Rohit-Virat ‘Clash’ Isn’t Indian Cricket’s First Star Battle
The rumoured rift between Virat and Rohit is not a one-off incident. There have been 3 such rivalries in the past.
Indian cricket has produced many legends like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. All these cricketers along with some others have collectively taken the game to greater heights – both in India and internationally.
Indian cricket started its journey to glory with a World Cup win in 1983 under the captaincy of Kapil Dev. But the sailing hasn’t always been smooth. Team India has faced many problems along the years, and some of them have been caused by friction between these very players.
Having two superstars in one dressing room isn’t always a dream. Every decade a similar story repeats, just the faces are different.
The rumoured rift between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma is not a one-off incident. The Indian dressing room has seen such differences in the past, and not once but thrice. Every decade saw legendary cricketers sharing the same dressing room but not the same opinions.
Four decades, four stories. Let’s look at them one by one:
Sunil Gavaskar & Kapil Dev
Sunil Gavaskar made his debut in 1971 and soon became the nation’s favourite. Seven years later, Kapil Dev burst onto the scene. However, the relationship between the two stars soured within a few years. It all started when Sunil Gavaskar was removed from captaincy following a disastrous tour of Pakistan in 1982-83.
In a section he wrote for his book ‘Runs ‘n’ Ruins’, Gavaskar mentioned that he wasn’t happy by Kapil’s decision to declare the innings during the Madras Test when he was batting on 236.
The happenings on the field post the change in captaincy didn’t help the matter either.
The seriousness of the issue came to the fore when during the fifth day of the second Test match against England, Kapil played an ‘unexpected’ innings full of risks and rash shots. India were cruising at 207 for four with only a session left to play. It was then that Kapil came out to bat. Instead of stopping and playing defensively, he started hitting every ball into the air to score a six or a four. He could only manage a six and a single before handing an easy catch to a fielder.
India lost their last six wickets for 28 runs and England knocked off the required few easily with plenty to spare. Gavaskar was furious with Kapil for playing such a rash innings. After that, selectors and Gavaskar sat together for a meeting and decided to drop Kapil in the next match.
While Kapil accused Gavaskar for his omission, the captain defended himself by saying that he had been late for the selection committee meeting and had not said a word.
Today, both the legends blame it on the media saying that they blew the issue out of proportion.
The only good thing about the issue was that they never let the team suffer because of their differences.
Sachin Tendulkar & Mohammad Azharuddin
Mohammad Azharuddin was at his peak when a 16-year-old boy entered the Indian team and took the world by storm. Tendulkar was a one-of-a-kind batsman. With two world class players in one team, people expected them to get along very well but instead it all went downhill in the year 1996.
Tendulkar replaced Azharuddin as captain after a shocking exit from the 1996 World Cup and a poor tour of England.
Things changed after this incident. Tendulkar suspected Azhar of not putting in the effort while he batted and suspected that he was trying to sabotage the team.
This captaincy exchange went on for a long time. In 1998, Sachin lost the captaincy to Azhar but a year later he was again made the captain after India crashed out of the 1999 World Cup. This time Sachin took a big step. He refused to take Azhar in the team. He even refused to take him to the tour to Australia.
In early 2000, Mohammad Azharuddin again made a comeback into the Indian team.
Soon after his re-entry into the team, Sachin resigned ahead of the two Test series against South Africa, stating that it would be his last series as captain. But Sachin till date claims that he resigned because he was taking 'moral responsibility' for the failure of the team.
But the final nail in the coffin was during the match-fixing scandal in the year 2000. During the CBI investigation, Sachin stated that he believed that Azhar was in league with bookies and has not been putting in 100 percent effort during games most times. The former Indian captain was banned by the BCCI and never played for India again.
MS Dhoni & Virender Sehwag
Virender Sehwag, the dynamic Indian opener was one of the victims of MS Dhoni’s ‘Young Indian Team’ campaign. Till date many people believe that Sehwag retired because of Dhoni.
It all started when India were playing a tri-series against Australia and Sri Lanka in Australia in 2012. India lost the 7th match of the tri-nation series against Australia by 110 runs. But the main highlight of the match was exclusion of Virender Sehwag from the playing XI.
When Dhoni was asked about the exclusion of Sehwag in the post-match press conference, he said “It might happen (they playing together, but) it would affect our fielding in a big way, it's not only these three, there are quite a few other players who are also slow on the field. If you really add it up, you would have only two or three good fielders.”
“These fielders are not bad but on these big fields, they are slightly on the slower side. They would be exploited once the ball goes to them, the Australians and Sri Lankans would look for those two or three runs to put pressure on their body. Their throwing and diving need to be good,”MS Dhoni
Dhoni was banned for one match due to slow over rate in that game. In his absence, Sehwag lead the team against Sri Lanka in the next game. When he came to the post-match press conference, he was asked about his take on what Dhoni said after the last game.
Dhoni calling him a slow fielder did not go down well with him. He said that Dhoni never told them about this (him being a slow fielder), but said that he wanted to give the youngsters some chances to play.
“I did not know what he (Dhoni) said and what’s going on in media. He told us he wanted to give chance to youngsters who had come here and (could) play the next World Cup. That’s what he told us,” said Sehwag
When asked whether he would go and clear this issue with Dhoni, he refused.
“Why should I have chat with him? He is the captain and leader. If he and coach think they need to give a break to top order, I am okay with it, I have no problem with it.”Virender Sehwag
With the things getting out of hand, Dhoni was forced to take a big step. So, to clear the air and show the Indian public (and the press) that there were no issues in the Indian dressing room, MS Dhoni brought the whole Indian team with him to a pre-match press conference in Australia.
Ultimately, the BCCI had to intervene and sort things out between the two.
Virat Kohli & Rohit Sharma
The most recent case of two Indian stalwarts not getting along is that of current Indian captain Virat Kohli and vice-captain Rohit Sharma.
Each and every movement is being monitored. Unfollowing on Instagram, liking a post on Twitter, everything is being watched so closely that you just can’t escape from a controversy.
The main trigger point of this rift was the demand for split captaincy between the two. Many believe that the Indian dressing room is divided into two, one siding with Kohli and the other with Rohit.
Even some BCCI officials (anonymous) in a statement had said that there is a concern in BCCI regarding this issue and they want to solve it as soon as possible.
But the captain thinks otherwise.
While addressing the media conference ahead of the West Indies tour in July, Kohli cleared the air saying that all these rumours are baffling.
"I have heard a lot of things from the outside, If the atmosphere was not right then we would not have been able to come on top of ODI," said Kohli.
"In my opinion it's baffling to be honest. It's absolutely ridiculous to read such stuff that comes out. I have been to a few public events and the sentiment is "aap log kya khele” (you guys played so well).
“We are feeding off lies. We are overlooking facts. We are turning a blind eye to all the good things that has happened. We are creating fantasies and scenarios in our head and want to accept that this is the truth.”Virat Kohli
"I have seen this for too long now. Bringing personal lives into the picture. It's disrespectful after a moment. There is nothing between me and Rohit," Kohli added.
There’s one thing common in all these controversies and that is the love for the game. All these players have always put the game above themselves. They have never let their ego affect Indian cricket in any which way.
Thus, it’s high time that people give this Kohli-Rohit issue a rest and let it breathe. Escalating this issue won’t do any good to them or the Indian team. The question is not “Whether they have a difference of opinion or not,” the question is “Even if they have a difference of opinion, so what?”
(With inputs from India Today, NDTV & News18)
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