Pandya, Rahul episode – The contrarian view

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(By L Subramanyan)

Ok, first the admission. Did I feel that Hardik Pandya’s statements were crass? I sure did.
That apart, the reaction of most of the cricket administrators is even worse. It borders on a set of absurd assumptions and eventually leads to some very high-sounding, moral and uprightly pronouncements on how youngsters ought to behave in public. The statements have been taken in isolation, out-of-context and made out to be reflective of the character of the youngsters concerned.

The show in question, ‘Koffee With Karan’, is light-hearted, non-serious entertainment which seeks to show the human side of the stars. Innumerable celebrities have come to the show and said things equally outrageous and no one has raised as much as a whisper. However, when two young cricketers come on the show and go on to talk about their sex life adventures and then one of them even goes to the extent of saying that he duly informed his dad that he had lost his virginity, everyone goes berserk.

Acting President CK Khanna and Acting Secretary Amitabh Choudhary duly denounced it. (By the way, in BCCI currently, everyone is acting, but more about that separately). Khanna demands ‘strict action’, while Choudhary demands that they be ‘suspended’, and also suggest that these comments may also lead to ‘honeytraps’. Rai, admits that he has not seen the episode, but then goes on to recommend a two-match ban on the players, since he found the apology insincere.

So what does Rai (the spreadsheet warrior of the Rs 1,73,000-crore Telecom scam fame) want? Really? Does he want Pandya to go on TV teary-eyed, inconsolably crying, apologizing for his ‘un-Indian’ comments which are against the culture of the country?

Interestingly, it is only in India, where we attach subjectivity to an apology. Elsewhere, an apology is an apology, period. But then, we are like that, only.

Surprisingly, the player’s own captain denounces the statements as ‘unacceptable’. What Captain Virat Kohli seems to say is that it is ok to misbehave and mouth obscenities on the cricket ground during a match, which has a much higher viewership of the ‘impressionable minds’, but laughing about one’s youth and being young and one’s sex life on a show for the young, is not.

This brings me to question the rank hypocrisy that plagues the old and the powerful in India. Pandya’s statements, while they may have been tasteless to some, are his own. He is entitled to his views, and in an entertainment show, showed a certain human side of himself. Trying to attract the attention of the opposite sex is a part-time occupation of the young and merely talking about it and, worse, laughing about it, does not make the youth a target of ‘honeytraps’.

Do the young cricketers need gender sensitization? Sure. So does the CEO of the Board. So do millions of young (and old) men in India. Does playing for India mean that cricketers can no longer be themselves? That they can’t be their age, do silly things and not be judged and, worse, be banned from playing the very sport that elevated them?

I am certain that many young people who watched the show might have even laughed with Pandya and Rahul. They may have even found the humor delightful, after all the KWK, as a show, is a popular one with high TRPs. It’s different strokes for different folks, right?.

Rai, has also asked Choudhary to ‘prepare an advisory to all BCCI contracted players’. Clearly, the ‘advisory’ will probably end with the players being told when to breathe, eat, sleep, behave, and no, it will not have anything to do with their sex life. Now, that is distasteful.