Virat Kohli marked his 100th test match today playing for India against Sri Lanka. To felicitate him, ace cricketer Rahul Dravid presented him with the ceremonial cap. Joining her husband on the field as he celebrated his milestone was his wife Anushka Sharma, who often accompanies him to matches. While she typically cheers from the stands, since the occasion called for it, Sharma stepped on to the field to share the big moment with Kohli. And all hell broke loose.
Some netizens didn't approve of Sharma's apparent breach of an unsaid norm that likes to keep cricketing wives far from the game or anything even remotely related to it.
One tweet that has particularly evoked reactions on Twitter reads, "Can BCCI explain what was Anushka Sharma doing on the field? Is this a family event or an international test match. Don’t make mockery of cricket just to satisfy some inflated egos."
Why do Indian cricket fans refuse to see players as people, who have families and need their company and support? Have our biases overpowered us to such an extent that we find a perfectly natural moment of a wife celebrating her husband's achievement unnatural? Why do fingers always point at Sharma in those moments that she wears the shoes of Kohli's wife?
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Virat Kohli 100th test: Partners cheering for each other should be celebrated
There are comments of support too, with many social media users pointing out the toxicity in tweets that are holding Sharma to guilt for allegedly violating the decorum of men's cricket.
"So miraculously wherever you are working, that’s a big if, felicitates you for something, you wouldn’t let your family to be a part of it?" one user asked. "Such sadists man. It’s a special moment for any man to have his family around when he’s been felicitated for something extraordinary let alone kohli who’s Indian cricket team player," wrote another.
"Supporting her husband. This is what a healthy marriage looks like, 99% Indians cant understand this," one tweet read.
Many also shared photos from New Zealand cricketer Ross Taylor's 100th test, when he was joined by his entire family - wife and kids - on the pitch in 2020.
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Sexism in sport is still rampant for sportswomen, studies have found. A report in 2018 by Women in Sport found that 40 percent women experience gender discrimination in this field. It seems, however, that this disadvantage extends to the women in sportsmen's lives too.
This prejudice is something that has become increasingly vivid since Sharma, a successful celebrity like her husband, has been in the whereabouts of cricket through Kohli.
Everytime Kohli delivers below expectations on the pitch, his wife in the stands is blamed for her presence being a 'distraction.' When he took a paternity leave, he and his wife were lambasted for putting themselves before country. Even a note she wrote recently after Kohli decided to step down from Test captaincy evoked irritation from fans of the sport who were apparently disgruntled at Sharma's attempts to wade into the conversation.
This active hostility is part of a larger culture of the marginalisation of women from sport. So much so that even something as encouraging and humane as spousal support is dismissed as improper. But these are just fragile egos and biased mouths talking. In all walks of life, partners cheering for each other deserves to be celebrated.
Views expressed are the author's own.