As Virat Kohli’s team faces Gautam Gambhir‘s team once again in the IPL, we look back at a long history of face-offs between the two fiery characters.

Last year, it took a while for IPL fans to shift their focus away from two names – Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir – who were in the midst of a heated exchange at the end of the tense Lucknow Super Giants-Royal Challengers Bangalore clash. For the uninitiated, it wasn’t the first time the two have been the two main forces in an on-field spat.

Both Kohli, and Gambhir – seven years his senior – hail from New Delhi, India’s capital, and have represented the same state in domestic cricket. When Kohli broke into the Delhi team, Gambhir was already an international player. On Kohli’s first-class (2006) and T20 (2007) debuts, Gambhir was the opener in the Delhi team.

A few years later, both featured in the India team – as Kohli found his feet, Gambhir became one of India’s most dependable all-format batters. In 2009, Kohli’s first ODI century saw him stitch together a 224-run match-winning stand with Gambhir. At the end of the match, Gambhir won accolades for handing over his Player of the Match award to a young Kohli.

Years passed, and Kohli’s stature grew astronomically. Post the 2011 World Cup, Gambhir’s opportunities reduced as India looked at younger options. In the IPL though, Gambhir still remained an influential figure, winning two titles for KKR. Their paths have collided multiple times along the way.

The first big fight (2013)

A league match in IPL 2013 was the first instance of trouble between the two. Walking back after he was dismissed against Gambhir’s KKR, Kohli stopped in his tracks. Having heard something, he walked angrily towards Gambhir, who did the same, and the two clashed – they had to be physically separated by other players.

‘No comments’ (2013)

Three months later, Kohli was leading India without regular skipper MS Dhoni. During an interaction, when Gambhir – then out of the Indian team – was asked about Kohli leading the side, he curtly replied with: “No comments…Thank you”.

The mini face-off (2015)

It was not nearly close to the first one in intensity, but Kohli and Gambhir also had a face-off after the end of a 2015 RCB-KKR game two years after the first Bengaluru incident. Cameras captured the two animatedly talking after the match, but the whole thing fizzled out quickly.

The cryptic tweet and cake (2016)

In a cryptic tweet, Gambhir praised Sunrisers Hyderabad after they won the 2016 IPL final, clinching their first-ever title. “Congratulations @SunRisers on winning @IPL Nice guys DO finish first. Well done. Bowler win u cricket matches be it any format @BCCI,” he tweeted.

The losing team? Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Earlier in the tournament, Gambhir was fined for kicking a chair in the dugout when KKR won a tense game against RCB. The following year, when they shot out RCB for 49 all out, the lowest score in IPL history, Gambhir’s team cut a cake that read “Play Bowled”, a play on RCB’s slogan “Play Bold”.

Good friends (2016)

In 2016, Gambhir called himself and Kohli “aggressive and passionate individuals”, claiming that they were “good friends on and off the field”. That year, their social media camaraderie was also evident. Interestingly, it was around the time Gambhir made his comeback into the India Test team, under Virat Kohli.

Captaincy digs

Over the next few years, as Gambhir left cricket and switched to commentary, while also becoming a full-time politician, he kept taking digs at Kohli, the cricketer. In 2019, Gambhir said Kohli “was not a shrewd captain” and was “lucky” that RCB stuck with him as a leader.

In 2020, after a crushing defeat to Australia, Gambhir took potshots again at Kohli, the captain. “I probably can’t even explain that captaincy. It is not T20 cricket. I probably can’t understand the reason to be honest because that was poor captaincy,” he said.

‘Immature’ (2022)

It’s not a movie title. When Kohli was at the centre of the infamous DRS controversy in South Africa last year, Gambhir wasn’t too pleased with his actions.

“Kohli is very immature,” Gambhir was quoted as saying on Star Sports. “It’s worst for an Indian captain to say like this in stumps. By doing this you will never be an idol to youngsters. In the first innings when you got a 50-50 call on caught behind then you were silent and in Mayank [Agarwal] appeal too.”

Finger on your lips (2023)

Gambhir, mentor of Lucknow Super Giants, was his usually animated self during the first RCB-KKR game in Bengaluru. After a nervy one-wicket win, he was seen gesturing at the crowd with a finger on his lips. Two weeks later, Kohli repeated the gesture in Lucknow’s home game.

At the end of the game, though, the two were seen talking to each other and hugging. All seemed peaceful.

The post-game face-off (2023)

Tempers flared at the end of the LSG-RCB return leg when Kohli and Naveen-ul-Haq continued their on-field exchange after the match. When LSG’s Kyle Mayers approached Kohli, walking alongside and chatting, Gambhir walked up to his player and took him away by his arm. Moments later, Kohli and Gambhir were in the midst of a heated exchange themselves and had to be separated by those around.

The Lucknow clash wasn’t the first, and certainly not the last time we’ll hear Kohli and Gambhir in the same sentence.