It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a happy team is often one that performs the best. The camaraderie, trust and bonding between the players is what translates into great performances on the field. Perhaps, a strong sense of mutual brotherhood has been one of the factors behind team India’s success over the course of time. A virtue, that often goes unnoticed, but plays a massive role nonetheless.
Having said that, a strong lesson of friendship is most often preceded by a bitter interpersonal-exchange. There are some things both players and fans would look to leave past them and move on. Possibly, revelation of such incidents on a larger-scale would actually cause more harm than benefit. Yet it is only fair for the human nature to crave for the commodities that are harder to attain. So on that note, let’s discuss some of the dark ‘BTS’-Behind the Scenes- secrets of the Indian team’s dressing room.
Kohli and Dhawan’s bitter episode
Team India achieved a monumental feat last year when they became the first Asian team who beat Australia down-under in a test series. The 2-1 scoreline was a massive improvement over the 0-2 India had recorded back in 2015. One could justify the disappointing 2015 tour with a variety of reasons, possibly the biggest one being captain MS Dhoni’s decision to retire at the end of the series. But there was also a big question-mark hovering around the team’s environment, particularly after the media reported an argument between Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan.
Apparently, before the test match at Brisbane, Dhawan had injured himself during the practice match. This meant that Kohli had to bat ahead of Dhawan in the match in a new position. As a result, Kohli lost his wicket early and had to walk back. An agitated Kohli accused Dhawan of faking his injury, which led to an ugly spat between the two top-order batsmen. Eventually, India lost the test match by 4 wickets, which ultimately diverted the media away from the alleged ‘fight’.
Sachin and his powerful speeches
A popular anecdote that analyst Joy Bhattacharjya often mentions is Jacques Kallis’ iconic pep-talk. As the tale goes, Australia had set South Africa a mammoth 438-run target, a world-record first innings score back in 2006. Kallis coolly marched into the depressed dressing room, and claimed that Australia were 15-runs short of the score! That subtle joke was the perfect shot of confidence the team needed, and ultimately, proved to be a major contributing factor in the Proteas’ sensational 1-wicket victory.
Sachin Tendulkar, whom Indians regard as the god of cricket, himself has several morale-boosting speeches to his name. Like that time in 2003 World Cup, when India tasted a pulverizing 9-wicket defeat against Australia. India could only muster 125-runs as Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie ran through the batting lineup. Indian bowlers couldn’t even last half their innings before Australia polished off an easy-chase. Many claimed that after the match, Sachin sat down and had an insightful chat with the team which helped the team to get back on track, as they enjoyed an unbeaten-run into the tournament’s finals, where, ultimately, they would yet again lose to the Aussies.
Another instance came during the final of the 2011 World Cup in Mumbai. Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara could barely find his voice when the time had come to call the toss. The officials had to conduct a second toss, which Sri Lanka won, much to the frustration of the Indian team and fans. Sachin, however, nipped the negative vibes right in the bud, as he delivered an inspiring pep-talk to his team and re-enforced the team’s morale. The rest, as they say, is history; a glorious bit of history for us Indians too; as India went on to win the match and claimed their second World Cup. If ever the god had spoken; 1.3 billion fanatic listeners were the live witness to the miracle.
Yuvraj Singh and his dressing room pranks
Speaking of the 2011 World Cup, we would be remiss to drop some-light onto the Man of the Tournament, Yuvraj Singh. One of the most beloved cricketers to have played, ‘Yuvi paaji’ was quite the prankster back in his days.
Arguably, the best one came on the April fool’s day in 2005, against the captain at that time, Sourav Ganguly. Before the match at Karachi, Yuvi and several of his teammates had created a fake interview which portrayed the captain to be criticizing his players. Ganguly could barely walk into the room before the players flashed the interview to his face. A shocked Ganguly could barely control his sorrow, as he tried to convince his teammates that the interview was false. Yuvi took the facade a step further by walking out of the room dejectedly, with Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh following him. An almost tearful Ganguly had ultimately decided to step down as captain when Rahul Dravid finally revealed the prank. A relieved yet angry Ganguly chased his teammates with a bat before he could grasp the comedy of the prank.
There’s also a rumor that Yuvraj used to repeatedly pull MS Dhoni’s leg back when he was new to the squad. Yuvi used to call Dhoni ‘Bihari’, though Dhoni was originally born in Jharkhand. He also guided the youngster on team values, explaining how the team’s victory was bigger than personal accolades. The jibes actually helped Dhoni to mature as a player.
Players take stance against crime and criminals
While most Indian players nowadays enjoy their identities as responsible, clean individuals, that wasn’t always the case. Back during the 90s, the likes of Ajay Jadeja and Mohammad Azharuddin were often associated with match-fixing and suspicious individuals. Thankfully, many players could realize the wrongs that were happening and acted prudently. Notably, Tendulkar and Ganguly had discovered some attempts to sabotage a cricket match. They decided not to comply with the erroneous rules, and scored a century each in the said match. The victory set forward a strong and moral example for the upcoming batch of cricketers.
It couldn’t be more appropriate than to conclude the discussion with an incident of another Indian legend-Kapil Dev. During the 1987 Sharjah Cup, wanted criminal Dawood Ibrahim had apparently found his way into the Indian dressing room. Dawood “offered” to buy the players a luxurious car, if they could comprehensively beat arch-rivals Pakistan. The 1983 World Cup winning captain was mindful enough to realize the risks of dealing with a terrorist. His teammate Dilip Vengsarkar recalls with pride, ” Kapil walked up to the don and didn’t think twice before ordering him to leave. Not for once did he even flinch while dealing with such a dangerous man. There was only inspiration to take from his actions.”