Originally published in the Mirror Click here
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dhoni vs Sehwag is passé. Wake up to the latest rivalry of Indian cricket. South Delhi and West Delhi come face to face in a clash of personalities and egos between two players, both aggressive top order batsmen, one the angry not-so-young man, the other the enfant terrible; one a former future India captain, the other who currently wears that mantle. The two players are Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli.
On Tuesday, in India’s opening match of the Asia Cup, the two batted together for 37 overs in a partnership of 205 runs. But numbers don’t tell the story that lurks just beneath the surface.
Gambhir played his first ODI more than five years before Kohli did. For the entire time they have played together, Gambhir has been the senior player. If a friend of a friend who claims to know Indian cricketers is to be believed, there have been occasions in the past when Gambhir has shown his seniority unequivocally.
Legend goes that in the middle of a series a few seasons ago, a party was on in the room of an up and coming cricketer with all the embellishments that adorn any superstar sportsman’s late-night gatherings. Two party poopers barged in and brought it to an immediate end. Apparently, one of them stood by the door sporting his trademark sweet smile as he watched the last of the guests leave the room.
We can leave it to one’s imagination on who pooped and who partied, but it’s safe to assume that Gambhir and Kohli were not on the same side.
Gambhir and Kohli will remember the year 2011 very differently.
Gambhir missed out on a world cup final century, while Kohli scored one in his world cup debut match. Gambhir, in fact, went through the year without any international hundred, while Kohli ended up as the highest ODI run scorer of the year. To make things worse for Gambhir, Sehwag had a terrible season as well.
In October 2011, in a Champion’s League match between RCB and KKR, Kohli, in an unusually aggressive mood even by his standards, was seen jeering, taunting and heckling the KKR bench, who were being led by Gambhir in the tournament.
Power equations were changing and the Viru-Gauti side was looking increasingly weak. While Kohli, firmly on Dhoni’s side grew from strength to strength, keeping his place in the test side and being elevated to vice-captaincy.
Tuesday was the first time ever when Kohli started a game as Gambhir’s senior.
Gambhir had scored his 9th ODI century back in December 2010. Kohli, at the time, had only 4.
15 months later, Gambhir and Kohli stood at 9 centuries apiece. Both players wanted their tenth, and neither wanted to be the second to get there.
The race to the magical 10th was an interesting cat and mouse game. Gambhir held the lead till the 80s, but Kohli reached the 90 first. The result seemed a foregone conclusion when Kohli was on 98 with Gambhir six behind. With Kohli on 99, Gambhir tried to hit a six to get to 101, but the ball fell inches short of the ropes. It was the last ball of the over and Kohli had strike with both players one short of their hundreds.
In keeping with changing fortunes, Kohli got there first. And Gambhir showed a Kohli-esque emotional outburst after reaching his.
Honours may be even after the first two rounds. But more drama waits as the next few rounds unfold over the next couple of seasons.
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