Virat Kohli has lambasted “spineless people on social media” who criticised Mohammed Shami after India’s T20 World Cup loss to Pakistan, labelling them “pathetic”.
Shami was condemned by some in cyberspace after he conceded 43 runs in 3.5 overs in India's 10-wicket defeat to their neighbours in Dubai last Sunday.
Some of the comments focused on the fast bowler's religion, and termed him an “agent” for Pakistan.
A number of former players spoke out to support Shami, and Kohli used his pre-match press conference ahead of India’s game against New Zealand on Sunday to defend his teammate.
“There’s a reason we are playing on the field and not some bunch of spineless people on social media, who have no courage to speak to any individual in person,” Kohli said.
“They hide behind their entities and go after people through social media, making fun of people. That has become a source of entertainment in today’s world, which is so unfortunate and sad to see.
“This is literally the lowest level of human potential that one can operate at. That’s how I look at these people.”
Kohli said his teammates all understand “the strength of character and the mental toughness that we have,” but that it is not shared by the online trolls.
“None of these people are even in the vicinity to imagine doing something like that, or have the courage or the spine to do that,” Kohli said.
“All this drama that is created on the outside is purely based on people’s frustrations, their lack of self-confidence, their lack of compassion.
“Hence, they find it so amusing to go after people. As a group, we understand how we need to stick together, how we need to back individuals, how we need to focus on our strengths.”
Kohli reiterated his side had been “outplayed” as a team by Pakistan, and said they were “itching to go back on the park” against New Zealand after a seven-day break between matches.
And he said all of his colleagues would be backing Shami “200 per cent”.
“Attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing a human being can do,” Kohli said.
“Everyone has the right to voice their opinions and what they feel about certain situations.
“I personally have never ever even thought of discriminating a person over their religion. That is a very sacred and personal thing to every human being.
“People take out their frustrations because they obviously have no understanding of what we do as individuals. They have no understanding of how much effort we put in on the field.
“They have no understanding of the fact Mohammed Shami has won India n-number of matches in the last few years.
“He has been our primary bowler with Jasprit Bumrah when it comes to making an impact in matches.
“If people can overlook that and his passion for the country, I don’t want to waste one minute of my life giving attention to those people. Neither does Shami or anyone else in the team.”