shane Watson, Travis Head, Kane Richardson – in the IPL last year.

Interestingly, Steven Smith was part of the Bangalore squad along with Kohli in IPL 2010, though he didn’t play a single game.

“My answer at the post match conference has been blown way out of proportion,” tweeted Kohli on Thursday (March 30). “I did not categorically say the whole Australian team but only a couple of individuals. I continue to be in good terms with the few guys I know and who I’ve played with at RCB and that doesn’t change.”

Australians who were in RCB’s squad over the years:

2017: Shane Watson, Travis Head and Billy Stanlake

2016: Mitchell Starc, Shane Watson, Travis Head, Kane Richardson.

2015: Mitchell Starc, Sean Abbott, Nic Maddinson.

2014: Mitchell Starc, Nic Maddinson.

2013: Dan Christian, Moises Henriques, Andrew McDonald.

2012: Andrew McDonald, Dirk Nannes, Luke Pomersbach.

2011: Dirk Nannes, Luke Pomersbach.

2010: Steven Smith, Cameron White.

2009: Nathan Bracken, Cameron White.

2008: Ashley Noffke.

Kohli’s clarification comes after he drew criticism from many in the cricketing fraternity, particularly from Australia. While Mark Taylor and Dean Jones cautioned him against holding grudges, Merv Hughes called Kohli a “flog”, a derogatory Australian slang.

Meanwhile, Brad Hodge apologised for suggesting that Kohli pulled out of the final Test to save himself for the Indian Premier League. Hodge had made comments questioning Kohli’s withdrawal for the deciding Dharamsala Test, which provoked a backlash on social media.

Hodge, the coach of Gujarat Lions, said that his comments were meant to be light-hearted and that he didn’t mean any disrespect to the IPL, a tournament he featured in as a player before turning coach, having played with distinction for Rajasthan Royals, and with Kolkata Knight Riders in the initial years. He also had a stint with the short-lived Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

“I take this opportunity to apologise to the people of India, cricket fans, the Indian national cricket team and particularly Virat Kohli for my previous comments,” he posted in a statement on Twitter. “My intention was never to harm, criticise or be derogatory toward anyone. They were intended to be light-hearted comments with the utmost respect to the Indian Premier League which I have thoroughly enjoyed through the years.

“The public and fans have every right to be upset, and the backlash I have received has certainly driven this home.”

Australians in RCB’s squad over the years:

2017: Shane Watson, Travis Head and Billy Stanlake
2016: Mitchell Starc, Shane Watson, Travis Head, Kane Richardson.
2015: Mitchell Starc, Sean Abbott, Nic Maddinson.
2014: Mitchell Starc, Nic Maddinson.
2013: Dan Christian, Moises Henriques, Andrew McDonald.
2012: Andrew McDonald, Dirk Nannes, Luke Pomersbach.
2011: Dirk Nannes, Luke Pomersbach.
2010: Steven Smith, Cameron White.
2009: Nathan Bracken, Cameron White.
2008: Ashley Noffke.