Rivalry in sport can be eternal, especially when it involves men with hubris. Tennis legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe barely exchanged pleasantries. The rivalry between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky became a sporting metaphor of the Cold War. Given the vitriol the India-Australia series generated, it’s hard to imagine players of either side sharing a laugh or hugging each other in the foreseeable future. Not the least, the skippers, Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, who like Borg and McEnroe, Fischer and Spassky, are fierce competitors and proud men. It could take a lifetime for them to reconcile.
Or maybe not. Because the Indian Premier League can also be a great healer. Just three days after stand-in India skipper Ajinkya Rahane refused his counterpart Smith’s invitation for a beer, after winning the series in Dharamshala, both met for a promotional event for their IPL franchise, Rising Pune Supergiants, in New Delhi. They laughed and bantered as if they had been the thickest of friends for ages. The next two months would see them sharing ideas, forging strategies, batting and high-fiving together, and maybe sharing a few beers. Likewise, there won’t be any discord between Shane Watson and Virat Kohli, the former among Kohli’s staunchest critics during the recent series, in the Royal Challengers Bangalore dressing room. Or between David Warner and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Like it was with the Manchester United pair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. In the 2006 World Cup quarterfinal in Germany, Ronaldo instigated the referee to brandish the red card on his club-mate for a foul on Portuguese centre-back Ricardo Carvalho, and Rooney gave Ronaldo an earful. Ronaldo claimed that Rooney hard-tackled him in the 2004 Euro. But nothing boiled over when they pulled on the Manchester United jersey. They combined spectacularly on the field to help Manchester United clinch the Champions League in 2008. They were so exciting and selfless a pair that they hardly conceded an impression that they had a storied history of animosity. It could be same with Smith and Rahane this season.