Sports mirror the society and just like any other aspect of culture, it can act as a mechanism for both societal and political change in a country.
Sports provide us with an opportunity to cheer and boo; it motivates and deflates us, and it has the capability to bring joy and sorrow in our lives. Thus, it plays an important role in shaping, modifying, and creating a culture while affecting the lives of millions of its fans.
The biggest example is a country like India, where the population is so obsessed with cricket that whether it's a family dinner or a casual outing with friends, no conversation is complete without mentioning the gentleman's game.
Over the years, we have been celebrating the geniuses of numerous cricketing stars who left a lasting impression in our lives with their exemplary performances.
The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, to name a few, have etched their name in the history books for their respective feats in the cricketing world. But, as much as their skills, it was also the demeanour of the Indian cricket team of that generation that garnered respect and admiration from fans.
As all good things, must come to an end, so did the careers of the gentlemen of Indian cricket. And, what followed later was an all-out aggressive approach incorporated by the new-age Team India under the leadership of Virat Kohli. And, to be honest, there's nothing wrong with playing a sport with a bit of aggression. The Australians have thrived on it for years which played a pivotal role in their dominance in international cricket.
But, how much is too much? A question that has been lingering in the back of the minds of many fans and pundits before being nullified with positive results raked in by Kohli & Co.
Flaunting their tattooed arms, funky hairdos and chiselled physiques, the new generation of the Indian cricket team has surely set new standards, beginning a new culture for their fans to follow. And, even if many still feel that those things might be a distraction, the fact is, as long as the on-field performances of these cricketers are not getting affected by their lifestyle choices, they're probably doing fine.
However, the notion, many dreaded for, finally became a reality when Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul came on the recent episode of the popular show 'Koffee With Karan' where misogyny and sexism reached a whole new level, probably for the first time (involving cricketers) on national television. More than Rahul, it was Pandya who appeared boorish in his remarks aimed at women.
Among the multiple things that left viewers shell-shocked, Pandya did his reputation no favour by claiming: "I like to watch and observe how they (women) move in the club. I'm little from the Black side, so I need to see how they move".
The Baroda cricketer was either painstakingly honest (which further makes us question his character) or downright stupid in objectifying women on national TV while answering to Karan Johar's query as to why he doesn't ask women their names in the club.
If his personal opinion made the viewers cringe, Pandya further rattled everyone by claiming: “When I lost my virginity, I came home and said, 'Main karke aya hai aaj (I had *** today)'". And, then, what followed later, "At a party, my parents asked me 'acha tera wala (women) kaun sa hai (who is your interest here?)' so I said 'yeh, yeh, yeh (pointing out women)' and they were like 'waah proud of you beta',” made us question his upbringing.
I mean, no matter how accepting or understanding your parents are, I'd like to believe that no parent would tell their kids that they are proud of them, especially when they are interested in, not one, but multiple partners. Someone should have told the immature cricketer that the women are neither trophies nor are they to be brandished as possessions.
As soon as the show was aired, it came as no surprise to see cricket fans from every corner of the country coming out all guns blazing against Pandya on the social media. And, it took Pandya four days to realise that he had been insensitive in his comments on the chat show.
We knew a comment or clarification was around the corner, but what the Indian cricketer wrote on the social media was not even a responsible statement, let alone an apt apology.January 9, 2019
"After reflecting on my comments on Koffee With Karan, I would like to apologise to everyone concerned who I may have hurt in any way. Honestly, I got a bit carried away with the nature of the show. In no way did I mean to disrespect or hurt anyone's sentiments. Respect," Pandya wrote on Twitter following the backlash over his remarks.
He had already tarnished his image as a youth icon with his comments on the show, but the Indian cricketer still had a chance to make it right with his apology. But, sadly, the boorish attitude that irked the fans after watching him on the chat show, once again reflected in his so-called apology, that lacked responsibility on his part and acknowledgement of his mistake.
His casual approach in the apology, where he conveniently claims to have gotten carried away with the nature of the show, makes for nothing more than just shifting the blame rather than owning up to his actions.
If someone has followed Pandya's career so far, they'd agree that the youngster struck a chord with cricket fans for rising through the ranks on the back of relentless life struggles.
From overcoming financial hardships to stepping up for his family at an early age, Pandya has been an embodiment of success, derived through hard work and perseverance. Even when he stepped up his style quotient (no matter how flamboyant it may seem), Pandya, still, was looked upon as a household boy who was finally getting his due following his persistent efforts.
But, sadly, all those things mean little to the fans now, thanks to his distasteful, misogynist and sexist comments on the show and an irresponsible apology which followed later.
Sounding like Kim Kardashian of the cricket world, Pandya boasted of 'conquests' and possessions like a Desperado, unlike a cricketer and definitely not in sync with a youth icon.
For someone who was introduced by Karan Johar as 'tomorrow's hopeful future' on his show, the 25-year-old still has a long way to go to fit that bill. And, if we cannot expect a cricketer like Pandya to be more responsible in his demeanour off the field, then all the 'Me Too' campaigns and women empowerment drives would mean nothing in our society.