New Delhi: India discards Gautam Gambhir and Manoj Tiwary were on Saturday involved in an ugly on-field altercation and nearly came to exchanging blows during the Ranji Trophy match between Delhi and Bengal at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium here.
Delhi captain Gambhir, who had been involved in ugly on-field confrontations even in the past, had an angry exchange of words with his Bengal counterpart before the umpire had to step in to defuse the situation.
Umpire K Srinath had to come between the two players as Gambhir moved towards Tiwary to hit him. The Bengal skipper too came charging at Gambhir, the former Indian captain and opener who has played 56 Tests and 147 ODIs for the country.
A livid Gambhir did not pay heed to Srinath's attempts at pacifying him and tried to get him out of the way. Touching an umpire is a grave offence in cricket, which could invite a ban.
The two players were summoned for a hearing after the day's play by Match Referee Valmick Buch but the quantum of punishment, if any, will only be known by Sunday after the match ends.
The incident happened in the eighth over when Partha Sarathi Bhattacharjee got out of Manan Sharma's bowling and Tiwary came in to bat at No 4 wearing a cap.
Tiwary first took guard and was about to take strike. But he stopped the bowler and signalled at the dressing room to bring his helmet as a pacer was operating from the other end.
Delhi players felt that it was a deliberate time wasting tactic. Manan ticked off Manoj and he told him to lay off. All of a sudden, Gambhir, at first slip, got into the action and started abusing the Bengal skipper, who then retaliated.
"I have huge respect for Gautam Gambhir for whatever he has done for the country but today he crossed the limit with his comments. He made personal comments. I was really shocked as I did not start it at all. He is much senior to me and I respect him," Tiwary said in his defence.
"I had kept my helmet beside the boundary rope as it had become wet and I wanted to dry it. That was about it and everyone saw I was not the first one to react. He tried to hit but could not. He pushed the umpire who came in between. It's there in the video, you all have seen it."
Gambhir, on his part, merely said, "nothing happened," when asked for a reaction. Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya, on the other hand, tried to downplay the incident.
"It happens when two captains are passionate about the game. The match referee will decide based on umpire's report. This is not first time it has happened and neither is it the last time," he said.
Bengal bowler Pragyan Ojha also said that these kind of incidents should not be seen as shocking on the field. "I know cricket is a gentleman's game but when men play, these things happen. This is not the first time it has happened on the cricket field and let's talk about Bengal's performance than this small incident," he said.
The furore started with Gambhir saying: "Shaam ko mil tujhe maroonga (Meet me in the evening, I will hit you). And Tiwary retorted, saying: "Shaam kya abhi bahar chal (Why wait till evening, let's go out and settle it now").
Umpire Srinath then sprinted from the bowler's end. Gambhir, with his fists raised, charged towards Tiwary, who was also not ready to back down. Umpire Srinath came in the middle, but Gambhir to everyone's horror pushed the umpire trying to get him out of the way.
Manoj was then seen shouting at Gambhir, saying: "Did I tell you anything? Why did you have to come in between."
Bengal manager Sameer Dasgupta was also summoned by the Match Referee to hear his team's version, while Delhi was represented by Manoj Kapoor.
Gambhir however, claimed that he had not pushed the umpire nor had he used abusive language against Tiwary. "I was most surprised that certain sections of the media have reported that I pushed an on-field umpire during the third day's play of Delhi-Bengal Ranji trophy game. It's factually incorrect. Here is what happened. Manoj Tiwary walked into bat with Bengal score reading 2 for 2 wickets down.
After conceding first innings lead we were keen to press home the advantage by playing positive cricket. We got fielders around Manoj trying to pressurise him. At which point he started taking longer than usual to face the next ball.
My teammates urged Manoj to refrain from wasting time. Instead of getting on with his batting he started abusing some of Delhi players. At which point I came in and told him what I thought about his demeanour. The umpires did a wonderful job of calming the situation by intervening right there. And the matter ended," Gambhir said in a statement.
He said that at no point he pushed the umpire or threatened Tiwary. "At no point did I threaten or push any on-field umpires. Nor did I threaten to beat Manoj up. In fact, I attended match referee's hearing post the day's play where he accepted that he doesn't have any video evidence of me pushing the umpire. On the contrary the match referee conceded he had video evidence where Manoj is seen pushing Pradeep Sangwan. I am not complaining here but stating what the honourable match referee told me," he said.