By Kahini Iyer Jan. 07, 2019
There’s no denying that the old relationship between cricket and courteousness had become archaic. But after the latest Koffee with Karan episode, which featured Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul on the couch, it might have finally died for good.
t seems like a long long time ago when Rahul Dravid was the face of the gentleman’s game. The Indian team went through the Dhoni age – focused on athleticism, runmaking, and fearsome fielding – and the technical perfection of Dravid and the politeness of Sachin Tendulkar is now a tale of another era. Post Dhoni, came a skipper who didn’t hesitate to flick his middle finger and many purists cried that cricket etiquette would never be the same.
It’s the time of Virat Kohli and his brash young Indian squad, known as much for their sledging as for their historic victory in Australia, and there’s no denying that the old relationship between cricket and courteousness has become archaic. But after the latest Koffee with Karan episode, which featured Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul on the couch, it might have finally died for good.
The KWK episode sparked outrage over Pandya’s tone-deaf remarks about women, and was presumably shot when both cricketers were in better form than they are now – definitely before the series Down Under where Pandya’s biggest contribution were his dance moves and KL Rahul struggled to reach a double-digit score. Why else would they make the cut to grace KJO’s coveted couch?
The show started with Karan Johar introducing them as “two young, talented, brat-pack cricketers,” and after the initial talk about how Pandya, the bigger personality by far, is an attention-seeking diva who likes to emulate “West Indian and Black culture,” the conversation quickly veered towards relationships in typical Koffee with Karan style. When asked about the many women in his life, Pandya replied that there was a distinction between seeing, dating, and being in a relationship. This would prove to be his most innocuous perspective on women throughout the episode.
Harder to swallow was his “close friend” Rahul’s account of how frequently Pandya forgets the names of women he is chatting up at clubs. According to Pandya, there is “so much to talk man, so how can I remember the name”. He even goes on to brag about using the same messages and pick-up lines (notably, a sophisticated pun on his name, “hard dick always”) for multiple women, to the point where they implore Rahul to stop him.
Pandya says he prefers to “observe” women dancing at clubs – a fetish he attributes to his “black side” and his affinity for West Indian culture. He talks about a party where his mom and dad ask him which girls he is dating, and he points each one out, as if showing off his shiny new trophies. The anecdote might be an attempt to illustrate how cool his family is, and how he, by extension, is equally chill, but dear Mr Pandya, this is nothing but outright misogynistic behaviour.
With this potent cocktail of racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity, Pandya has achieved much in very few words. He excused his own objectification of women by chalking it up to being a black man (which, no matter how many Black Panther memes he inspires, he is not). He stigmatises all black men as being creepy and voyeuristic. And he talks about women not as people who are worthy of meaningful interactions, or even basic respect, but as prizes to be won.
Rahul, meanwhile, is recognisable as the guy who knows better, and who explicitly describes Pandya in less-than-favourable terms, but who still adheres to the bro code of silence. He does not condone Pandya’s behaviour but in fact doubles up as his wingman, often playing the nice guy.
When Johar asked what happens if both friends like the same girl, Rahul said it was up to her. Pandya, however, immediately countered the idea that a woman can make her own choices with his hot take, which boiled down to “joh jeeta wohi sikander”. While this entitled attitude was consistent throughout the episode, it was more unsettling to see Rahul and Johar laughing along with Pandya’s blatant sexism. The closest Rahul came to censuring his friend was a tasteless joke, where he claimed he was more likely of the two to be distracted by cheerleaders because Pandya has already been with them all.
In 2019, following a year fraught with #MeToo stories, it’s disappointing to see two of India’s young cricketers – both social media celebs – boast about their sexual exploits and indulge in casual sexism. There’s no excuse to be made for Pandya and Rahul, role model to millions of young boys and girls, but what’s sad is that they probably do not even realise how wrong a precedent they are setting.
With this potent cocktail of racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity, Pandya has achieved much in very few words.
The only thing Pandya did correctly was not naming the women he has been linked with – but then perhaps he did not remember any. And his much-maligned comment about telling his parents when he first had sex was followed up with some sound advice on safe, age-appropriate sex. But there is nothing appropriate about Pandya treating women as conquests or career stats, whether he’s doing it on national TV, or behind closed doors in the locker room.