Pranks have been a harmless way of lightening up the situation in the world of sports. Even the most hardened pro on the circuit can have a mean streak. Before he turned into the lean, mean, winning-machine that he is today, world's best tennis player Novak Djokovic caused much laughter in the locker rooms throughout tennis world for his imitation of Rafael Nadal's service, Maria Sharapova's shrieks and many such antics.
From fans playing pranks on sportspersons or on supporters of rival teams to athletes messing up with their own teammates, every sport is decorated with funny anecdotes…
When Wadekar trusted Tendulkar
It was 31st March and we were in the middle of our 1994 New Zealand tour. Suddenly around midnight, Sachin (Tendulkar) came to my (Wadekar’s) room huffing and puffing. He asked me to rush to his room where Kapil (Dev) was not keeping well all of a sudden. When I asked Sachin what had happened to Kapil, he said, “Kapil paaji is elder to me so it wouldn’t look nice if I asked him, so I didn’t. You come and check for yourself.” Even though Sachin is the biggest prankster, I trusted him and went into the room. I rushed in my pyjamas itself. When I entered the room, the entire team was standing there with a huge cake in the centre. Even Sunil (Gavaskar), who was commentating, had joined in. Since my birthday falls on April 1, not only did they wish me a happy birthday but also happy Fools’ Day. But the outrageous surprise did not end there. As soon as I cut the cake, a belly dancer entered the room and the team made me dance with her.
On the trip to Australia in 2007/08, Lalchand Rajput recalled: Harbhajan Singh was having a rough time after being involved in a controversy with Andrew Symonds during the Sydney Test. One night when we were going out for dinner, it was Bhajji and Sachin (Tendulkar) with me in the elevator. I think we were going down from the 15th floor, when on the ninth floor a local Australian couple entered the lift. On seeing Sachin, the man could not control his excitement as he said, “Oh my, the God of cricket – Sachin Tendulkar.” That is when Bhajji, who was standing unnoticed behind Sachin, could not resist and he jutted in saying, “Yeah he is the GOD and I’m the DOG of cricket!” That perfectly timed statement had all of us break into laughter. Before we left the elevator, the man told Bhajji, “No it is not so, you too are a great player.”
The New York Times compared this prank to a "military-style psychological operation" and named it one of the most notable ideas of 2006. When University of Southern California (USC) star basketball player, Gabe Pruitt, hit the floor for a crucial game against UC Berkeley (known as Cal) in 2006, he became victim of a prank by rival fans. Cal fans had posed as an internet-honey from UCLA, aptly named Victoria, who Pruitt agreed to meet once he returned to LA -- or so it is made out from Pruitt's reported message to Victoria: "I want to c u so bad." Like many online relationships, this one didn't go well. Cal fans broke the bad news mid-game, chanting "Victoria" and reciting his digits throughout the game. Pruitt shot 3 for 13 and USC lost by 11 points.
The case of a secret admirer
One of the hilarious pranks in the Indian men’s hockey team camp was played in the mid 1980s when a letter, purportedly written by a renowned woman hockey player, was sent to former India right-out, Jalaluddin Rizvi. The letter said the female player was his great admirer and would visit the training ground in the next 2-3 days to watch him in action. “It was great fun watching him come out blushing to the ground in tip-top shape and put extra effort in practice, watching him steal shy glances towards the stands looking for his “admirer”. Till now Jalal does not know that the letter was actually written by a team mate,” said one of the player involved,
Olympian Joaquim Carvalho has an interesting tale to tell when the players played a prank on Aiyanna, a goalkeeper from Karnataka, at Patiala. “The boys placed the goalkeeper’s pads, inner guard, underwear and shirt etc on the ceiling fan when he went to the washroom just before a practice match. On his return, one of them switched on the fan, leaving Aiyanna struggling to collect his gear strewn around the room.” The players had also smeared the goalkeeper’s gear with a powder that causes mild irritation. “It was hilarious seeing him jump around.”