The ugly bust-up between Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli was quintessentially Delhi and waiting to happen.
Both don’t believe in pulling punches and have been carrying their own baggages of mutual dislike for each other.
During their latest face-off, there was liberal use of the north Indian profanity which sounds similar to the name of English cricketer ‘Ben Stokes’.
Opinions are divided among those who were present after the IPL game between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Lucknow Super Giants on Monday night, when the altercation took place between the two World Cup-winning players.
Some found it juvenile, a few others liked the spice and the idea of intense rivalry, while the firm believers of the ‘Gentlemen’s Game’ thought it could have been avoided.
So what happened in Lucknow on Monday night?
An eyewitness, who was in one of the team dug-outs, gave a lowdown of events to PTI.
“You saw on TV that Mayers and Virat were walking side by side for a few metres post match. Mayers asked Kohli why was he constantly abusing them and Virat, in turn, questioned why was he (Mayers) ‘staring’ at him? Before that (Amit) Mishra had complained to umpire about Virat constantly abusing Naveen (ul-Haq), who is a No. 10 batter.
“Gautam, sensing that things could turn ugly, pulled Mayers and told him not to have a conversation, when Virat made a comment. The heated exchange that followed seemed a bit juvenile,” he said.
“Gautam asked ‘Kya bol raha hain bol’ (What were you saying?) and Virat replied, ‘Maine aapko kuch bola hi naahin, aap kyon ghus rahein ho’ (Why are you coming in between when I haven’t told you anything).
“Gautam responded, ‘Tuney agar mere player ko bola hai, matlab tune meri family ko gaali diya hai. (You abused my player and that’s like abusing my family) and Virat’s reply was, ‘Toh aap apne family ko sambhal ke rakhiye’. (Then you take care of your family).
“Gambhir’s final reply before they were separated was, ‘Toh ab tu mujhe sikhayega…’ (So now I have to learn from you…).”
The eyewitness said that while it was tense and a blow away from turning into a free-for-all, it all seemed a bit juvenile at both ends.
It was a ‘deja vu’ moment for everyone who had seen the duo nearly come to blows in 2013, when Kolkata Knight Riders were playing Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Kohli was then the superstar-in-the-making and Gambhir, out of the Indian team, was a shrewd captain at KKR.
Cut to 2023, Gambhir remains a firebrand who is a TV pundit and also mentor of a franchise where he is the remote-control skipper.
Ditto for Kohli, who remains the skipper of RCB in spirit. On paper though, Faf du Plessis is the captain.
“It is a bit of a complicated relationship between the two. Gautam is not a bad human being but not the easiest person to handle. He had no business to gesture that finger on lips to the crowd at Chinnaswamy, which swears by Virat’s name.
“Now here, Virat got a chance to show one upmanship, and he did. He knows that Gautam has been a staunch critic of his captaincy and even he won’t take a step back,” a former India player, who shared the dressing room with both, said.
As Kohli said in a RCB video, “You got to take it, otherwise don’t give it.”
Both players have been fined their full match fees although no one knows how a mentor’s penalty is computed by the BCCI.
It also didn’t help that Kohli has 55.4 million followers on Twitter alone, while the BJP Parliamentarian is no light either, with 12.5 million followers of his own.
The people in their close quarters are either trying to lionise them or create a false narrative. Like one from RCB’s social media content team asking regular skipper du Plessis about Kohli’s “aggression”, which bordered on boorishness. This is the same kind of aggression which the former India skipper admitted that it felt “fake”.
But the RCB social media team, in trying to justify it, is making themselves look more silly.
On the other hand, Gambhir’s political secretary Gaurav Arora from his twitter handle @gauravbir786 wrote: “Asking your trolls to abuse Gautam Gambhir’s daughters is an unacceptable low. Matches will come and go. Show some class Kohli!” In the end, it was another uncalled for bust-up and a rivalry from which no one came out smelling roses.