WHY CAN'T FRIENDSHIP BLOSSOM BEYOND THE BOUNDARY LINE?
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Bipin Dani
Former Indian batsman Gautam Gambhir is not in favour of off-field friendship between players on rival teams.
He expressed this view after Indian cricketers were seen mingling with Pakistani players during the Asia Cup 2023 matches in Sri Lanka. Speaking at a mid-game discussion on a TV network, Gambhir, now a Member of Parliament, commented that because of what he called the "so-called friendship" between rival players, games now-a-days don’t have much aggression.
"These days you see players of rival teams patting each other on the back and exchanging fist bumps during a match. You would never see that a few years ago. You are playing a friendly match only," he said recently.
(While he was a member of the Indian squad, Gambhir was known for his involvement in confrontations on the field, especially with Pakistani players.)
Another former Indian cricketer M. Venkataramana, however, disagrees with Gambhir’s analysis.
Describing cricket as a Gentleman’s game, he noted that meeting people, making friends, and exhibiting camaraderie on and off the field are part of the experience. "Earlier, there was no social media to record what happened between members of various teams, but now that we are in the Internet era, such things are on view and discussed, he pointed out." . Venkataramana stressed that ‘play the game hard on the field and exchange knowledge and learn off the field’ seemed to be a good concept to follow.
Former fast bowler Karsan Ghavri too did not subscribe to Gambhir’s opinion. "The fight is on the field not outside the boundary line. If some players from both sides get friendly after the match, what’s wrong with that?" he asked.
"In our time we made friends with Aussie, West Indies and Pak players. After the day’s play, guys like Jeff Thomson, Wasim Raja, Zaheer Abbas and Mohsin Khan would take us out, either to have a meal in their homes, or to some functions. The rivalry happens on the field not outside. There are examples of great friendships between people from traditionally rival teams in the world of cricket. Gambhir’s thinking is his own," he said.
In today’s context, players like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are often seen exchanging pleasantries and gifts with Pakistani players. Recently, Pakistan pacer Shaheen congratulated Indian speedster Jasprit Bumrah on his becoming a father. "Many congratulations to Bumrah bhai & Bhabhi. May god always keep your son happy and he will become the new Bumrah," he said, and sent a gift as well.