Holier than thou attitude pressurizes people to indulge in false symbolism. It is like a gangsters’ extortion racket which says pay up or I don’t guarantee your safety. Virtue signalling mobs say ‘support this cause or you are racist’. We will cancel you; we will take your job away. We will destroy your career.
A celebrity once told me, “In India, everybody is an expert in cricket, Bollywood and politics”. The funniest part of their job/profession is unsolicited advice they receive daily. I kind of agree. Call this, perks or bane of the profession. Does a scientist or a professor get so much advice? May be not. But then do they (professor or a scientist) get so much attention? Cricketers are literally hero worshipped in India. So, I think this unsolicited advice is fine, it’s a privilege, not a nuisance.
This week, India lost to New Zealand in the T20 World Cup. I was getting a haircut when India kept on losing its wickets. The barber shouted “Ashwin ko lena chahiye tha”. The owner of the saloon responded, “Rishab Pant should come opening”. 1.34 billion people and as many opinions. Can be so annoying for a cricketer to hear expert opinions, especially on strategy by someone who wouldn’t have even held a cricket bat in his hand, but this works both ways. I too would be annoyed if a cricketer lectures me on how to prevent global warming, especially if he/they globe trot in their chartered planes, polluting the environment causing 1,000 times more pollution than a cracker free Diwali that is a bone of contention for all environmentalists. Apparently, bursting crackers in a new year is pollution free, only Diwali is an issue. This hypocrisy amazes me. Lecturing is okay but the hypocrisy is not.
I too consider myself as a cricket expert, I have earned that title because I am a proud Indian citizen. I can proudly take liberty of giving unsolicited advice on cricket, Bollywood and politics. As an Indian this is my birthright, but I rather use this column to ask some non-cricketing questions to our players. There are 1.34 billion people to give them suggestions, I hope at least a few out of us can ask them pertinent questions. So here is my barrage of questions, why did the Indian cricket team take a knee for Black Life Matters? Is that even an issue in India? There are much bigger issues in India to take a knee for. Is terrorism dead? Why not take a knee for soldiers who lose their life in the border every day? Why not take a knee for desecration of temples in Bangladesh and Pakistan? Aren’t these issues important? Or are we tone deaf for these issues as we belong to a different political ideology?
The bigger question, should sports permit raising points on political issues? Should sports be used for any form of activism? I remember in 2019 M.S. Dhoni’s wicketkeeping gloves had a dagger logo embossed—probably an Army insignia. After India’s opening win, the International Cricket Council (ICC) asked the BCCI to get it removed, saying that endorsement of any such representation other than the merchandise is a breach of their policy, citing rules which forbid display of messages “which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes”. Good implementation of the rules, but is the ICC sleeping when players are taking a knee for Black Life Matters? How is the Black Life Matters (BLM) movement different? Didn’t this issue turn political in the US elections? I care for every life lost in racism. Why only highlight Black lives? Why not minority lives? Why not tribal life? Why not Dalit life? Isn’t every life important?
I was making this point to someone yesterday and he immediately called me a racist. Racist why? Just because I don’t believe in symbolism? Judicially aren’t we all innocent until proven guilty or are wokeism and virtue signalling forcing us to call everyone a racist and a fascist? In today’s world everybody who doesn’t agree with a point of view is called a racist. Holier than thou attitude pressurizes people to indulge in false symbolism. It is like a gangsters’ extortion racket which says pay up or I don’t guarantee your safety. Virtue signalling mobs say “support this cause or you are racist”. We will cancel you; we will take your job away. We will destroy your career.
Well, I am not a racist. I am willing to write that in an affidavit and give it to whoever calls me racist. I am willing to work on weekends and fight racism. I am willing to donate money for this cause. I believe in equality. I want action, not mere symbolism. I have to state this as people might want to cancel me after this article. What are these virtue signalling mobs willing to do except false symbolism? What action are they taking on racism?
What is this virtue signalling leading to and why is there so much hypersensitivity? Shouldn’t this coercive symbolism be banned in sports. Why aren’t people talking about choice? How can I as a player be coerced to support issues? See what happened to Quinton de Kock, the South African cricketer who refused to take the knee; he was dropped from the team and called a racist and had to change his position to be picked up again in the team.
If ICC wants to tackle the racism issue, there are other ways to tackle it. Why this false symbolism? To be honest, I never expected Wokeism to come to cricket. And why do I think Wokeism has come to cricket? Well, cricketers/actors have started telling us how to celebrate Diwali. They tell us to save water during Holi, they tell us not to pollute the sea during Ganesh Chaturthi. On Navratri they tell us women are not safe, Karwa Chauth is being called regressive. There are many such instances. While these clickbait messages increase their likes in their social media accounts with a certain population, it irritates the majority of the population that takes pride in their culture. Why bring Wokeism in sport? The population that has nothing to do with politics, the population only watches cricket for entertainment. This wokeism is turning people off from the sport.
I love my cricketers. I am a diehard IPL fan; I watch every match. I am happy when they win, sad when they lose. I buy the brands that they endorse. What do I expect from them? To leave politics and virtue signalling at home. Is this asking for too much? I love cricketers, not their brand managers handling their social media accounts.
Dhairya Roy is a veteran in the field of corporate affairs. The views expressed in this article are the author’s personal.