BCCI’s Response to Hardik Pandya’s Sexist Remarks Doesn’t Solve the Real Problem
Cricket, our national pastime, is incredibly sexist — we know this. From the “exotic” foreign cheerleaders at the Indian Premier League matches, to the treatment of the terribly named WAGs (wives or girlfriends of cricketers), like Anushka Sharma who was blamed for India’s 2014 World Cup Semi-Finals loss, the ‘gentleman’s game’ has always supported its streak of misogyny.
If you need convincing, just look at the way we treat the women’s cricket team: Mithali Raj, the highest run-getter in the world in ODI cricket, was asked who her favorite Indian or Pakistani men’s cricketer was, in a press conference. “Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is?” she replied.
Considering this sexist history of the game, cricketer Hardik Pandya’s cringe-worthy comments on a recent Koffee With Karan episode don’t come as a surprise. On the show, he boasted about the number of women he’s hooked up with, whose names he doesn’t remember, of course. And when Karan Johar asked why Pandya didn’t ask women their names in a club, he responded, “I like to watch and observe how they (women) move. I’m (a) little from the black side so I need to see how they move,” cementing his status as That Creep in the club whom everyone knows to stay away from. But rather than pointing out the inherent sexism and racism in his statements, his teammate K.L. Rahul and Johar laughed along.
They drank their coffee, won their hamper, but when they went home, they were in for a rude awakening. Most of the internet, particularly women, were disgusted by Pandya’s statements and Johar and Rahul’s complicity, prompting a half-hearted apology from Pandya. In the spirit of the show, it seems, Pandya simply got carried away.
However, the most baffling thing about this fiasco is the response of the BCCI to the so-called ‘brat pack’ of the Indian cricket team. Both Pandya and Rahul were issued show cause notices for their comments. The Committee of Administrators chief Vinod Rai didn’t mince words, saying, “I am not convinced with Hardik’s explanation and I have recommended a two-match ban for both players.” In addition to the ban, a source from the BCCI told PTI, “It will be considered whether players should even be allowed to appear on such shows which have got nothing to do with cricket.”
So, it seems like the BCCI’s solution to players’ bad behavior in front of the press, is to simply remove them from the public eye temporarily. But Pandya’s statements on the show were simply symptoms of a larger, more pervasive issue. It was the kind of locker room talk that gets a pass everywhere, except this time it happened to be on national television. Slapping players on the wrist with a two-game ban, and attempting to prevent them from putting their foot in their mouth is not a long-term plan to combat the problem of sexism in the sport.
If Rai and others at the BCCI were so offended by Pandya’s statements, which were deemed “crass and cringeworthy,” then they need to come up with a way to tackle this issue, not just a knee-jerk reaction of temporarily punishing players like they’re school children.
Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle pointed out the very real need for players to be sensitized about these issues, stating,
It is all very well to issue show-cause notices now to KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya. But I do wish the BCCI spends time in sensitising these young players to life beyond the dressing room; to getting them outside the bubble that is inevitable given the adulation they get.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 9, 2019
The work of undoing our culture of toxic masculinity, especially within its traditional bastion: sport, is not going to be completed quickly or easily. But we have to begin to unlearn the ways we talk about and act around women, to start changing the way we think about them. The BCCI needs to communicate to these players that they really don’t have to prove themselves by being players. Instead they need gender sensitizing and training to know that misogynistic behavior is never acceptable — whether it’s happening in the public eye or out of it.