A vicious troll attack on Muhammed Shami after India’s 10-wicket defeat to Pakistan in the ICC T20 World Cup on Sunday has prompted an army of prominent personalities to take to social media in support of the cricketer.
Many said the incident rendered the Indian team’s decision to take the knee before the match in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement pointless
“#MohammedShami was one of 11 players who lost last night, he wasn’t the only player on the field. Team India, your BLM knee taking counts for nothing if you can’t stand up for your team mate who is being horribly abused & trolled on social media,” tweeted National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.
Others who spoke out in support of the Indian pacer include former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, current cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal, and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
“When we support Team India, we support every person who represents Team India,” Tendulkar wrote on Twitter. “Mohammed Shami is a committed, world-class bowler. He had an off day like any other sports person can have. I stand behind Shami & Team India.”
Virender Sehwag tweeted, “The online attack on Mohammad Shami is shocking and we stand by him. He is a champion and Anyone who wears the India cap has India in their hearts far more than any online mob. With you Shami. Agle match mein dikado jalwa.
Shami, the only Muslim player in the Indian playing XI in Sunday’s match, was mercilessly trolled on social media after the match with derogatory and hateful comments.
Meanwhile, many netizens and some experts termed the Indian team’s decision to take the knee before the match absurd.
Indian captain Virat Kohli in a post-match conference clarified that the gesture was guided by a communication from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). “That was communicated to us by the management,” he said. “The Pakistan team agreed to pay their tribute towards the same cause, and then we accepted our side of things as well.”
Prathap Suthan, cofounder of advertising agency Bang In The Middle, said well over three-fourths of the people who watched the match had no idea about the gesture of taking a knee.
However, he added, BLM has been a large movement. “In the global context, racism continues to stay a relevant issue. So, if the Indian team flags the issue, it remains relevant,” Suthan said.
Sandeep Goyal, veteran ad man and managing director of Rediffusion, however, said, “Symbolic gestures, including protests, need to have a clearly defined purpose. You cannot be taking the knee – leaving millions perplexed about what you are protesting about or support. The obscurity of the purpose and its complete irrelevance to India made it completely laughable.”
He said the subsequent drubbing in the match amplified the theatrics. “After the match, India were truly on their knees! Perhaps they had had a premonition,” Goyal said.
It is learnt that the International Cricket Council (ICC) had asked all its member boards to show solidarity against discrimination of all kinds. BCCI communicated to the team about BLM.
“Racism is a social cause, it’s a global movement and let me add that Asians too face racism at some levels,” said Neerav Tomar, MD of IOS Sports & Entertainment, which represents Olympic medallists Mirabai Chanu and Lovlina Borgohain as well as women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal. “So, sports persons amplifying the cause is important. Having said that, sports persons generally try not to engage with political issues which are some of the challenges India is facing.”
Many netizens commented on social media that team India taking the knee was completely disconnected from the Indian reality.