This time all it took to offend us was a lady born in Russia and living in the USA saying that she did not know who a certain Indian cricketer was. On any other day, no one would have blinked an eyelid at this statement. After all, the sport is not exactly prominent in either country.
But the cricketer she was clueless about was Sachin Tendulkar, commonly referred to as the God of Cricket. And according to certain jazbaati Indian cricket fans, not knowing who Tendulkar is a sin that could not be forgiven. Why? They have placed Tendulkar on a pedestal and expect everyone else to do the same.
On 2 July in a press conference, Maria Sharapova, a five time Grand Slam winner, admitted she had no idea who Tendulkar was. The matter should have ended there. After all it was Sachin who had travelled to Wimbledon to watch her play and not the other way around.
For fanatical Tendulkar fans though, this was an insult they could not tolerate. So they took inspiration from the ostrich. That is, they put their heads in the sand, and started tweeting “Who is Maria Sharapova”. Then they attacked her photographs on Facebook using such innovative swear words that one cannot repeat them on any other forum. And they created memes.
The most bizarre one showed Sachin Tendulkar touching the pitch and taking “it’s blessing” while Sharapova is shown stretching her right leg on the net. The text under the picture says – “Dear Maria Sharapova this is Sachin Tendulkar who respects his sport. Learn something.”
Anyone who understands tennis or has played the sport would know that the tennis net is one of the best places to stretch your hamstring muscles. Besides, the tennis net is not something to be worshipped. It is the first opponent a tennis player must overcome.
This jingoistic attack on Sharapova may also have backfired because it just shines a light on us Indians and our insecurities. It magnifies the point that the country with the second largest population in the world only has a handful of sports stars worthy of being called legends. It also punctures our ego – we may be 1.2 billion strong but we definitely are not at the centre of the sporting world.
The bitter truth is that besides a handful of Commonwealth nations, the world does not follow or even care about the sport we excel at – cricket. The sooner we deal with it the better. After all the sport one follows and is passionate about is a very cultural thing.
How many of us Indians know about legendary baseball, ice hockey or rugby players? The argument doing the rounds is that sports stars must know each other. I am certain most of our cricketers would fail a quiz about American football legends. Remember, Virender Sehwag did not even know who Pankaj Roy was. Should we ridicule them too?
The most disturbing thing about this entire issue has been that it has again revealed the misogynist Indian male. Some of the gentler comments have been the following – She wins and makes money because she is pretty (wrong); she makes sexual noises while playing (wrong again); and people remember the legends not the glamour dolls who show their ass (still wrong).
Most Indian men born in a very patriarchal setting find it hard to digest the fact that a super successful woman does not know a thing about their idol. It is unfortunate that for a nation that prides itself on being inclusive and accommodating, that we make such a big deal about petty issues.
I love my tennis and my cricket. The joy I get watching Sharapova hit those blazing forehands is matched only by the joy I get watching Sachin hit those glorious cover drives. My love and respect for the two is not correlated to the love and respect they have for each other. I can totally live with this fact. I just wish a few more would also learn to deal with this and finally grow up.
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Updated Date: Aug 05, 2014 14:29:32 IST