England in India

Cheteshwar Pujara is too much of a nice guy and that’s a problem

It is high time the Indian team comes to terms with how much Pujara can offer and stop taking him for granted.

India’s second innings, 16.4 overs: Murali Vijay looks away as Cheteshwar Pujara is rapped on the pads bang in front of the stumps. What Vijay, Pujara and even the umpire do not notice is where the ball pitched. The decision is not referred. Pujara is out.

India’s score reads 47/2. India’s coach, Anil Kumble is furious. He continues to be furious as Pujara walks back into the dressing room. Damn. The ball was pitching outside leg. Had it been referred, Pujara would have been not out. What was he thinking? Was he thinking? But Pujara is too much of a nice guy. Commentator Sanjay Manjrekar says so on air in as many words.

Different standards for different players  

A telling comment. Already, Pujara had used one referral in the first innings. Was that on his mind? But he did not really use it, did he? Or there was still the captain and his deputy to follow, surely the referrals were for them?

Does Pujara not remember that, because of his referral in the first innings, he went on to score his first Test century on his home ground?

England’s second innings, 4.1 overs: Mohammad Shami digs one in short, Alastair Cook pulls, Pujara runs in from the boundary, dives but fails to catch the ball. India’s captain, Virat Kohli is furious.

Now there is a clear hierarchy in the world – who you can afford to be furious with and whom you dare not raise even an eyebrow at. And definitely not on a cricket ground in an international match in front of the cameras. Previously, Pujara had torn the anterior cruciate ligament of both his knees. He has had two ACL reconstruction surgeries. Surely Kohli is aware of Pujara’s dodgy knees. Surely he will give this man more leeway in the field?

Does not India’s No. 3 in Tests with a batting average of 49.95 warrant that much? Kohli’s batting average is 46.11, his deputy, Rahane’s 49.40. Kohli has 13 centuries, Rahane has eight and Pujara nine. This is the present, and if sense and fitness prevails, the future. What was Kohli’s reaction when Rahane spilled a sitter on the third ball of the first innings? That was Cook too. What if it had not been India’s best fielder? What if Pujara had dropped Cook on the third ball?

Pujara and Vijay deserve better  

Just as there has been talk of Kohli empowering his quiet wicket-keeper, Wriddhiman Saha, the team management should look to empower Pujara. The non-referral may be a stray case, but dropping him recently, tossing the batting order around, and leaning towards a lower middle order batsman in the place of your main man at three has shown poor judgement.

Then there has been the infinite talk of Pujara’s low strike rate. Through 2014-‘15, his toughest years yet, his strike rate had dropped. Digging in against the new ball along with Murali Vijay in England and Australia has been largely a thankless job. Playing out the new ball has gone largely unappreciated. Both batsman were dropped from the team.

Both batsmen scored hundreds in the first innings at Rajkot. And what about their strike rates?

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Neither Pujara, nor Vijay are One-Day International regulars. Both players would be aware of how tough it is to keep playing Test cricket when you do not play the shorter formats.

It is a long Test season ahead, four more Tests against England, followed by Bangladesh and Australia. How much does India want from Pujara and Vijay? A little more respect in selection could go a long, long way.

The Rajkot Test appears to have been saved by the Kohli-Jadeja partnership. But we should know better, up against 537, was it not these two guys who batted 297 minutes, 67 overs, adding 209 runs together that made that last stand even possible?

Recently, Pujara added a new shot to his repertoire: the selfie. Like most Indian cricketers, he too is starting to have more of a presence on social media. Now it is up to Kumble and Kohli to give him more of a presence, period. What more do they want from Pujara? He may be too much of a nice guy, but he also has a shrewd cricketing brain, leading India A, batting with the tail, holding his bat – why not tap some of the smarts? Who knows, maybe the vice captaincy beckons.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.