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‘People took it differently’ – Naveen-ul-Haq opens up about ‘sweet mangoes’ feud with Virat Kohli during IPL 2023

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Afghanistan and Lucknow Super Giants seamer Naveen-ul-Haq opened up about the infamous ‘sweet mangoes’ feud that he had got going with Virat Kohli during IPL 2023.

Naveen and Kohli’s clash had become the talk of the town during IPL 2023. During a low-scoring encounter between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Lucknow Super Giants, Kohli had made some animated gestures towards Naveen when the latter came into bat.

After the game, Naveen stood up to Kohli during the customary handshakes between the teams as things got heated up with LSG mentor Gautam Gambhir getting involved as well. The controversy stretched several days as both Kohli and Naveen made cryptic social media posts seemingly about each other.


One of those posts was made by Naveen where he posted a picture of mangoes from a hotel room captioned ‘Sweet mangoes’ right after Kohli was dismissed in a game against Mumbai Indians, which was being played on a TV in the background. People assumed it was targeted at Kohli and it became a running reference throughout the rest of the season.

Naveen-ul-Haq clash with Virat Kohli

Naveen-ul-Haq’s ‘sweet mangoes’ Instagram story

In an interview with LSG released yesterday (December 2), Naveen revealed the story behind the ‘sweet mangoes’ post. He said that it wasn’t targeted at Kohli and that people might have interpreted it not as he intended, but didn’t interfere and let people have fun with it.

“I had been telling Dhaval bhai (LSG Team Logistics) for 3-4 days that I wanted to eat mangoes. When we went to Goa, he brought us mangoes. So I was eating mangoes and the TV was on in front of me. There wasn’t even any picture [of Kohli] on the screen. It was of some Mumbai Indians player.

“So I wrote ‘Sweet Mangoes’ and posted and people took it differently. So when they did, even I didn’t say anything. I thought let people have fun with the mangoes. It was the season for Mangoes, so people’s shops should also do well,” said Naveen.

Elaborating on the feud with Kohli and the abuse he received after that, Naveen said that during that time, it fuelled him to do better. In the Eliminator against Mumbai Indians, Naveen took 4-38 from his four overs. He credited the performance to the extra motivation all the reactions from fans gave him.

“I said it gave me more motivation to play better,” said Naveen. “Because I couldn’t answer everybody by messaging or commenting or making them stop their chants. Playing the game was in my hands. By performing, I could show my abilities and my skills. So I got some motivation from that.

My performance in the playoffs (4-38), the main reason behind that were the chants and DMs and comments against me. That gave me motivation.”

Kohli and Naveen met again during the 2023 World Cup at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi where they resolved their differences by hugging it out. Naveen explained how that incident played out.

“Rohit [Sharma] bhai got out. Rashid [Khan] got him out and there was a drinks break. After the break was over, I was going to long on to field. I was about to pass him [Kohli] when we had an eye contact. Virat said, ‘Let’s finish it.’ So I said, ‘Yeah, let’s finish it.’

“Neither did he have anything [negative] in his heart [for me], nor did I [for him]. Whatever had happened, happened on the ground. I’ve said it, ‘I respect him as a player. Whatever he has done and is doing, we all have to appreciate and understand that.’

“So he just said, ‘Let’s finish it’, and I responded, ‘Yeah, let’s finish it’. Then we laughed about it, we hugged and we moved on.”

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