The Gambhir–Kohli saga: From sharing an MoM award to unsporting spats

We certainly haven't heard the last of their disagreements, but let’s hope that the pair behave like grown-ups here on out

Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli facing off, while Kyle Mayers seems to intervene (photo courtesy @RoflGandhi_/Twitter)
Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli facing off, while Kyle Mayers seems to intervene (photo courtesy @RoflGandhi_/Twitter)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The ripples of the Gambhir–Kohli–Naveed saga, which left a bitter aftertaste to the Lucknow Super Giants vs Royal Challengers Bangalore match on Monday, will not smoothe over in a hurry.

The BCCI tried to make their displeasure clear by docking the trio's match fees, but it's more tokenism in the Indian Premier League environment, where the franchises are known to pick up the tabs.

While the two teams—thrust into a storm bank thanks to the two rounds of tiresome stand-offs—now stand level after their league games with a win apiece, one shudders to think what's in store should they again clash in the play-offs.

The second incident on the trot where Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli had to be repeatedly separated by teammates provoked former players like Anil Kumble, Robin Uthappa and Harbhajan Singh to tear into both.

"You have to respect the game," said a visibly agitated Kumble, who had fallen foul of erstwhile captain Kohli and stepped down as head coach of the Indian team in 2017.

Singh, on the other hand, tempered his advice for the two feuding men to talk with lasting regrets about his own behaviour with S. Sreesanth in 2018, when he slapped the Malayali pace bowler after a high-strung match in the early days of the IPL.

The LSG top brass, who met after the game, downplayed the incident by saying, "It’s simply an ego clash between the two greats of Indian cricket. There was nothing serious." RCB, on the other hand, released a tweet which had Kohli saying from the dressing room: "If you can give it, you got to take it. Otherwise don’t give it."

So where does this vendetta end? When Gambhir and Kohli locked horns in the first leg and the LSG mentor gestured at RCB fans at Chinnaswamy Stadium to shut up after their win, it kicked off a decade of simmering discontent between the two Delhiites.

What could have soured the relationship so between the two? It's intriguing, for sure. Is there something more than meets the public eye? After all, it all began on a much more promising—and sporting—note.

Back in 2009, when Gambhir was a prolific Indian opener and Kohli the new kid on the block, the former had famously shared his Player of the Match trophy with the youngster after both scored centuries in pursuit of a target of 316 runs in an ODI against Sri Lanka.   

While Gambhir had posted an unbeaten 150, Kohli had recorded 114 for his first century in international cricket that day.

The Indian cricket fraternity is hence bemused at two such back-to-back unsavoury incidents between these two impulsive personalities who once seemed close.

Is it a fallout of personal frustration on the part of Gambhir, who felt that he never got his due recognition for his part in India regaining the 2011 World Cup? "Dhoni's six alone didn't win us the 2011 World Cup," Gambhir remarked once.

Gambhir has since scored an invaluable 97 in the final against Sri Lanka.

It may be noted that the fortunes started to slide for the spunky, left-handed batsman, who fell out of favour from 2012 onwards for elevation to the national team. Neither was he ever considered captaincy material in the white ball format, despite his success with the Kolkata Knight Riders in winning two IPL titles in 2012 and 2014.

Kohli, meanwhile, had grown to be a Dhoni protégé and the World Cup-winning skipper had taken the upcoming star under his wing as an understudy on the road to captaincy. Could that have hurt Gambhir, who kept brooding and waited on the sidelines as he watched Kohli's star ascend?

We certainly haven't heard the last of the issue(s) between the duo, but for now, let's hope that the pair can behave like grown-ups going forward!

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