IPL’s biggest bust-ups: The five ugliest fights in Indian Premier League history
Across the last sixteen seasons, the Indian Premier League has seen its fair share of verbal jousts and on-field fights, a few of which have even turned physical. Listing down the five ugliest clashes between IPL players over the years.
It was not easy to shortlist the top five, as there were several other contenders. Among those considered were Sourav Ganguly v Shane Warne, Kieron Pollard against the umpires, Rahul Dravid v Mitchell Johnson, along with others.
Here’s the final list:
Ambati Rayudu v Harbhajan Singh
The rare instance of two teammates having a go at each other on the field. Bowling against Rising Pune Supergiants in an IPL 2016 game, Harbhajan Singh was seething in rage when his Mumbai Indians teammate couldn’t save a boundary with his dive. He furiously yelled and gestured at the fielder, but Rayudu was having none of it.
He charged towards Harbhajan – the off-spinner, realising things were spiralling quickly, seemed to calm himself instantly, walking towards Rayudu to cool him down. Rayudu, though, was livid, and Harbhajan’s words couldn’t soothe the damage. He pushed Harbhajan away and walked off.
In much calmer circumstances, the two relived the incident a couple of years later – Harbhajan revealed he had apologised to Rayudu several times in the aftermath.
Gautam Gambhir v Virat Kohli
The first chapter of a decade-long feud that still burns bright. When RCB’s Virat Kohli holed out to deep cover and was walking back in an IPL 2023 game against KKR, he stopped in his tracks after seemingly hearing something from Gautam Gambhir. He turned and started walking at the opposition captain, who himself was charging at Kohli. Expletives were hurled in unrestrained rage.
Given the approach, it could well have turned physical, if not for Rajat Bhatia, another Delhi lad, who jumped between the two and stalled the fight.
MS Dhoni v umpires
You wouldn’t expect to see anything like this, given the stature of the player involved, and the fact that he wasn’t even actively on the field to start with. Dismissed in the last over, the CSK captain had just taken off his pads in a tense chase against RR when a waist-high no-ball confusion ensued. With eight needed off three, the leg-umpire seemed to have called a no-ball but then retracted it – by that time, MS Dhoni was by the boundary ropes, yelling in anger.
And then it happened. He took a little pause and walked out – storming towards the umpires who were still engaging with Ravindra Jadeja. There was a flash of anger, animated pointing and yelling, all very unlike Dhoni. Steve Smith and Ajinkya Rahane looked on as Ben Stokes joined in the conversation. After a heated debate, he walked off. The following day, he was fined (just) 50 per cent of his match fees.
Pollard v Starc
One of the ugliest mid-pitch clashes and a dream for YouTube thumbnail creators. It started when Starc pinged in a bouncer at Pollard in the 17th over of an RCB-MI IPL 2014 game. The bowler followed it with a flurry of words: Pollard merely gestured with his hand, asking Starc to go away. Next ball, Pollard backed away just as Starc entered his delivery stride: the last-second switch enraged the bowler, and he delivered the ball anyway, following Pollard outside the pitch. Then, in a moment of unrestrained rage, Pollard flung his bat – fortunately not at Starc. The willow fell by the side of the pitch. The commentators were aghast. It became one of the most notoriously iconic images of the IPL.
Sreesanth v Harbhajan
An easy topper on this list. It became the fight of the IPL with plenty of consequences. There’s no video footage, but Mumbai Indians’ Harbhajan is said to have slapped Kings XI Punjab’s Sreesanth in a fit of rage. The image of a sobbing Sreesanth remains as the only documented evidence. The reason behind the act, the manner of Harbhajan’s strike and Sreesanth’s reaction have all been conjectured over the years. The reality was a rare, actual act of physical violence on a cricket pitch. It was dubbed one of the “costliest slaps” ever, for Harbhajan was banned for 11 matches, which cost him INR 2.67 crore. The incident is still remembered: after the latest Kohli-Gambhir episode, Harbhajan tweeted he was “ashamed” of what he did. It’s all fine between the two now: they’re even featuring in an advertisement together during IPL 2023.
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