Australia's Steve Smith has hailed Indian superstar and on-field rival Virat Kohli as a "terrific guy" and a strong leader who plays hard on the field.

While international sporting events were halted when the coronavirus pandemic hit, cricketers have been keeping in touch with each other through messages, phone and video calls.

"I had few conversations with him (Virat) off the field, few messages here and there in recent times just to see how things are going in India," Smith told Indian broadcaster Star Sports on Saturday.

"He is a terrific guy and we both play hard out on the field."

After India beat Australia in last year's World Cup in England, Kohli apologised to Smith for chants of "cheater" from the stands towards the former Australia captain for his role in the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Australia during their 2018 tour of South Africa.

The gesture was surprising because Kohli had once stopped just short of calling Smith a cheat after a Test match in Bangalore in 2017 when the then skipper looked up towards the dressing room for help during an umpire review -- something not permitted under the rules.

"Virat's gesture in the World Cup to the Indian fans that were giving me and David Warner a little bit of a stick -- I appreciated that and I shared that with him straight up," said Smith.

"He is a terrific guy and the way he has led the Indian team has been amazing."

Smith and Warner were at the receiving end of on-field taunts after they returned to international cricket from their one-year ball-tampering bans.

Smith -- who tops the world Test batting rankings with Kohli second -- is now eagerly awaiting Australia's scheduled series with India later this year that includes four Tests.

"They are an amazing side and can't wait to play them when they come out to Australia this year, will be something incredibly special," said Smith.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Indranil Mukherjee