What’s sports without rivalry?
It spices up contests. Gives athletes/teams and their ardent fans an extra reason to look forward to the matchups. Sometimes, it serves as an added motivation for individuals involved but when it’s within the same setup, it might prove detrimental.
Something similar was brewing up within the Indian men’s cricket team not so long ago. It was a rivalry, to use a gentle term, that led to a divided camp within the dressing room.
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The news percolated to the public domain but the Indian team management denied its presence, dismissing it as media’s invention.
However, with the apparent damage in relationship repaired, the stories of the tension between two of the finest batters of modern era - Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli - are being told by those who witnessed it first hand.
Former India fielding coach R Sridhar has confirmed that the differences between Rohit and Kohli weren’t just rumours. They existed but was handled much before the situation could wriggle out of control.
However, Sridhar has attributed the alleged rift due to what was being written in the press and what transpired on social media. Things came to a boil after India’s semifinal exit from the 2019 ODI World Cup and it was at the forefront again when Kohli stepped down as T20I captain before being sacked as the ODI skipper later in 2021.
In his book Coaching Beyond, Sridhar has touched upon the developments during that time.
“After the 2019 World Cup, there was a lot of bad press about what allegedly happened in the dressing room during our campaign and following our loss to New Zealand in the semifinal. We were informed that there was a Rohit camp and a Virat camp, that someone had unfollowed another on social media – stuff that could be unsettling if you allowed it to fester," Sridhar wrote.
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India toured West Indies immediately after the world cup and the then head coach Ravi Shastri summoned Rohit and Kohli to sort things out in his ‘typical no-nonsense manner’.
Sridhar writes, “We landed in the United States (US) some 10 days after the World Cup for a T20 series against West Indies in Lauderhill. One of the first things Ravi did on arrival was to call Virat and Rohit to his room and impress upon them that for Indian cricket to be healthy, they needed to be on the same page. ‘Whatever happened on social media, that’s all fine, but you two are the most senior cricketers so this must stop,’ Ravi said in his typical non-nonsense manner. ‘I want you to put all this behind and get together for us to move forward'".
Sridhar then points out how the relationship between the two stars improved later on as the duo could be seen celebrating each other’s success on the field.
“You could see that things started to get better after that. Ravi’s action was swift, simple and decisive. It was just getting both the guys together, sitting them down and making them talk. Ravi didn’t waste any time in doing so. That he felt encouraged to call the white-ball captain and his deputy to clearly state his mind is indicative of the kind of atmosphere we had facilitated," he wrote.
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