Gavaskar: Kohli-Rohit rift stories won't stop even 20 years later

They say that there is a rift between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Some 35 years ago, the same was said about Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev!

Sunil Gavaskar: "Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are professionals and they will put their heads down and go out to win matches for India but the story won’t stop even 20 years later."   -  AFP

It was like deja vu. Seeing Virat Kohli, the Indian captain, with barely suppressed anger, saying that the story about a rift between him and Rohit Sharma was a figment of somebody’s imagination took me 35-odd years back.

That was when a similar canard was spread about Kapil Dev and myself. Both of us were taken aback, but try as much as we did to deny it, the story got legs so fast that it became unstoppable! Even today there are many who would like to believe that there was a fall out between us. More of this later.

I am prepared to challenge anybody who has actually witnessed an argument or disagreement between us. The one time that I had told Kapil off was in the Chennai Test match against Pakistan in 1979 when I got out. There was a run off the previous delivery, but Kapil at the non-striker’s end declined it as he wasn’t sure whether the ball had been played to the left of backward point. Non-strikers generally are wary when the ball goes there or towards square-leg, so Kapil was right in refusing the single.

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Nothing would have happened if I hadn’t got out to the next ball! Every batsman in a similar situation will feel that he had got out only because of the run declined! And will blame the non-striker for his dismissal, even if he had got out to a pearl of a delivery!

I felt the same way too! Unfortunately, the tea interval happened soon after and I was still fuming when Kapil came back to the change room. I admonished him for refusing the single, but, to his credit, Kapil didn’t say a word. He just resumed and took it out on the hapless Pakistani bowlers with a brilliant knock of 84!

Not only that, in the second innings he swung the ball both ways with pace and destroyed the strong Pakistani batting line-up, leaving us only 60-odd to chase to win the match and with it the series.

That’s the only time there was a hard word between us and I apologised to him in the evening itself, which he graciously accepted.

After that there was nothing, so how and where this so-called feud some five years later, started or even happened is a mystery to both of us. Maybe the captaincy of the Indian team going like a see-saw between us and both not playing at our best then may have encouraged such talk, but it was absolute rubbish and nonsense. Indian cricket was far too important and precious for both of us to do anything that would harm its interests.

Not seeing eye to eye?: Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar were the superstars of their era and there was talk of a rift between them in the mid-80s.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

When Kapil was dropped for one Test, the Calcutta encounter between India and David Gower’s Englishmen in the 1984-85 series, the blame was conveniently put on me. But the truth of the matter is that his being dropped from the team was not proposed by me as the late Hanumant Singh, who was a member of the selection committee then, attested in an article he wrote a year later.

Whatever I might be, I am not stupid when it comes to cricket and I wasn’t going to suggest dropping my one match-winner and game-changer and thereby reduce India’s chances of winning even further. However, as a part of the selection committee, albeit without a vote, I was collectively responsible for the decision.

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Virat and Rohit can shout from the rooftops as much as they can but this story won’t end. Every time Rohit fails there will be those who will nod their heads knowingly and wink, hinting he deliberately got out. Nobody even gives a thought to the fact that if a player fails he is likely to be dropped and so he would be hurting his own chances of survival in the squad.

Whoever starts such stories is definitely not a well-wisher of Indian cricket. More often than not it’s a frustrated player in the squad who gives wings to stories like this. His envy and jealousy harm the team. Then of course it suits some administrators to play their own game of politics.

For the media it’s manna from heaven and so while it can be suppressed when the cricket is on, the rest days between games is where the story gets fanned further. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are professionals and they will put their heads down and go out to win matches for India but the story won’t stop even 20 years later.