In cricket and cinema, India’s spirit of unity - Hindustan Times
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In cricket and cinema, India’s spirit of unity

Nov 20, 2023 11:59 AM IST

One hopes that the vitality exhibited in sports, film, literature, and cultural endeavours will continue to reject negativity in times to come.

Despite the ban by the Supreme Court, the bursting of firecrackers went on till late on Diwali night in Delhi causing distress to environmentally conscious individuals. Their concerns were not baseless. Strong winds and mild rain two days before the festival of lights had dramatically decreased pollution levels in the city. People were happy but their happiness turned out to be fleeting. On Diwali night, their joy went away in the smoke and noise of firecrackers. They argued that if hazardous pollution affects everyone, why were firecrackers being turned into a religious issue? The social media debate over this subject was turning the holiday setting into an acrimonious space. Who knew that a miracle would occur the following week, silencing those preaching hatred and bad blood?

Shami’s journey this time around also was not without hurdles.(PTI) PREMIUM
Shami’s journey this time around also was not without hurdles.(PTI)

Yes, I am referring to cricket. On Wednesday, Mohammed Shami took seven wickets to ensure India’s victory over New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final at Mumbai. This is the same Shami who became the target of those spreading ideological pollution after a devastating defeat to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup two years ago. Shami was subjected to constant trolling back then. Some advised him to go to Pakistan, while others accused him of being a Pakistani agent.

At that point, bad luck had taken its toll on this player from Amroha, a little town in Uttar Pradesh. His estranged wife has been making numerous charges against him since 2018. Shami was so wrecked that he disclosed in an Instagram chat with captain Rohit Sharma in 2020 that he had even contemplated suicide following acute bouts of despair. This is why when the hatred that surfaced after the defeat to Pakistan began to follow him, he initially stayed silent. Later, he told those who caused the commotion: “Those who troll someone, they can neither be a true fan nor a true Indian!” “Attacking someone on the basis of their faith is the most sad thing as a human being,” then captain Virat Kohli stated at a press conference. “We completely support him. Team India’s brotherhood cannot be shaken,” Kohli said.

Shami’s journey this time around also was not without hurdles. Left out of Team India’s playing 11 at the beginning of the World Cup, he seized the opportunity that came when Hardik Pandya was injured. He has not looked back since. He played only seven matches in the tournament but has proven that he is a never-say-die player by taking a record 24 wickets. The way the entire country praised him after the New Zealand game most certainly brought him some solace.

The semifinal match not only gave us back our Shami but also provided a peek into Kohli’s newfound prowess. By scoring his 50th ODI century, he has surpassed the mark set by the ‘God of Cricket’, Sachin Tendulkar. Kohli represents the vitality and spirit of modern India. Today, at the age of 35, the vigour with which he plays should be regarded as a living example of the newfound spirit of Indians. When Sunil Gavaskar used to score centuries in our childhood and Tendulkar began to make tons in our youth, they were the great hope of a poor country. Kohli is a symbol of developing India’s fresh enthusiasm, looking healthier and fitter than in his youth. In contrast to past norms, when athletes retired at the age of 30 and ordinary people at the age of 50, this indicates a shift in the outlook of the new India, where the equation of age and productivity has changed totally.

If Virat Kohli is the brand ambassador of the New India, Mohammed Shami is the poster boy for Indian unity. Both of them demolished the job that the hatemongers had been working on for months in just a few hours.

This phenomenon is not limited to the game of cricket.

Indian cinema also embraces the timeless spirit of this Indianness. When the movie Pathaan was released earlier this year, an attempt was made to propagate a divisive agenda of communalism due to the religion of Shahrukh Khan. But the film’s enormous box office success proved that divisive techniques had no place in a nation that cherishes its cinema. Shahrukh Khan’s subsequent film, Jawan, surpassed Pathaan’s box office records. Meanwhile, Salman Khan’s Tiger 3, which debuted shortly before Diwali, is outperforming both of these films at the box office.

One hopes that the vitality exhibited in sports, film, literature, and cultural endeavours will continue to reject negativity in times to come.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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