'As a mentor, no one can come and walk over my players. I have got a very different belief and I have lived with that belief and I will continue to live with that belief that I will never leave anyone alone.'
Former India opening batter Gautam Gambhir has stated that he will "back his players" if a situation like the heated argument between Virat Kohli and Afghanistan pacer Naveen-ul-Haq, which unfolded in the Indian Premier League match earlier this year, arises again.
During an IPL 2023 group stage match between Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in May this year, Kohli and Naveen had a heated exchange on the field. The incident lingered when players from both teams shook hands after the match. Gambhir was the LSG mentor at that time.
After RCB's victory, LSG opener Kyle Mayers walked up to Kohli and started speaking something when Gambhir came and took the West Indies batter away.
A little while after this incident, visuals from the match showed Gambhir animatedly speaking to Kohli. Other players, including LSG skipper KL Rahul, and support staff were seen separating the two.
"It is not about Naveen-ul-Haq. I would have defended any player. That is my job, that is how I am, that is how my mindset is. Why should I not defend my players just because someone has a broadcaster working for him, left right and centre, someone who has more social media players doesn't have any right to walk over someone. If I cannot stand with my players, then I have no right to be in that dressing room," Gambhir said in an ANI Podcast.
"As a mentor, no one can come and walk over my players. I have got a very different belief and I have lived with that belief and I will continue to live with that belief that I will never leave anyone alone," he said.
"That is how I have lived my life and will continue to live like that. Till the time game was on, I didn't have the right to interfere but once the game was over if someone gets into a heated argument... I have got all the right to defend my players and in future also if something like that happens, I will defend my players," Gambhir added.
Kohli and Gambhir were later fined 100 per cent of their match fee for breaching the IPL Code of Conduct.
Naveen was also fined 50 per cent of his match fee for breaching the Code of Conduct.
He admitted to the Level 1 offence under Article 2.21 of the IPL Code of Conduct.