What’s the story?
Former Baggy Greens skipper Ricky Ponting believes IPL can cool tensions between Indian captain Virat Kohli and the Australian players. Citing the example of himself and ace off-spinner Harbhajan Singh during the recent past, the 42-year old has backed the Twenty20 tournament to restore broken friendships.
“I know (Kohli) has come out and said that he might not have any friends in Australian cricket anymore. But I'm sure those bridges can be mended over the next couple of months. He's going to be sharing a change room with Shane Watson and a few other Australian players as well.
”I think that's been one of the great things about the IPL. It's been able to bring players from other countries a lot closer than ever before“, Ponting told cricket.com.au.
He explained, “I ended up coaching a team that had Harbhajan Singh in it and we never got on at all when we were playing against each other. But you find a way. If it's all about your team having success, you can't have those niggling things going on.
”I played a lot of series against India where things got a little bit heated on the field, but pretty much as soon as the series was over and we went back to play IPL or whatever the next series was, that was forgotten about.”
The recently completed India-Australia Test series saw a slew of acrimonious incidents both on and off the field. With skipper Kohli in the thick of things, the relationships between the two sets of players threatened to sour as the series progressed.
The heart of the matter
Before the 2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy began, Kohli had insisted that he personally shared good equations with most of the Australian players. However, by the time the series came to an end, he changed his stance and declared that his friendships with the Aussie players were all but over. This despite counterpart Steven Smith issuing an unconditional apology from the opposition’s side.
Later, Kohli clarified his comments by reiterating that he had alluded only to a couple of Australian cricketers and not the entire team. Smith responded by saying that he was not sure if his name was among the two blacklisted players.
Parallels from history
Ponting and Harbhajan had quite a few skirmishes with each other when India and Australia played against each other in the 2000s. However, the legendary Australian skipper later found himself sharing the same dressing room with the off-spinner in the 2013 IPL season for Mumbai Indians. He even went on to coach the franchise during the 2015 and 2016 editions.
Upon sharing his own experience, Ponting’s assessment is spot on regarding the IPL’s capacity to bridge gaps between players belonging to different countries. It will be interesting to see if RCB team mates Shane Watson and Billy Stanlake play a role in restoring the relationships between Kohli and the current Australian Test players.