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  • Jul
  • 11

5 Friendships in sports that lasted beyond the field

Author Image Anuj Prabhu

One has to devote a large part of one’s childhood years to sport in order to try to make a career out of it. Staying away from family is something that every sportsperson has to deal with at some point in his/her life. But this is the time when some find such friends,with similar interests, going through a similar grind, who after a certain point of time, become like a family.

The bonding formed by playing together, travelling together, being there for each other during tough times,etc. goes a long way in forming relations that last even after they retire from the sport. The partnerships that begin on the field, continues to grow off it as well.

Let’s take a look at some Indian sports persons who are best friends on and off the pitch.

Ajay Thakur and Manjeet Chillar

 

For strong team in Kabaddi you need strong understanding between the players and that is exactly what Ajay Thakur and Manjeet Chillar have. They have massive mutual respect and have been companions since a very long time.They have been mavericks for their respective Pro Kabaddi teams over the years so naturally there was a bit of rivalry when they faced-off , but when it came to representing India, they always played together with great understanding. They both first met around the year 2003 in Chandigarh when Manjeet’s Delhi were facing Ajay’s Punjab. They became great friends and started spending time together in their first India camp in 2007 in Bhopal.

In an interview. Ajay quoted that it was very important to have a proper tuning and understanding in friendships, which they always had. Manjeet added that it was a pleasure to play with Ajay and that he considered him like his younger brother. There is one amazing stat about them, that they have always reached the playoffs when they have played together. This is a testimony to their fabulous mutual understanding. With this understanding and tuning they will hope to bring Gold to their team the Tamil Thalaivas in the Pro Kabaddi League.

Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt

Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt are two of India’s greatest ever Olympic medalists. Sushil Kumar is the only Indian wrestler to win back to back Olympic medals, with a bronze in Beijing 2008 and a silver in London 2012. Yogeshwar too has been bagging Olympic medals since his maiden bronze in London 2012.Thanks to them, Wrestling has now grown from a rural backyard sport to one of India’s main sport for Olympic medal hopes. Back in 2013 in an interview, Sushil Kumar quoted “As friends, me and Yogeshwar are thicker than Jay and Veeru!”. The roots of their friendship go all the way back to 1997. He further quoted about Yogeshwar “ We've played all sorts of pranks together, and we've taken umpteen rides on local buses to Rohtak for mud wrestling. Once during a tournament in the US, I was gasping for breath and told Yogeshwar, 'Bhai aaj jaan nikal jayegi shayad (I think I will die today).' He told me, 'nothing will happen till I'm here.' He said he won't let me go so fast. He's always put me ahead of himself.” Yogeshwar said that they are so close that they always have taken part in the same competitions and have always won medals and further added that they were like “carbon copies” of each other.

Such a great friendship had turned a bit sour around the time of the Rio Olympics in 2016. There was going to be a match-up between Sushil Kumar and Narsingh Yadav for deciding as to who would compete in Rio, which Sushil lost bitterly. Sushil had moved from 66 Kg category to 74 kg category for his friend Yogeshwar so that he does not face any competition. But Yogeshwar spoke in public about him supporting Narsigh Yadav. Sushil’s plea of selection via selection trial was denied.

Things remained sour between the wrestlers. But the duo got back and seemed to have sorted their differences, when in 2017 Sushil Kumar put a heartwarming post on twitter for Yogeshwar on his birthday, to which Yogeshwar replied with grace. We hope that the duo have sort out their differences and we hope that they will make India proud by bagging Olympic medals (hopefully Gold) in Tokyo 2020!

Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman

The unsung heroes of the “Fabulous Four” that India had in the last 15 years, Dravid and Laxman have been true servants of Indian Cricket. Their heroics in Kolkata, which note only helped to recover from a daunting follow-on, but also was vital in posting a target which the bowlers defended and gave India a memorable victory that changed the entire DNA of the way Indians used to think. They gave a belief that the Aussies can be beaten, and that nothing was impossible to achieve. Another memorable partnership was recorded in Adelaide where big hundreds from both ensured that saved India from falling way behind in the match and India ended up winning it. Together, they contributed 4065 runs in partnerships. But most importantly, they gave the Indian fans assurance that they were there to save the day.

The duo met each other for the first time when Karnataka took on Hyderabad in an U-19 match at the M Chinnaswamy stadium. The bondage grew in the space of time, the duo then made their debuts for India and formed an inseparable part of the “Fabulous four” that ruled Indian middle order for more than a decade. The calmness of “The Wall” and the grit and determination of the “Very Very Special” Laxman is surely missed by India. But they still are seen together in sports programs and gatherings and their friendship is as bigger an example of sacredness as anything.

Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap

Some friendships in sports end up being so special that they defy all odds and end up being the “best match” of their lives. This is what Saina Nehwal said when she was asked about her best friend and husband Parupalli Kashyap.  The couple tied the knot at Saina's residence in Orion villas at Raidurgam in Cyberabad. The two have been great friends for a long time, since their days in the Gopichand Academy. It is safe to say that the value of advice both bring for each other has helped them a long way in becoming better shuttlers. Both compliment each other of being extremely competitive since their teenage days even in training . It just shows how big a part sport plays in their lives that they two were together foe most of the time and became great friends and simply fell for each other in due course of time. Generally they used to talk first about what they need to do right during matches, how to train, etc. But im the past couple of years, both have been of great support to each other. Kashyap always used to take extra sessions with Saina for training her better and Saina was a huge emotional support to Kashyap in the past two years as he was dealing with injuries and missing crucial matches. “We used to be concerned about each other’s performances from the very beginning itself. From the CWG in 2010, I remember she used to get irritated at my losing. She would get angry like my mom!” chuckled Kashyap in an interview. For all these years, both have motivated each other to do well but also have given them their space required. This combination of discipline and maturity goes a long way in making them the best match!

 

Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly

One of the best opening partnerships India has ever produced, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly’s friendship goes back a long time. They first met in an under-15 camp where they got to know each other. Ganguly once in an interview said that his first impression of Sachin was someone who was very mischievous, but when it came to batting, he never used to leave the nets. It required other people to drag him out of the nets. They were then again room-mates in India’s 1992 tour of Australia.Ganguly had to wait another four years to finally make his debut in 1996 against England at Lords’. Ganguly rose to ODI cricket after Sachin’s suggestion of letting him open the innings for India. Later, he and Sachin made a dangerous and terrifying opening partnership for bowlers. They still hold this record for highest number of runs in opening partnerships.

Partners Span Inns NO Runs High Ave 100 50
SC Ganguly, SR Tendulkar (INDIA) 1996-2007 136 2 6609 258 49.32 21 23

Ganguly till date thanks Sachin by saying that he wouldn’t have been even half as good a player he was in ODI cricket, hadn’t Sachin advised him to open. He also helped Ganguly a lot during his captaincy. They always had mutual respect for each other. They are still close friends even after retirement and enjoy each other’s company off the pitch as much as they used to on it.

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