by Dipankar Lahiri
“Rahul Dravid was right when he declared that day,” a fan replied to batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, “I loved you more than Dhoni, but today you have lost a fan and thousands from Punjab and Haryana,” was another. A torrent of similar tweets — accusing Tendulkar of having taken a pro-government stance on the farm bills issue — were made in reply to the Master Blaster’s tweet earlier this week.
The flak was unprecedented for Tendulkar, a cricketing icon who has always chosen to stay away from any political controversy.
On the other end of the spectrum were the likes ofRohit sharma whose tweet on the same issue departed from the script in leaving out the hashtag ‘India against Propaganda’ and not alluding to ‘internal affairs’ and ‘external forces’; and sandeep sharma whose take on the phrase internal affairs was objectionable enough for it to be later deleted.
Seldom has India’s cricket fraternity been at such odds in the public eye. This social media war was being fought against personalities with multi-million followers — music icon Rihanna, teen climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, media personality and former adult film star Mia Khalifa and the like.
All the big cannons needed to be brought out. Thus, Sachin Tendulkar.
One of the first replies that came in was an image of Tendulkar and Gary Kirsten, the South African coach, being carried around in a victory lap after the 2011 World Cup triumph, the words ‘external forces’ being highlighted along with the image.
“What a heartbreak, especially when the God had to tweet under political pressure. So farmers sitting in bitter cold for two months are not Indians?” was another reply.
The heartbreak was evident. Especially because Tendulkar, like most of the cricket fraternity, had not spoken about the farmers’ protests before this week, even as the death toll from the agitation has been steadily rising in the past couple of months.
That Tendulkar’s tweet came hours after the Ministry of External Affairs’ strongly worded statement retorting to “international personalities” like Rihanna — was also a reason for the sense of betrayal that some fans felt.
Cricketers from Punjab, like Mandeep Singh who had himself Visted the Singhu protest site, had been speaking about the matter for the past few months, but it needed a tweet from Rihanna for Tendulkar to respond to the situation. ( Indian Express )