A heartfelt letter from Anushka Sharma on Virat Kohli’s captaincy in test cricket and his recent stepdown from the post has evoked a strong reaction on the internet. And while comments gushing in support for the couple are understandable, what’s not is the visible irritation Sharma’s address to her husband, marking a significant moment in his sporting career, has generated among a section of netizens.
India is a cricket-worshipping country. For many followers of the sport, certain traditions are upheld as sacrosanct, no matter how outdated they may be. One of these is the absence of women from the arena.
Even though the country has a high-achieving women’s cricket team, it seems like traditionalists remain uncomfortable with women venturing anywhere near the boundary of cricket. Be they spouses of their favourite cricketers or female fans, women are still perceived as an ‘interference’ in the gentleman’s game.
So it was only expected that any comment from Sharma on her husband’s resignation, which is mired in speculation over alleged issues with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), would spark fire.
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Anushka Sharma On Virat Kohli’s Captaincy: Here’s What She Said
“I remember the day in 2014 when you told me that you have been made the captain as MS had decided to retire from test cricket,” read Sharma’s note on Instagram. “I’ve seen growth. Immense growth. Around you & within you. And yes, I am very proud of your growth as the captain of the Indian National Cricket team & what achievements the team had under your leadership.”
“And my love, I am so proud of you for not letting anything come in the way of your good intentions… What you did was to always stand up for doing the right thing, the harder thing, always! You held on to nothing with greed, not even this position & I know that,” the Pari actor added.
A Twitter thread going viral has attempted what is a very sexist takedown of Sharma’s post.
Shared by journalist Rohan Dua, the tweets read, “Quite don’t understand that captaincy or leaving it merits such back to back purgation of emotions by a couple when only interest paramount be that of Team India.”
“Never before spouses of greats Sehwag, Ganguly, Sachin, VVS, Gambhir, Dhoni made spectacle of their careers… Such was the decency & resolve to stay away from glory & opulence of cricket that only recognizable appearance Tendulkar’s wife Anjali made was during his last match,” he wrote.
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This is far from the first time that Sharma has been dragged by cricketing fans for her spousal status. Since tying the knot with Kohli in 2017, Sharma has been blamed and abused for every transgression, as is perceived by fans, in Kohli’s life – from his poor performances, to his paternity leave, to all his supposed distractions. Here are all the times she was trolled simply for being Kohli’s wife.
And the actor, not one to remain silent, has often given it back too. In one of the most crucial statements she made on being scapegoated and crucified by cricket fans, Sharma back in 2019 gave a searing response to criticism coming her way for being the only cricket spouse standing in a group photo of the Indian team at the High Commission in London.
She slammed the gossip on this, and other matters, as “regressive and horrible and malicious and vicious,” adding she was a self-made woman “who only happens to be the wife of a cricketer.”
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The discourse that women cannot or should not partake in cricket conversations, citing their apparently lesser knowledge on the subject, is getting super old. It reeks of misogyny that gatekeeps women from the world of sports still understood to be a male domain.
If the “decency” of cricket spouses is judged by how much or how little support they choose to express in public for the player, then the term itself needs to undergo some modifications.
Are fans proud if their all-male cricket tradition legacies remain sexist? Why is there resistance to reform, despite sportswomen making major strides across games? Is silencing women how we suppose India will bolster the worth of its various women’s teams and encourage them to bring more accolades home?
Views expressed are the author’s own.