The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the most prestigious franchise league in the world, and with the money and glamour that comes with the league also comes high pressure. With world-class players across all countries coming together in one cash-filled extravaganza, high-octane clashes and disagreements are all but inevitable.
The IPL has not been free from controversy by any stretch of the imagination, both on and off the field. In this article, we take a look at the 5 biggest player altercations that India's premier T20 competition has seen.
#5 Kieron Pollard vs Shane Watson (IPL 2013)
In the 2013 edition of the IPL, Kieron Pollard and Shane Watson were involved in a sledging incident that escalated rapidly. The West Indian, who was fielding at long-on, tried to get into Watson's head right from the time he came in to bat, and his efforts bore fruit when the Australian miscued a shot straight into his hands.
Before the dismissal, the umpires had already warned both Pollard and Watson, and captain Rohit Sharma was also informed of his player's transgression. However, the Mumbai Indians all-rounder appeared to mock Watson, even after the latter got out and was sitting in the dugout.
An angry Watson got up and walked away, and RR's Rahul Dravid was entirely displeased with the incident.
Speaking about Pollard's send-off after the game, Dravid termed it an act of cowardice:
"One of the things that I find when you send off batsman after you have got him out is that it is an act of cowardice. That is my personal opinion. Batsman can never respond after you have got him out and you send him off."
"Saying something on the field is part and parcel of the game. Having a chat, a bit of banter while the game is on is fine but my personal opinion is that when you send a batsman off after you have got him out is an act of cowardice," he added.
#4 Shane Warne vs Sourav Ganguly (IPL 2008)
Shane Warne and Sourav Ganguly never had an amicable relationship, and things came to a head in the inaugural edition of the IPL. Dada, who was the captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), holed out to Graeme Smith in the deep off the part-time off-spin of Yusuf Pathan.
The former South African captain claimed that the catch was clean, but Ganguly refused to walk, prompting the umpires to refer it upstairs. The TV replays were inconclusive and the former Indian captain was allowed to continue his innings, much to Warne's displeasure.
RR won the IPL game comfortably, but the Australian lashed out at Ganguly in the post-match press conference:
"If an international captain like Graeme Smith caught it and said it was a clean catch and Rudi Koertzen said he caught it, easy. Anyway, the players aren't allowed to ask for the umpire. But Sourav asked the Indian umpire to go to the TV replay. That's not in the spirit of the game so I was very, very disappointed with Sourav."
Ganguly was never one to hold back and hit back at Warne, saying:
"Is complaining against a dropped catch against the spirit of the game? We just need to look at Warne's career to understand that he has no moral right to teach what the spirit of the game is. I just want to laugh at what Warne is saying. He should not be talking about the spirit of the game."
#3 Kieron Pollard vs Mitchell Starc (IPL 2014)
One of the ugliest incidents in recent memory, Kieron Pollard and Mitchell Starc were guilty of throwing the spirit of cricket entirely out of the window. The left-armer was in the middle of an aggressive spell for RCB, and had a few choice words to say to Pollard after the latter missed a short ball.
The West Indian responded by pulling out when Starc was in the final stages of his delivery stride, and the bowler aimed the ball at Pollard's legs despite him being miles outside leg-stump. Pollard didn't take too kindly to the incident, and chucked his bat away (it might have been accidental) in an expression of unadulterated rage.
Starc proceeded to run Pollard out, and had a few words to say then as well.
#2 Gautam Gambhir vs Virat Kohli (IPL 2013)
Indian teammates Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli were involved in a heated argument in the 2013 edition of the IPL, when their respective teams - KKR and RCB - faced off at Bangalore.
After the current Indian captain was dismissed, he was trudging off disconsolate when he appeared to hear something said to him from the KKR huddle that was formed to celebrate the wicket. Kohli reacted angrily, and both he and Gambhir moved threateningly towards each other.
KKR all-rounder Rajat Bhatia was on hand to play peacemaker, and separated the two before the situation could escalate further. RCB went on to win the match comfortably by 8 wickets.
In an interview later, Bhatia said of the incident:
“That is something which happened when two aggressive captains played and they always want to give their best and win for their respective teams. Even if they had any kind of collision in that match, it was just a part of the game."
#1 Harbhajan Singh vs Sreesanth (IPL 2008)
Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth have both been involved in controversial incidents individually, but their coming-together in IPL 2008, termed the 'slapgate' controversy, surely takes the cake as the ugliest.
The Kerala pacer reportedly constantly sledged Harbhajan, who lost his temper after the match got over and allegedly slapped him on the cheek. Sreesanth was caught on cameras with tears pouring down his face, and an enquiry into the matter found the off-spinner guilty, and he was subsequently banned for the rest of the season.
Speaking of the incident later, Harbhajan apologised:
"Whatever happened with Sreesanth.. me and him on the field... lot of people talk about that incident now. If I have to go back and rectify something in my life, I would correct that. I shouldn't have done that. That was a mistake and I am sorry about that. It shouldn't have happened."
Sreesanth, on the other hand, stated that he pleaded with the IPL authorities to not ban Harbhajan out of respect for the latter.