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
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.
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
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
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.