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The Good, Bad & the Ugly ft. Colin Kaepernick, Ravi Shastri and Divya Kakran

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The Good, Bad & the Ugly ft. Colin Kaepernick, Ravi Shastri and Divya Kakran

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Subhayan Dutta

09/09/2018

With Asian Games ending and India series against England all but over, the last seven days offered a lot in all the three aspects of the game. From Divya Kakran slamming the government to Nike's historic ad with Colin Kaepernick, this edition of Good, Bad & Ugly gave us a lot to reflect upon.

The Good

Athletes coming from humble backgrounds to achieve greatness in sports have been a part of India’s folklore even before independence. But, thanks to media, the “freedom of speech” is getting a new meaning in the 21st century that athletes are not living at the mercy of the federations or the ruling party today. The latest example of that was Indian wrestler Divya Kakran, who won a bronze medal in women’s 68 kg freestyle at the recently concluded Asian Games and was invited by the government at the Delhi Secretariat. 

However, things escalated quickly. While Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had thought it would remain a good gesture in front of the cameras on his part where the state government would be seen acknowledging the heroes returned from Jakarta, the girl from Haryana spit venom at the secretariat table. Kakran raised issues that were known to all but none thought would be hurled at the CM in public. She elaborated how the state promised to help her with all her requirements after her Commonwealth Games success earlier this year and then bailed out just before the Asian Games. 

In the video clip, the Delhi CM was seen patiently hearing the 20-year-old. Athletes, so far, have always been grateful towards the government (at least in public) for letting them represent the country and standing for the wrongdoings have rarely been an occurrence in Indian sports. Hope, this is a sign of things to come.

The Asiad 2018 was an enormous success for India mainly from one aspect - not only was this their best outing in the tournament’s history with a tally of 69 medals, but they did it in front of the people back home. India, as a nation, has hardly lionized the non-cricketing athletes let alone putting them on a heroic pedestal, until now. The fact that the likes of Dutee Chand, Hima Das, Manjit Singh, and more are becoming a household name now could inspire many to follow the same path.

According to a report in HT, the Asian Games recorded a viewership of a whopping 112 million over its two weeks at an average viewership of eight million per day as per official broadcaster Sony, which was more than FIFA World Cup and Wimbledon 2018 viewership. The Asian Games were significantly lower at 40.9 million and 32.6 million in 2014 and 2010, respectively and the daily viewership for the quadrennial showpiece increased threefold since 2014 from 2.6 million to 8 million. Amongst the most viewed events were athletics (38.1 million), badminton (29.2 million), and wrestling (27.4 million).

When your countrymen are more invested in a tournament that lacks names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, you know you’re doing something right.

Bad

Indian team has come under immense criticism over the last week after they conceded the Test series in Southampton. Team selection has been a constant flaw in the management’s decision making in the series so far, and when one thought that losing the series might have changed their thought process, they came up with the shocking exclusion of Karun Nair. Following Hardik Pandya’s underwhelming performances with the bat in the first four matches, what India needed was another batsman in the starting eleven, but Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri chose to go with an inexperienced all-rounder in the Andhra cricketer, Hanuma Vihari.

Nair came into the limelight with a triple century in the longest format against England two years back, where he had remained unbeaten. Being India’s first choice, the Karnataka-batsman has an average of 62.33 in six Test matches, while Vihari came into the side by virtue of his terrific first-class average of 59.79 from 63 games. And no matter how inconsequential the fifth Test would be, these abrupt selections have shot players’ confidence down for long now. Hence, as Sunil Gavaskar stated yesterday, “Karun Nair has every right to ask the team management why he is not in the team. He deserves an answer. You didn’t pick an extra specialist batsman earlier, but now that you have, Karun Nair deserves an answer.”

Though the ruling governments of the various states might not have left any stones unturned to welcome their respective Asian Games heroes, the real question was if it really changed anything. Felicitating athletes following their recent success and then leaving them to dry has been a common phenomenon in India. And while one must think it is normal for an athlete to earn a hero stature after finishing in the top three ranks in a continent as big as Asia, Sepaktakraw athlete Harish Kumar just showed how far away are we from normalcy.

A clip went viral on Friday that saw the player from New Delhi returning to his regular day job of helping his father in the tea shop. After his 14-day dream in Jakarta ended with his team eventually winning the bronze medal, reality has crept in for the youngster yet again. He revealed that he practices for four hours a day with the rest of the time being dedicated to help his family financially. While Harish assured he still dreams to bring more laurels for his country, we aren’t sure how that would be possible if the government keeps turning a blind eye towards them.   

Ugly

There has been a storm brewing between Sourav Ganguly and Ravi Shastri for over a year now. The former captains had lashed out at each other prior to Anil Kumble’s stint especially after the member of Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) Ganguly was absent from Shastri’s interview for the head coach’s position. Kumble became the coach in early 2017 and Shastri had felt disrespected by the way it was handled but he had to gulp it down anyway. Ganguly 1-0 Shastri. However, Kumble’s stint didn’t last long and following the infamous players' protest, he was forced to step down with BCCI turning to Shastri for the position. Ganguly 1-1 Shastri.

However, every empire must perish and every era must come to an end. After some glorious months of cricket at home, the Indian team has faltered again, proving that they have hardly progressed away from home, where it really mattered. And Ganguly wasn’t letting this chance go. When asked why Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan weren’t appointed as India’s batting and bowling coach with Shastri, in an interview with India TV, Ganguly revealed that they had meetings with Shastri and it was the latter’s responsibility to do so that he failed. His feedback was also asked after Shastri claimed this Indian team was the best in the last 15 years, to which Ganguly labeled him as “immature”. Like the BCCI and COA fiasco, this feud has also diverted from its sole purpose, the welfare of the cricket team.

Our last one is pretty much the biggest of them all this week, at least as far as its reach and relativity is concerned, and it came from the other side of the Atlantic. For its 30th anniversary, Nike needed something that would break the internet and they knew exactly how to do it. They took help from the current child of controversy, Colin Kaepernick, who has divided the USA into two with his refusal to stand for the national anthem following the recent ruthless law enforcement against black people in America. The tagline - “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” - properly fitted Colin’s cause who had to sacrifice his NFL career after he protested.

In this age of social media, where even the CCTV footage from rural parts of Taos doesn’t go unnoticed, it is difficult to form a wrong opinion as more often than not, people have most facts at their disposal to analyze. And Nike did exactly that even after the US President Donald Trump felt the need to get involved in it and criticize the player. However, while it showed heart and progressivism on part of the 30-year-old sports giant, the way it panned out in the social media was pathetic. It took the trolls seconds to come up with memes on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook trying to defeat the very purpose and the social message of the campaign. Some even took to Twitter to film themselves burning Nike gears as a sign of protest. Though it didn’t deter Nike’s sales which, on the other hand, saw a spike, the way it panned out was a bad example and sheer discouragement for any entity willing to go down the same path in future.

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