Players no longer willing to tolerate hate mongers; they begin to hit back

Abhijit Sen Gupta
Abhijit Sen Gupta

Virat Kohli’s strongly worded reaction to those who were trolling his teammate Mohammed Shami is part of a welcome new trend. Players are beginning to open up and are no longer willing to stay silent and allow hate filled trollers to have their say.

Earlier it was India’s golden boy, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra who silenced trollers and even media outlets which were trying to give his comments a jingoistic colour. It may be recalled that after winning the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics, Neeraj had related an incident wherein the Pakistani javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem had borrowed Neeraj’s javelin and was practicing with it.

When the time came for Neeraj to take his throw, he went to Nadeem and asked for his javelin so that he could take his throw. Nadeem gave it back and Neeraj threw it to a huge distance which gave him an early lead. The fact that the Pakistani thrower borrowed Neeraj’s javelin was just a run of the mill incident. Nothing unusual about it. But as soon as Neeraj related what had happened, the communal minded trollers seized their chance.

They began putting their own interpretations to the incident. Some said that Nadeem wanted to delay Neeraj. Some said that he wanted to tamper with Neeraj’s javelin. What was regrettable was that even some television channels began putting out a similar storyline to gain viewership. When Neeraj saw what was the outcome of an innocent remark, he decided to put an end to all such speculation.

Blasting those who were trying to give it a communal and nationalistic colour, he said: “I would request everyone to not use me and my comments to further your vested interests and propaganda. Sports teach us to be together and united. I am extremely disappointed to see some of the reactions from the public to my recent comments. There was nothing wrong with Arshad Nadeem’s act of borrowing my javelin. It is within the rules. Please do not use my name to push your dirty agenda,” said the champion who is moreover, an army man to boot.

This left the hate mongers flummoxed and isolated. They had no ground to stand on. Perhaps they had not expected that the new Indian hero would counter them so quickly. But Neeraj silenced them at once. However, they found new energy again when India lost to Pakistan in the ICC T20 World Cup. This time their target was Mohammed Shami.

The Indian bowler’s talent has seen him shatter several records. Shami made his Test debut against West Indies in 2013 and took a five wicket haul. He is the third fastest Indian bowler to take 100 Test wickets and the fastest to take 100 ODI wickets. But all these feats were forgotten by trollers when the Pakistan batsmen went on the rampage.

Although all Indian bowlers were unsuccessful, only Shami was picked upon by the army of hate mongers. It was obvious that he is being targeted because of his religion. Again perhaps they felt they would get away with it. But this time it was skipper Kohli who came out with a strong reaction and he was followed by several others including Irfan Pathan.

Virat Kohli condemned vile abusers who were trolling Shami. “There’s a good reason why we are playing on the field and not some bunch of spineless people on social media that have no courage to actually speak to any individual in person. They hide behind their identities and go after people through social media, making fun of people and that has become a social entertainment in today’s world, which is so unfortunate and so sad to see,” Kohli said at a crowded press conference.

“This is literally the lowest level of human potential that one can operate at and that’s how I look at these people,” he said.”We stand “200 per cent” behind Shami. To me, attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing that a human being can do. I personally have never ever even thought of discriminating (against) anyone over their religion. That’s a very sacred and personal thing to every human being,” said Kohli.

Moreover, Kohli and Dhoni publicly interacted with Pakistan players on the cricket field after the match and created a friendly ambience. It was the true spirit of sportsmanship that was seen that day. One hopes that more players will speak out whenever such regrettable incidents occur. It is high time that Indian traditions and culture of politeness and polished speech is restored.

Among the people who can bring about this change are sportsmen and women who are the heroes of the youth. If they set a good example, then it will influence the minds of the younger generation and wean them away from uncultured behaviour. It is an encouraging trend that we are seeing wherein players are speaking up against the growing hatred that is dividing Indian society.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.