It is one of the toughest things in life - how to handle success. More people might fail at this than anything else in life (provided of course they succeed in some others). It can be doubly harder for a sports person. Competitiveness is the hallmark of sports and athletes. They would be nothing without it. The world celebrates this trait. And often, this itself can become a problem.
The recent spate of attacks on the Indian cricket team in Bangladesh is a reflection of their growing confidence. For many years regarded as a big brother, India is now suffering a backlash of sorts.
The young, rising Bangla Tigers have managed three series wins at home in ODIs, whitewashing two of them. Today, they can now boast of a much more reliable batting order and most importantly, pacers that can rattle some of the best players in the world, even in subcontinental conditions.
While there were glimpses of this brashness on the field, what with their regular jigs after taking wickets, nothing quite compares to this ad in a Bangladeshi paper defacing Indian players with their heads half-shaven and Mustafizur Rahman endorsing a new brand of cutter (signifying his off-cutters). Did this cross the unspoken line of decency and respect?
Umpires were blamed for their loss in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals. Former Bangladesh Cricket Board president and then ICC president Mustafa Kamal had a public spat with the ICC chairman N Srinivasan over World Cup trophy presentation which led to more bad blood. "Mauka Mauka" ads were parodied after India lost in the semi-finals.
Even before the bilateral series began, an advertisement mocked the visiting Indian team with being "bambooed" when they arrive. A regular presence at India matches, super fan Sudhir Gautam was taunted and harassed by unruly fans in Dhaka after the team clinched the series. The mood was definitely not with India here.
MS Dhoni shoving Mustafizur in the first ODI certainly didn't help matters. As a result, no chance to rub in the fact that Bangladesh, our "bachcha" neighbours, beat India has been missed. So far, it was alright. But this mock ad takes it too far.
While Bangladesh's performance was lauded in India, especially Mustafizur's who picked up 13 wickets in three matches, one wonders if fans in Bangladesh have failed to show the same respect to the Indian team.
Their recent results are impressive and as it ever so happens in sports, powerful enough to galvanise an entire country. But have they failed to handle their recent success with dignity?
So where does rivalry end and tackiness begin? When does jingoism become disrespect?
In the classic Ashes battle, English and Australian players attack each other routinely. Their fans mock the other side before, during and after matches. India and Pakistan have shared a tumultuous relationship too. TV screens are broken every time India has beaten Pakistan in world cups. Yet in every India versus Pakistan match, every Ashes, is a celebration more than just a battle. A celebration of sport.
There is an element of excitement in on-field sledging between players, verbal duels in the heat of play, but nothing leaves as bad a taste in your mouth as when players are directly targeted like in this ad. While players mocking each other adds to folklore, taking that confidence onto the streets to vent anger becomes a problem. An underdog causing an upset is not a story that needs any pushing. It is intrinsically the one thing that makes sports endearing. When India beat West Indies to lift the World Cup in 1983, it wasn't about mocking the Caribbean greats but about celebrating the rise of a new India. Bangladesh beating India in a bilateral series surely doesn't need to be about defacing Indian team but celebrating the home team's coming of age. There is grace in that.
Sport is also about heart and respect for your opponent. How a Rafael Nadal consoles Roger Federer when the latter breaks down after a crushing loss in the grand slam final. How Andrew Flintoff gives a hand to the opposition's Brett Lee after winning a historic Ashes Test against his team.
Sports is about sportsmanship, both in losses and wins. All athletes want and deserve a theatre of dreams, not a theatre of the obscene. The makers of this ad have embarrassed both of the teams' players.
Some might suggest the ad is only a clever spin, take it as humour. Others might say it stings only because it's India on the receiving end. After all, Indian broadcasters made ads on Pakistan and Bangladesh as well. That's hardly accurate or even a fitting argument. In none of those ads were players taunted directly.
I also find attempts to cast India-Bangladesh as a building rivalry, funny. Rivalry is not just about how you feel about the opposition, it is also about how you play against a competitor. It is not just about anger, abuse or mock alone, but a result of years of thrilling battles on the field. When it comes to India and Bangladesh in ODIs, there is still time.