Are trolls nastier when cricket and Bollywood meet?

By Sunil K. Vaidya

Did Anushka carry drinks for Virat Kohli during a Test match in England? Did she so much as attempt to pad up and join her cricketer husband on the 22-yards between the stumps? Did she banish Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane to third man so she could stand in slip cordon with Kohli? Obviously, that’s an emphatic no. Then what’s all this ruckus about a photograph that was tweeted this past fortnight?Bollywood and Indian cricket are a potent concoction that can cause a social media storm. No one knows that better than Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma. Years ago, she faced the backlash when she and Kohli were dating. She was even abused for the break-up. Now, even though they are married, the actor gets trolled for no reason.

The latest brouhaha is about a group photo, tweeted on the official Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) handle and taken after a dinner at the High Commission of India in London.

Trolls had a problem with Anushka Sharma? They cited a recent BCCI diktat that barred WAGS (wives and girlfriends) of Indian cricket team players from accompanying them until the end of the third Test against England. So what business did Mrs Virat Kohli have to be in the photo, and so on.

They not only questioned Sharma’s presence in the group photo with Kohli, they also had problem with the team’s vice captain (Ajinkya Rahane) being ‘made’ to stand in the last row (as good as in the third man position). Kohli (and Sharma) didn’t break any protocol. No BCCI order was disobeyed. People need to get their facts straight. It is the norm for missions abroad to invite visiting Indian teams, more so cricketers, to dinner with their spouses. Other celebrities and members of the Indian diaspora are routinely invited.

At this dinner, there were also guests from Dubai, including Shyam Bhatia, who owns a private cricket museum in Dubai, and his wife. The Indian High Commissioner Y K Sinha had served in Dubai as the Indian Consul General in 2004 and is acquainted with high profile Indians from the UAE.

According to my information, the photo call in the portico was impromptu, not a formal one. In the group photo, Anushka Sharma stood next to the only other lady, wife of the High Commissioner.

While singling out Indian vice-captain Rahane standing at the back to troll the captain’s wife, they missed the fact that the two junior most players were standing up front: Shardul Thakur, next to Kohli, and Kuldip Yadav, in the front row. In fact, there were no proper positions allotted. People, including the team, stood randomly in that picture.

The BCCI clarified that no official protocol was broken as the Indian High Commission had invited all the players along with their family. “This is the norm wherever the team travels. The High Commission invites the players with their relatives and it is eventually the decision of the individuals. Even in London the players were invited along with their partners. There has been no breach of any protocol (sic),” the Delhi-based Hindustan Times reported, quoting an unnamed BCCI source.

Clarifying her position, Sharma said, “Whoever had to make a justification on the activity has made it. I feel this was just a trolling activity and I don’t react to trolls,” she told media at the launch of a trailer of her new movie Sui Dhaga. Sharma was not on the field posing at a training session, she hadn’t entered playing fields, not even dressing room. Then where is the problem? It was just a dinner hosted by the country’s envoy in England.

It is a different matter that Kohli and team were not representing India but representing BCCI as Team India. The cricket’s governing body in 2004 filed an affidavit in an Indian court saying that they are a private entity. Kohli has repeatedly said his wife has been a positive influence on his career. And in her presence, he is the only Indian batsman scoring runs in England? So, why all the fuss?

Sunil is sports editor, KT. He’s passionate about photography, theatre, and social media

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