The cricket match between India and Pakistan was a marvel to watch. Shaheen Afridi’s bowling spell, Rizwan-Babar partnership, and the impeccable innings by the Indian captain Virat Kohli, it was cricket at its finest. The match results were of course a disappointment for the Indian team and its fans, but it was a Sunday eve well spent. But things weren’t this simple, were they?
Immediately after the match, team members were subjected to mass trolling on social media. The trolling; offensive, distasteful, and defamatory, was not limited to the team members but somehow seeped to include the Indian Muslims as well. Mohammad Shami, one of India’s pace bowlers, was trolled heavily by faceless accounts on Twitter, accusing him of being a Pakistani and hence playing by their side. Scores of memes on Virat Kohli, in which his mustache had been photoshopped (implying he’s a Muslim), flouted the space. Former cricketers such as Virendra Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir joined the hate bogey, questioning those (read: Muslims) who were allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory.
What the match did was unleash the communal side of the nation, the evil face. Indians didn’t realize that it was just a game of cricket. From questioning Shami’s nationality to that of fellow Indians’, India stood at its lowest point in terms of morality. The nation which claims to possess the finest and oldest culture couldn’t stand up for its players, nor for its citizens. There were even reports of an assault on Kashmiri students studying at Universities in Punjab, by those from the heartland states, allegedly because of the former raised Pro-Pakistan slogans.
India claims itself to be better-civilized than the Pakistanis because of its rule of law. And rightly so, when you have Pakistan’s Interior Minister calling Pakistan’s victory in the game as “victory of Islam”, you’d wonder we haven’t descended to this extent. Yet our response to the defeat needs to be condemned in the deepest manner possible.
Compare this episode with that of England, after they lost the Euro Cup finals to Italy when English fans started hurling racial and xenophobic slurs at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka after they failed to score the penalty goal. This trolling was condemned by the highest authority possible, including British PM Boris Johnson and Prince William, who also is the president of the English Football Association. English fans took to Twitter to show support for the players.
In India’s case, Indian captain Kohli is yet to show support for its team members, at least publicly. There have been no words from PM Modi or Sports Minister Anurag Thakur. Neither has BCCI secretary Jay Shah broken his silence on the trolling. Although BCCI in a tweet has shown support for Shami, amidst growing criticism for their lack of a stance, but for the rest, it’s business as usual.
The silence of the PM, Sports Minister, Indian Captain, and BCCI secretary is worrying as it promotes the vile phenomenon of trolling. It has become a cup of tea rather to question anybody’s patriotism. For such people, who have probably been deprived of love, it is important to note that love isn’t something that can be shown; it cannot be quantified.
Scores of people have shown their support for the team including Harbhajan Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Aakash Chopra, VVS Lakshman, and Yusuf Pathan, and countless people on Twitter who still have the least of sportsman spirit left in them. Even during the game, pictures of Kohli congratulating Rizwan after the match and MS Dhoni candidly talking with his counterparts won hearts on social media. Indians must reflect this spirit of our team members and call out the madness unleashed on its Muslim citizens and cricketers.
Aditya Jha is a student pursuing Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Reda Aamna