Feature

IPL cricket and Olympics crossover: Tendulkar at Rio 2016 and Bolt smashes Yuvraj for six!

Sport knows no barriers. Several Olympic champions have tried their hands in a completely alien sport like cricket. Ask Michael Phelps and Novak Djokovic.

By Naveen Peter ·

Cricket fever in India will once again go through the roof when the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) gets underway on September 19 in the United Arab Emirates.

As the fans await with bated breath for the first ball to be bowled in the annual Twenty20 cricket festival, here’s a look at moments when IPL stars savoured the magic of an Olympic Games, the greatest quadrennial sporting event on Planet Earth. 

Sachin Tendulkar waves the Indian flag

He might be one of the best batsmen that the world has ever seen, but it’s the sports fan in Sachin Tendulkar that has kept the ‘Master Blaster’ going even years after his retirement.

Be it his visits to Wimbledon to watch good friend Roger Federer in action at SW19 or backing young talent back home, the cricket great has always expressed his appreciation for various sporting disciplines.

It was one such moment that saw Sachin Tendulkar fly down to Rio de Janeiro to support the Indian contingent at the 2016 Olympics from the stands. 

Appointed as the Goodwill Ambassador of the Olympic-bound Indian team, Tendulkar was actively involved in a campaign on social media, in which he profiled key athletes in the build-up to the Games.

At the Rio Games, the former Mumbai Indians star also met with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach. The two also watched the opening day of Rugby Sevens, which made an Olympic return after a 92-year-absence.

New stroke for Michael Phelps

What makes a maiden trip to India memorable? For some, it’s an amazing diversity reflected in the country’s culture, food and tradition, while for some it’s the various tourist destinations that present India in a unique picture postcard manner. 

But for the 23-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps it was his initiation into the game of cricket that stood out when he was in the country in 2019.

In India for a promotional event during the IPL, the Olympic swimming legend was seen taking some cricketing tips from Delhi Capitals’ wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer.

“Being able to hit a couple of tennis balls with the bat was fun and it’s very similar to a baseball swing and a golf swing. So it was just neat being able to play a sport that I’ve never played before,” Phelps later said.

Novak Djokovic at home with spin

There’s nothing that tennis star Novak Djokovic can’t return on a tennis court.

Be it a cross-court volley loaded with topspin or a perfect down-the-line passing shot, the Serbian ace has an answer to anything you throw at him. And it’s no different if you replace the racquet with a cricket bat.

It was at an exhibition event ahead of the 2018 Australian Open that the 17-time Grand Slam champion faced one of the finest spinner’s in cricket’s history -- Shane Warne.

Unfazed by his opposition, Djokovic oozed with confidence as he hit the Aussie legend, a former Rajasthan Royals winning captain and now a Royals brand ambassador, out of the park.

Djokovic, Olympic bronze medallist in 2008, then took a few pointers from Warney on how to deliver the perfect leg-spin.

The Jamaican tale

There’s so much in common between Usain Bolt and Chris Gayle.

Champion athletes, legends, flag bearers for Jamaica at the international stage, thorough entertainers and so on. And it’s no surprise that the two cherish a friendship that’s grown over time.

“He's a champion, legend, you name it,” said Chris Gayle, who will play for Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2020.

“The sport actually misses him, he actually brought the sport back to life. Something really good for me to see a Jamaican put the sport back in the spotlight. He's very chill. Loves a good time. A hard worker.

“But when we catch up we talk about a lot of things. He talks about cricket too. I have told him that I would love to challenge him on the field (on the track) sometimes as well,” Gayle said.

Apparently, cricket and football were Bolt’s first love.

In 2014, as part of a campaign, Bolt even played an exhibition match with former IPL superstar and a 2011 World Cup winner Yuvraj Singh in Bengaluru.

Bolt smashed a match-winning 19-ball 45 studded with five sixes, just the way he decimated his opponents en route to his eight Olympic gold medals.