Sledging is part and parcel of the game. Former Indian cricketer Robin Uthappa revealed one such instance where India and Australia faced each other and exchanged an incredible amount of words in 2007. India had to face Australia in a semi-final at Durban during the inaugural T20 World Cup, followed by a seven-match ODI series and a one-off contest of the game’s shortest format at home.
Recalling the knockout match of the tournament, Uthappa divulged that only Zaheer Khan and a few other Indian pacers gave it back when sledged.
“The amount of sledging that happened in that game was incredible. I remember people having a go at me and at that time, when they had a go, very few people retaliated. Only Zak bhai (Zaheer Khan) was one of them and a few other fast bowlers. But none of the batsmen gave it back,” the Kodagu-born adumbrated in a YouTube show with stand-up comedian Saurabh Pant.
However, Uthappa was quick to point out that Gautam Gambhir also exchanged a few acrid words. Elaborating the encounter, the Kerala cricketer stated that it was Australian star Matthew Hayden who riled up the former. So, Hayden was at the receiving end when he came in to bat.
“In that game, Gauti (Gautam Gambhir) gave it back. I gave it back to Andrew Symonds, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin. The toughest one that I encountered in that game was Matthew Hayden. He inspired me as a person and batsman. In fact, my walking shot was picked out of him. I remember Haydos was batting and in that game, he was going at me and that is when I decided, ‘Ok, I’m going to give it back’. So when they came to bat, I was giving it. And it got to Haydos at a point, while he was batting,” Uthappa expounded.
The argument was so heated that Hayden didn’t talk to Uthappa for the next 2-3 years. Justifying his side of the story, the 35-year-old asserted that it was all about winning the game, which his side did once they made the Aussies feel uncomfortable.
“He said something to me which I’m not going to repeat and I said something back to him. He did not speak to me for 2-3 years. He would be very cold-shouldered to me. And it hurt. Because at that point, it was about winning. I wanted to win and make them feel as uncomfortable as possible, and I did that. We won but I missed out on interacting with someone who truly inspired me,” the veteran batsman added.
Talking about the series that followed in India, Uthappa revealed that his skipper MS Dhoni would ask him to stand close to the batsman (silly point) only to take a jab at the Australians.
“Later that year, when Australia came to play a seven ODI series and a one-off T20Is, even then we were at each other’s throats. In a one-day game, MS and they (senior players) would make me stand at silly point just to chew Ricky Ponting’s head and stuff like that. It was a great time,” Uthappa concluded.
Earlier, former Indian wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel had also recalled how Hayden threatened to punch him in the face.