The thunderous roars from the stands upstairs couldn’t break Hardik Pandya’s depression as he sat in the locker room of Sydney Cricket Ground with his phone hanging in his hand. He read and re-read Gillette’s suspension mail and was reflecting on the last few days that changed his life forever.
While the extent of his exile from the team wasn’t decided yet, the management had informed him that they had hired a person who would attain to his problem and possibly “educate” him. Of course, Pandya was oblivious to the debate that had ensued between the top officials after the decision was initially taken.
With a golden generation of players like Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, and Anil Kumble, carrying the pride of the Indian team on their shoulders both and on and off the field, the thought of educating their cricketers to speak at public forums was the last thought that had come to the BCCI. Hence, when calamity struck last week, the board and COA were desperate to get it right and started finding the person to teach the players some etiquette.
When asked about suggestions, Rahul Johri had suggested Shashi Tharoor for the job, while Diana Edulji was convinced Tanushree Dutta was the ideal person. Vinod Rai, however, was quick to realize that both his colleagues wanted to “educate” the Indian team in their own ways and eventually, Rai appointed "Mr. Smith", who had previously worked as an image consultant with some celebrities.
Mr. Smith entered the locker room with KL Rahul explaining him things in an animated fashion when they saw a depressed Pandya sitting in a corner. Upon seeing Smith, Pandya was quick to get up, set his disheveled hair, straighten his collar and stretched his hand saying “Hey Mark” in his fake accent.
With a gentle smile, Mark shook his hand and said, “Don’t. You’ve made a mistake and are in a bad place. There’s no need to show you’re cool. That is where all this problem began.”
Rahul and Pandya were taken into a separate room with a familiar looking velvet couch, which has been a constant image in Pandya’s nightmare of late. Those episodes were further compounded by Karan Johar’s crass loud laugh in Pandya’s dreams’ playing as the background score. Pandya took his time to phase out of it when he realized Mr. Smith was asking him to take the seat.
“So, the biggest problem with whatever has happened… I think, is not what you say but how you say it. I would want to explain to you where you went wrong,” said Mark as he took out his tablet to read out Pandya’s statements.
Before Pandya could grasp what was going on, Rahul shouted, “Please don’t say you have a Google Home now. I don’t want to relive that evening again. I did absolutely nothing!”
After a close observation of Rahul panicking, Mark said, “Your fault was way more than Pandya. Both of you reflected your on-field nature in the show, as I see it. While Pandya was adventurous and relentless, you were technical and crafty. But, Pandya took his role seriously, and you just chickened out halfway. Your job was to do as much damage control as possible.”
Rahul became mum like a student castigated by his teacher in front of the whole class, as Mark turned towards Pandya and continued, “So, one of your statements were, ‘I like to watch and observe how they move. I'm little from the Black side so I need to see how they move.’ What do you think is wrong with this statement?”
“I think I spoke my heart out. I mean, I do watch women dancing for long before I would go up and speak to them. How am I wrong here?” a clueless Pandya asked.
Mark, with a smile on his face hinting that he has caught the problem right, said, “No matter how you think no human being likes to be thought of as a commodity with body parts meant to be an entertaining display. So, you could say something like, “Spending time with my Caribbean brothers, I have picked up few elements of their culture. They all like courting free spirited women and I feel I look for something similar at night clubs.”
A wide-eyed Pandya kept staring at Mark with his mouth opening for a gibberish, “What?”
Smiling slightly, Mark said, “It’s a slow process, takes time to have a grasp. For now, just try to treat everyone with respect. It will be a long progress.”
“Your next comment was you struggle remembering names of the women you interact during such parties and I completely understand that,” Mark continued, “We don’t generally remain the main attraction in parties and but for a celebrity, it is very much possible. Nothing wrong in that, although a bit pompous to be honest, but you’re allowed to be that.”
“I know, right!” shouted Pandya, “See, I am a party person and an expressive one. I didn’t feel I was demeaning anyone with my opinions.”
Rahul, who was sitting quietly so long, got a bit irritated by Pandya’s innocence and said, “What about your comment on taking women home. Mark, please rephrase his answer to that one. I want to know.”
Mark recited Pandya’s statement, “Nahi nahi aisa kuch nahi hai, talent pe hota hai. Jisko mila woh leke jao (Nothing like that, it's about talent, whoever gets them, takes them).”
It was followed by an awkward silence with Mark eventually saying, “I’m appalled at how you blurt out something like that and be ignorant about it.
"You could have started with," Mark continued, “We all have our different ways of charming women. I’m sure Rahul is a charmer too. But, if we are to hit on the same woman, it would always be up to the woman to choose, if she wants to. It’s her choice after all.”
“Women all over the world are fighting for choice. How can you not f***ng know that,” said an exhausted looking Mark and then turning to Rahul, who by now, had a clearer idea of what his role was that fateful evening.
Mark broke the silence by turning his attention to Pandya’s other comments about his family. Mark felt Pandya’s progressive family was really the only good thing about the interview. “You’re lucky to have parents who are not embarrassed to talk about sex with you, and you have managed to put them in a bad light. But, I won’t tell you how you should have answered all those questions. You figure that yourself. Anyway, it was a good session and we hope you will be more enlightened the next time. Time is running out and you will be confronting reporters sooner rather than later. So, grasp it fast.”
Mark got up and came across India team coach Ravi Shastri, who had just come to the hallway after the Indian team had lost the 1st ODI. Upon seeing him Shastri said, “How’re the boys learning? I really could have taught them English myself and these petty things myself. But, I am really busy here.”
An irritated Mark said, “Yeah, busy finding the tracer bullet that was blown away by the wind in the southern hemisphere,” and left the stadium before the players poured in.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi