Sunil Gavaskar was embroiled in controversy after quotes about Virat Kohli’s form went viral on social media for the mention of his wife Anushka Sharma during the Indian Premier League match on Thursday.
Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli had a forgettable outing against Kings XI Punjab in Dubai where he dropped two catches that proved costly and later, got out for just one run in the chase.
Overnight on Twitter, comments attributed to Gavaskar went viral which evoked a response from Bollywood actor Sharma, who is also in the United Arab Emirates with the Indian captain.
The comments, seemingly lost in translation, has lead to the actor responding with a firm rebuke on her Instagram page.
“That, Mr Gavaskar, your message was distasteful is a fact but I would love for you to explain why you thought of making such a sweeping statement on a wife accusing her for her husband’s game?,” she wrote.
Update: Gavaskar has since responded to this, denying there were any sexist comments made by him (more on that at the end of the article).
But were the comments that went viral, really worthy of outrage?
The former India captain, while on air doing Hindi commentary, alluded to Kohli’s poor returns being the result of lack of practice. He mentioned a video of the couple playing cricket on their balcony during the lockdown in India, saying that that those were the only deliveries Kohli seems to have faced as practice.
This is the exact translation of what Gavaskar said when Kohli came out to bat: “[Kohli] knows he will improve based on the way he practices. During the lockdown, he practiced only against Anushka’s bowling. We all saw the video. That wouldn’t help at all.”
The Hindi sentence was seemingly twisted somewhere along the way.
A report on Filmfare regarding Sharma’s statement carries this line: “While doing commentary Gavaskar made a comment saying, “Inhone lockdown me to bas Anushka ki gendon ki practice ki hai.’ The comment was distasteful as he dragged even Anushka Sharma’s name into it..”
What Gavaskar seems to be referring to, was a video that went viral during lockdown and even featured repeatedly on Indian cricket team’s official broadcaster Star Sports. Kohli was seen playing cricket with Sharma in their housing complex in Mumbai. While the video itself was criticised on social media back then for being a violation of privacy, the powers that be saw that as a clip that showed the Indian captain’s love for the game and perhaps fairly so.
It is evident that Gavaskar was referring to this video to make a point that Kohli has not played real cricket during the lockdown, something even the Indian captain had alluded to.
Kohli had revealed that he was scared before Royal Challengers Bangalore’s first training session in the UAE as the cricketers returned to the field after a five-month coronavirus-enforced hiatus.
“Much better than expected, to be honest, I was pretty scared, haven’t picked up a bat in the last five months but yeah, it just came out better than I expected,” Kohli was quoted as saying in a video posted on RCB’s Twitter handle.
However, on social media, a translated/transliterated version of this has gone viral, with the word ‘bowling’ seemingly replaced by something unsavoury in Hindi. It cannot be confirmed if Sharma was responding to the viral misquoted remarks or if she took offence to what Gavaskar is heard saying on air.
But, taking Gavaskar’s quotes on face value, it was seemingly a casual reference to the video above without any crass motives attached to it.
Sharma, in the past, has called out the trolls who target her when India or Kohli perform below par. The toxic nature of such criticism has rightly been criticised by Kohli as well. But much like the Kieron Pollard-Sanjay Manjrekar controversy, this seems to be another case of misunderstanding due to comments lost in translation.
Later on Friday, Gavaskar responded to the criticism he has faced and explained that his words have been taken out of context, reported PTI.
“Firstly, I would like to say, where am I blaming her, I’m not blaming her. I am only saying that the video showed she was bowling to Virat. Virat has only played that much bowling in this lockdown period,” Gavaskar told India Today.
“It is tennis ball fun game that people have to pass time during the lockdown, so that’s all, so where am I blaming her for Virat’s failures.
“I’m the one who has always batted for wives going with husbands on tours. I am the one who has always said that like a normal guy going to office for a 9-5 job, when he comes back home, he comes back to his wife, similarly why can’t cricketers have their wives with them,” Gavaskar said.
He also tried to explain his comment.
“As you can hear from the commentary, Aakash was talking about the fact there has been very little chance for any proper practice in the lockdown, for everybody...
“.....that has actually shown in rustiness of some of the players in their first matches. Rohit (Sharma) didn’t strike the ball well, now in the second match he has got runs, MSD (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) didn’t strike the ball well in the first match.
“.....Anushka was bowling to him, so that’s what I said, that’s the only bowling, I have not used any other word. She was bowling to him, that’s all, where am I blaming her, where I am being sexist in this.
“I’m just only stating what was seen on the video which was maybe recorded by somebody in the neighbouring buildings and put up and that’s the only thing I’m doing, but the point I’m making trying to make is that there was no practice for anybody including Virat in the lockdown. I have not been sexist, if somebody has interpreted it, what can I do,” Gavaskar said.