Cricketers cause controversy on “Koffee with Karan”

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Cricket players Hardik Pandya (left, pictured in 2015) and KL Rahul (right) were interviewed on a recent episode of “Koffee with Karan.”

BY SHLOKA GIDWANI ’22

“Koffee with Karan,” hosted by famous Bollywood director and producer Karan Johar, is the longest running talk show in India. Every week, Johar interviews famous personalities including Bollywood actors, filmmakers and sports stars. The interviews, casual conversations about celebrities’ personal, professional and romantic lives, are always conducted over a cup of coffee.

“Koffee with Karan” was recently criticized for an episode that aired on Jan. 6 featuring famous cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul. Pandya, a cricket “all-rounder” (a batsman as well as a bowler), joked that when his parents once asked him which girl he’d had sex with at a party, he pointed across the room to multiple women and said, “Yeh, yeh, yeh aur yeh,” which translates to “This one, this one, this one and this one.”

“I am a little from the black side,” he continued, “so I have to see how they [women] move first. Then I can imagine the picture.” Pandya’s comments about his sex life garnered intense criticism on social media. Many took offense at the nature of his boasts, pointing out that the pronoun he used to refer to women is one used mostly for objects. People also took issue with his comment about blackness; it is important to note that Pandya is dark-skinned because he is South Indian and not because he is of African or African Indian descent, as he implied.

Twitter user @RatnakarShetty6 tweeted, “It is time the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] decides to take corrective steps for cricketers who talk rubbish on public platforms. Hardik Pandya was a disgrace to the cricket community the way he spoke on ‘Koffee with Karan’ show. He has insulted the women and also made a racist remark.” Another twitter user @ekta2993 tweeted, “#KoffeeWithCricketers was just the worst episode. What’s up with all the #misogyny. Tired of this boys will be boys attitude.”

Pandya tried to rectify the situation by tweeting an apology: “After reflecting on my comments on ‘Koffee with Karan,’ I would like to apologise to everyone concerned who I may have hurt in any way. Honestly, I got a bit carried away with the nature of the show. In no way did I mean to disrespect or hurt anyone’s sentiments. Respect.”

In response to the controversy, the BCCI suspended Pandya from the Indian team until Jan. 24. “What Hardik has spoken at the show speaks poorly of the BCCI and Indian cricket,” said a BCCI official. “An apology is not enough and strong action should be taken so that [the] right example can be set for the younger generation.” KL Rahul was also suspended despite remaining neutral in the episode.

The rest of the country has had similar responses. Hotstar, an Indian digital and mobile platform used mainly to stream cricket games, removed the episode from its site following the controversy. UnErase Poetry, a popular online community project that spreads awareness on social issues through spoken word poetry, featured Priya Malik, who wrote and performed the poem “Dear Mr. Player” as a response to Pandya’s misogynistic comments. With lines such as, “Your score on the field or off it are not measured by yeh, yeh, yeh aur yeh / But the way you enthuse and inspire the youth of today,” the group condemned Pandya’s words.

Saachi Khandpur ’22 was equally upset by the episode. “I think it was problematic because so many people look up to [cricketers] like Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, and for them to [speak this way on] this show, which is not only watched by an Indian audience but also by an international audience, is ridiculous,” she said. “Not only does it tarnish the image of Indian cricketers in the international media, but it also tells young men that it is ok to say derogatory things against women.”

Since Pandya and Rahul’s suspensions have been lifted, with both now playing in the One Day International (ODI) cricket matches in New Zealand, many have questioned the severity of the actions that merited the ban in the first place. Actor and feminist Swara Bhaskar tweeted, “I’m a staunch feminist...but...Being crass is not a crime!!! And aur koi kaam nahi hai kya hamaarey courts ke paas!!?? (Don’t our courts have anything better to do?).” But others disagree. “Since campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, they should be more careful about what they say,” Khandpur said.

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