Afghanistan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq has opened up about his on-field spat with Virat Kohli during the Indian Premier League (IPL) and said it was Virat Kohli, who started the “fight” and caught his hands “forcefully” after the match.
During Lucknow Super Giants’ (LSG) home game against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB),an on-field spat triggered a football-style clash between the two teams, and saw angry exchanges between rival players and support staff. The cast of characters — RCB stand-in skipper Virat Kohli, LSG mentor Gautam Gambhir and Afghanistan international Naveen-ul-Haq.
Naveen, a journeyman T20 cricketer in franchise tournaments around the world, has blamed it on Virat Kohli for triggering the fight.
“He shouldn’t have said all those things during the match and after it. I didn’t started the fight. After the match, when we were shaking hands, Virat Kohli started the fight,” he told BBC Pashto in an interview.
All three were fined for breaching the IPL’s code of conduct. Kohli and Gambhir lost their entire match fees, Naveen half of it.
“When you will look at the fines, you will understand, who started the fight,” he said.
The Kohli-Naveen tiff spilled over to the ceremonial end-of-game handshakes between the two teams.
“I just want to say one thing I generally don’t sledge anyone, and even if I do it I would say it to the batters only when I am bowling because I am a bowler. In that match, I didn’t utter a single word. I didn’t sledged anyone.
“Players, who were there they know how I dealt with the situation. I never lost my temper, when I was batting or after the match. What I did after the match is can be seen by everyone. I was just shaking hands and then he (Kohli) caught my hand forcefully and I am also human being and I reacted,” he said.
It’s not the first time he has entered a cricket brawl, so to say. It’s something that he once said about himself with respect to an on-field verbal sparring with Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir and later with Shahid Afridi in 2020, that captures how he views himself.
“If someone is saying something to me I won’t back off. I have had it since I started playing the U-16 for Afghanistan in 2010. I never badmouth anyone but if anyone does that to me I don’t stay silent. I give it back. You can call it wrong but that’s how it is. Be it a young player from the opposition or a senior team member, be it in a club match, playing for Afghanistan, or in the IPL, I play the cricket match with same intensity and I would back off when someone says something to me,” he said.
“Honesty sepaking, If I would be in such situations again, I would not back off. My reaction would be the same,” he added.
After the incident, Naveen was subjected to vitrolic trolling and had to restrict comments in his Instagram handle. The seamer was also whistled by the fans, everytime, he was running in to bowl but he says he was not botherred about it at all.
“It didn’t affected me at all. I know how to shut crtics mouth. I don’t have to gave it back to the 80,000 people, I was just focusing on my cricket, I had trust in my abilities and wanted my performance to do the talking,” he said.
“Social media was on fire but I told myself that if I have reached at this level with my cricket than I can continue playing the game after the incident as well,” said Naveen.
The 23-year-old also revealed that why he started taking the pot shots on the social media without taking any names.
“I never wanted to drag the issue on the social media or any platform. But when the oppositon started to to say bad things on social media,I couldn’t control myself. I never took the name of any individual, I was just enjoying my mangoes,” said Naveen.
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Playing his first season in the IPL, the Afghan seamer bagged 11 wickets in eight games with an impressive economy rate of 7.82.
Talking about the experience of playing in the IPL, he said: “I was fortunate enough to play in the IPL this year. It was a great experience. I have never expereinced anything like it before, Yes, I have heard from different players, who have played in the IPL, but it was surreal.
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“IPL is very different from all the other leagues in the world. Cricket standard is very high in comparison to the other leagues. The presence of crowd make it very entertaining. Playing infront of a jam-packed crowd can put you under a lot of pressure,” he said.
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