It is sim­ply not cricket to oust play­ers for brag­ging

Khaleej Times - - NATION - With Karan. Karan Kof­fee With Karan Kof­fee. Kof­fee With Kof­fee AnAmikA ChAt­ter­jee Hin­dus­tan Times — [email protected]­j­times.com

On a reg­u­lar day, cel­e­brates all things pretty and petty. Today, it has stirred a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion. For the first time, the Bol­ly­wood talk show, hosted by film­maker (and ‘king­maker’) Karan Jo­har, in­vited two In­dian crick­eters — Hardik Pandya and K.L. Rahul. Dressed in a plaid blazer, yel­low sun­glasses and an ar­ray of gold chains, Pandya seemed poised to steal the show, even as his col­league kept his out­fits, and words, rel­a­tively un­der­stated. Thereon, ev­ery­thing went down­hill. Cringe-in­duc­ing ques­tions were followed by more cringe-in­duc­ing an­swers. Celebri­ties on the show typ­i­cally con­ceal more than they re­veal. Pandya chose the op­po­site. Re­sult? Woe­ful in­sights on ob­serv­ing women’s move­ments and brag­ging about sex­ual es­capades nar­rated in a man­ner that sounded crass (sam­ple this, when asked by a fam­ily mem­ber on who he’d been en­gaged in an en­counter with, he boasts, “all of them”).

The con­tent and tone of the re­sponses were enough to in­spire reams of articles de­vour­ing into the ‘toxic mas­culin­ity’. To have that dis­sected and crit­i­cised in a post#MeToo world per­haps wouldn’t be mis­placed had the Board of Control for Cricket in In­dia (BCCI) not de­cided to play the con­science keeper. Pandya and Rahul have not only been sus­pended, they stand to face an in­quiry on the mis­con­duct — the can­dour and coarse­ness ex­uded on

Mean­while, Pandya has al­ready lost his Gil­lette en­dorse­ment deal. Hot­star, the on­line plat­form that hosts episodes of has al­ready dropped the con­tro­ver­sial episode. All this amid a se­vere so­cial me­dia back­lash. By now, Pandya and Rahul would agree that a lot can hap­pen over

It’s not un­com­mon to see sports­men as role models. Sto­ries of their per­se­ver­ance, com­bined with their achieve­ments on the field, cat­a­pults them into cham­pi­ons of some­thing more than just the sport it­self — they be­come cham­pi­ons of cer­tain moral val­ues. In of­fer­ing a tell-all, Pandya may have bro­ken that car­di­nal rule of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. In sus­pend­ing Pandya and Rahul, the BCCI may have just re­in­forced those text­book virtues. The ironies are aplenty. When things heated up after the episode aired, Pandya had apol­o­gised. He was sent a show cause no­tice signed by CEO Rahul Johri, who had found him­self amid al­le­ga­tions of ha­rass­ment (an un­named BCCI of­fi­cial is quoted in an ar­ti­cle in say­ing, “To get Johri to sign a no­tice to be sent to some­one for an act that dis­re­spects women is like en­gag­ing Mah­mud of Ghazni to head a task force on peace.”). In­dian cricket team cap­tain Vi­rat Kohli, who rou­tinely uses sex­ist ex­ple­tives on the field, has pointed out that the team does not share the play­ers’ views. Se­nior play­ers like Harb­ha­jan Singh have lam­basted the duo for putting other crick­eters’ rep­u­ta­tions at stake (“We don’t talk about all this even with our friends and they were talk­ing on pub­lic tele­vi­sion. Now people might think, was Harb­ha­jan Singh like this, was Anil Kum­ble like this and was Sachin Ten­dulkar like this,” Harb­ha­jan told a pub­li­ca­tion in In­dia). Jo­har, in the mean­time, has main­tained a stud­ied si­lence on the is­sue, even as his provoca­tive line of ques­tion­ing is be­ing scru­ti­nised.

See­ing the con­tro­versy un­fold over the past few days in In­dian me­dia also begs a ques­tion — what has re­ally stood vi­o­lated here? Moral­ity or pro­pri­ety? In mak­ing an ex­am­ple of Hardik Pandya and K.L. Rahul, the BCCI may not nec­es­sar­ily be stand­ing up for women’s rights, it may as well be re­in­forc­ing its own pre­scribed codes of con­duct. Had any wo­man Pandya li­aised with come up with an al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual mis­con­duct, the BCCI would have been right in pro­ceed­ing with a strin­gent ac­tion. It would also have been well within its rights to crit­i­cise the state­ments. After all, here you had a crick­eter — a potential brag­gart — boast­ing about his es­capades on a show. But to have that crit­i­cism trans­late into a sus­pen­sion seems avoid­able. Also prob­lem­atic is the fact that more people seem to be of­fended by the can­dour rather than the coarse­ness. In­ter­est­ingly, some of the high­est voted com­ments on Red­dit sug­gest a dis­ap­point­ment over Pandya choosing to talk about his pri­vate life in pub­lic in­stead of keep­ing it pri­vate. In other words, had Pandya con­tin­ued to live his fan­tasies but po­litely

See­ing the con­tro­versy un­fold over the past few days in In­dian me­dia also begs a ques­tion — what has re­ally stood vi­o­lated here? Moral­ity or pro­pri­ety?

dodged Jo­har’s ques­tions on the show, he would have kept his man­tle of a hero in­tact, and Rahul wouldn’t have had to pay for his spec­ta­tor­ship.

Black and whites don’t al­ways fit into a world that is es­sen­tially grey. In the past decade, it has not re­ally been un­com­mon to see many a wo­man an­chor — many of whom be­long to en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries and are brought in the matches to up the glam­our quo­tient — be­ing rou­tinely ob­jec­ti­fied for the male gaze. If gen­der has to be a talk­ing point in this world, it also has to ac­count for these is­sues.

We live at a time when gen­der sen­si­tiv­ity is non-ne­go­tiable. If it is our right to call out the sex­ism served on a plat­ter, it is also our re­spon­si­bil­ity to un­der­stand con­text and de­ter­mine the course of ac­tion ac­cord­ingly. Pandya’s state­ment has been rightly called out for male en­ti­tle­ment, but BCCI’s polic­ing too reeks of con­ser­vatism. Should two promis­ing ca­reers of flawed men suf­fer be­cause of thought­less re­marks? In In­dia, we love a moral high ground. Must it come at the cost of our truest, most im­per­fect self?

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