While the Indian team was being crushed by Australia in their World Cup semi-final on Thursday, the real disaster was unfolding on Twitter. The Men in Blue exited with their heads held high, but trolling on social media brought us down in shame with a vitriolic, rarely funny, cringe inducing attack on Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma, for absolutely nothing.
Jokes on performances are usual, often funny and harmless even though some border on obnoxious, but to pathologically go after two people in a relationship for no apparent but that is ridiculous.
We call ourselves a cricket crazy country, discussing line and length on every street corner, yet it amazes me how little we know about the game. To suggest a woman's presence in the same city, the same stadium, the same hotel is all it takes to ruin a batsman's form, is laughable.
The entire issue of WAGS in itself is sexist and misunderstood in this male dominated sporting world. Even if you can gulp down the glamour quotient, it's demeaning when it becomes attached to form. Even in England, which popularized this culture, it was never about performance. I have debated this at length with many coaches and sportspersons. Some do inforce a no-wags policy to ensure discipline, to distinguish you are working and at an important tournament. But even these coaches don't feel it has much to do with performance.
Every coach and team has its own style. But there is nothing scientific behind it. Teams which bar partners don't perform better than those that allow them. I just wonder how we got warped into an idea that being away from your loved ones is actually better for you! If sport is mental too that can't possibly be true.
Men should find it demeaning themselves as this paints them as idiots who have no control over their mind and body. Or is it because most don't? Do we really think male athletes can't handle their personal and professional lives as such? To be constantly reminded that women are only tools of distraction is depressing.
But if I had a dime for every time someone suggests Virat couldn't score better because of Anushka, I would have hired a private jet and taken all WAGS to a vacation on a private island. While we had fun, all men could perform at their optimum level and sport would be filled with only heroes. Every team would win and there would be no losers.
Even the trollers know what they are saying makes no real sense but it's fun. It satisfies our urge to mock someone in celebrity. It shows they know something, that Virat and Anushka are in fact in a relationship, and that they have an opinion about it. Or that they are cool enough to know people are making fun of it. But every comment becomes a hammer that reinforces a stereotype.
Most are intelligent educated people too. It's almost similar to "guy talk" about women behind their backs, only this is not around the water cooler in office. Simply put, its repulsive. And no it is not "harmless".
Sania Mirza, herself often crucified by people defying all logic, was one of many who came out in support of the couple. Talking about her tweet in defence of Anushka, she says: "To blame a woman when her partner has an off day on the field and she is sitting there as a spectator, is downright disrespectful and silly and the only reason for the abuse appears to be her being a celebrity. Wonder why she doesn't get praised when Virat scores a hundred? As an athlete I understand the pressures that we play with especially on a stage as big as the Cricket World Cup. So, believe you me there is no one who feels more pain than sportspersons themselves after a loss like that. To open the newspaper and social media sites and to see abuse really does not help our states of mind. So instead of bringing them down, we as a country should appreciate the efforts that our team put in."