Al­ways cool, al­ways Hardik, al­ways a dire em­bar­rass­ment

As it looks to pe­nalise Hardik Pandya and K.L. Rahul, the BCCI should con­sider ini­ti­at­ing work­shops for young crick­eters to sen­si­tise them to gen­der and race is­sues

The Hindu - - COLUMN WIDTH - Ruchir Joshi is a writer, film­maker and colum­nist

Watch­ing the ‘Kof­fee with Karan’ episode with K.L. Rahul and Hardik Pandya is ex­cru­ci­at­ing in many ways. The two young men prance in, try­ing to match Karan Jo­har’s fa­mously OTT cou­ture, thread for shiny thread. It’s as though they are en­ter­ing a tem­ple of bad taste to wor­ship at the al­tar of wealth and glam­our, with Jo­har as the head priest. Even in this fierce com­pe­ti­tion of loud and bad taste, Pandya stands out, gar­land­ing and fes­toon­ing him­self in cliché and deriva­tion.

The Preen­ing Flamingo Tri­an­gu­lar

Young Pandya wastes no time in es­tab­lish­ing him­self as a guy with the brain and aware­ness of a os­trich. He is clearly over­awed by rap and gangsta cul­ture and in per­pet­ual envy of con­tem­po­rary black male the­atrics.

ba­noed-thha­noed

All young In­dian men are not sex­ist. Sim­i­larly, it’s far from the truth that all young guys from small towns are idiots and all un­e­d­u­cated males are louts, but Pandya is the em­peror of that sec­tion of the Venn di­a­gram where the cat­e­gories ‘ant-vi­sioned provin­cial’, ‘un-schooled know-noth­ing’ and ‘gross male pig’ over­lap. Like a clever medium-pacer, or a hun­gry shark, Jo­har quickly de­cides which bats­man he wants for break­fast; it is — no sur­prises — the man who ac­tu­ally thinks it’s clever to in­tro­duce him­self to women as “Hardik — al­ways”. K.L. is quickly rel­e­gated to the role of the side­kick sup­port­ing the ac­tor; most of the show is about get­ting Mr. Al­ways Pea­cock to take off his own shiny pants.

Across the pro­gramme there are sev­eral dis­tress­ing things about both Pandya and K.L. Cricket-wise, no cap­tain or man­ager would be happy about Pandya blithely ad­mit­ting that he’s been told off sev­eral times for not lis­ten­ing to in­struc­tions on the field and that this is likely to con­tinue. No one who un­der­stands cricket would so eas­ily pick Kohli over Ten­dulkar as the greater bats­man, not yet and not with such alacrity, but both these clowns do just that. In terms of

bhondu,

aware­ness of the his­tory they are part of, both these ‘boys’ score zero; there’s even one mo­ment, when asked to name In­dia’s ODI cap­tains, K.L. jug­gles all sorts of names but misses out on the big­gest of them, Kapil Dev. Then there are the con­stant ref­er­ences to scor­ing (with women), dat­ing, af­fairs, “do­ing it”, and fan­cy­ing Bol­ly­wood women ac­tors; there is the ad­mis­sion, mild com­pared to some of the other stuff, that both K.L. and Pandya have had sex in their ho­tel rooms while ac­com­mo­dat­ing col­league roomies have kept away; there is the barb from K.L. that Pandya has “done” all the IPL cheer­lead­ers and thus does not get ex­cited by them while play­ing; there is the busi­ness of friends com­ing on screen and re­veal­ing em­bar­rass­ing de­tails, in­clud­ing the “fact” that Pandya of­ten for­gets to flush his toi­let (sharply de­nied by Mr. Al­ways).

At times the pro­gramme felt like a slightly tarted up fly-on-the-wall shoot of a boys’ locker room. Through­out its 47 min­utes, the episode was deep fried in the com­pet­ing smug­ness of all three men, with K.L. oc­ca­sion­ally show­ing some trace of class and com­ing out a bad third in the Preen­ing Flamingo Tri­an­gu­lar. But the worst bit came early, and out of the mouth of Pandya, when he said that while try­ing to pick up women, he likes to first watch them move, be­cause it’s an indi­ca­tor of “how they will be later” and “be­cause I’m a bit from the black side”.

There’s a Gu­jarati ep­i­thet that fits Pandya per­fectly — It means duf­fer, ex­cept by it­self the de­scrip­tion is al­to­gether too kind. Other words that would go ap­pro­pri­ately with can­not, alas, be printed here. Pandya is a per­fect dis­as­ter: he seems proud of the fact that he didn’t study be­yond Class 9 and that too be­cause of the largesse of his teach­ers who didn’t want to fail him; he is amused by the fact that he can’t even read (for­get write) his own name in Gu­jarati or Hindi and barely man­ages English; he is ob­nox­iously cocky about how many women he has man­aged to “do”; he is proud of the fact that he be­haves as he likes on the cricket field. All this is pred­i­cated on the un­de­ni­able fact that Pandya has achieved some ini­tial suc­cess as a crick­eter play­ing for In­dia

dafol. dafol

in lim­ited overs for­mats. None of this can ex­cuse the fact that this tower of bling-laden self-re­gard is also ca­su­ally racist and misog­y­nist — with­out un­der­stand­ing a thing about Afro-Caribbean or Afro-Amer­i­can cul­ture, he takes the worst stereo­type of sex­ist black male be­hav­iour and drapes it across his shoul­ders like a cape: black men are like this only, and it’s great, so I’m also like this, so cool I am, so Hardik.

Cul­tural boot camps?

What might be the so­lu­tion? With the democrati­sa­tion of team se­lec­tion over the last three decades, all sorts of young­sters with in­cred­i­ble crick­et­ing tal­ent (like Pandya) are com­ing into the In­dian team from dif­fer­ent back­grounds. With the small­est of suc­cess comes the harsh ex­po­sure to the glit­ter of IPL, the TV shows, the par­ties, the in­ter­na­tional tours. Even as the BCCI looks to pe­nalise Pandya and the far less cul­pa­ble K.L., it should con­sider ini­ti­at­ing work­shops for young crick­eters to sen­si­tise them to gen­der is­sues, race pol­i­tics, me­dia traps, and give them a gen­eral boot-camp about the world they will en­ter, a world far from be­ing just about cricket.

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