MOHALI: India skipper Virat Kohli dismissed ball-tampering claims on Friday after footage showed him sucking a mint and shining the ball — following a similar case involving South Africa’s captain.
Kohli said the allegations, aired by media, were intended to take the focus off India’s Test series with England, where the hosts are 1-0 up after two matches.
Ball-tampering has been a hot issue this week after Faf du Plessis strongly disputed his conviction in the ‘Mintgate’ row during South Africa’s Test series in Australia.
“It’s just that some people are trying to take the focus away from the series and good luck to them,” said Kohli, in his first response to the ball-tampering claims.
“We are just focused on what we have to do. It happened in Australia when South Africa won the series. I’m surprised the issue, of what I’ve been told, came up in Rajkot but there was no mention of it until the game was over in Vizag.
“To me a newspaper article doesn’t matter over the decision of ICC. We as cricketers respect that only.”
The pictures of Kohli were from the first Test in Rajkot, meaning they fell outside the five-day window for the International Cricket Council to take action.
Du Plessis on Friday said he was appealing his conviction for ball-tampering, an announcement which drew immediate criticism by the world body.
The South African argues that shining the ball cannot be construed as ball-tampering, and that the benefits of sweetened saliva are unclear.
Previous ball-tampering cases have involved the use of dirt, fingernails and bottle-tops to rough up the ball and alter its flight.
Du Plessis has won sympathy from several players including Australia captain Steve Smith and England’s Chris Woakes, who said it was a “grey area” as players commonly have sweets and sweetened drinks on the field.
“I think (Chris) Woakes summed up quite nicely yesterday actually. It is a bit of a grey area at the moment,” England captain Alastair Cook said on Friday.
“I actually haven’t quite studied the facts closely in terms of whether taking the sweet straight to the ball kind of with the saliva, or was he just having a lolly in his mouth.”
He added: “I think the players now after the last 10 days are just looking to the ICC to clarify what is acceptable what is not acceptable.”
Cook also played a straight bat when asked whether sweetened saliva is better for shining the ball, saying he doesn’t know “whether it helps or not”.