India's World Cup squad was left embarrassed on Wednesday after star batsman Virat Kohli verbally abused a journalist he mistakenly thought was the writer for another newspaper over an article written involving his girlfriend Anushka Sharma.
The incident took place on Tuesday afternoon at the Murdoch Oval in Perth where India were training ahead of their Pool B match against the West Indies at th WACA ground on Friday.
As soon as he wrapped up his net session, Kohli stormed to the sidelines and let off a volley of expletives at a horrified Indian reporter, eyewitnesses said.
Kohli suddenly lost his cool and abused journalist Jasvinder Sidhu, who is covering the World Cup for 'Hindustan Times'.
Kohli used the filthiest of language while abusing Sidhu, who was shocked by the sudden outburst. The batsman called the scribe several abuses, according to those who were present.
Kohli had actually planned to target a reporter from another Indian newspaper apparently for writing about his personal life.
Sidhu was clueless about the reason for the outburst. After Kohli calmed down, he told someone that he thought Sidhu had written a recent article in a national daily on him and his girlfriend, Bollywood star Anushka Sharma.
Kohli's relationship with Anushka has been the subject of numerous articles in the media.
The visibly shaken journalist wondered why Kohli had pounced on him without any possible provocation - until it was found to be a case of mistaken identity.
Realising his mistake, Kohli offered his apologies through an intermediary, also a reporter.
In response, the abused reporter told the intermediary to inform Kohli that such behaviour was not expected from an international sportsman even if it was not directed at him.
"Go and tell him that he is an international player and he should learn how to behave," the journalist said.
"How can he abuse and intimidate someone?
"I would like to add that Kohli did not apologise to me directly."
The team management declined to comment but sources said the temperamental Kohli, next in line for the India captaincy after Mahendra Singh Dhoni, had been spoken to and told to ensure such incidents were not repeated.
Team director Ravi Shastri spoke to Kohli and advised him to keep his cool as it was “unbecoming of a future India captain to behave in this manner publicly”, PTI quoted its sources as saying.
The bust-up has added to an already fragile relationship between the travelling journalists and the team, which has avoided all media contact outside the mandatory press conferences before and after a match.
Defending champions India have had a good start in the tournament, winning all their three matches against old foes Pakistan, mighty South Africa and minnows United Arab Emirates.