Toxic Fandom Doesn’t Help Kohli, Rohit, or Indian Cricket

Indian Cricket Fan (Photo by Debasis Sen in KIA Oval)

On the evening of the fourth day of the World Test Championship (WTC) final, soon after Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara got out to the softest of dismissals, I put out a video from outside The Oval questioning their shot selection. The point was simple – both got out to poor shots after getting set, and both were wickets that India lost rather than ones that Australia earned. How many times have we seen Pujara try the ramp shot? And in circumstances when India needed him to play 200-odd balls and stay at the crease. Rohit, India’s best batter in the last series in England in 2021, was key to India mounting a strong challenge. Frankly, there was no debate. In hindsight, both would agree that their shot selection was poor.

The next morning, when Virat Kohli got out, I tweeted saying that his downfall was caused by hard hands. It was a shot he could have avoided, and it wasn’t the first time. Every word I said was, and is true. Kohli failed to make an impact in the 2017 Champions Trophy final. He wasn’t able to carry India over the line in the 2019 World Cup semifinal, or in the 2021 WTC final. And now, this.


Soon after I put out the tweet, the toxic fan army got into the act. Trolls, as they are better known, started the abuse, and even questioned my parentage. Some brought Rohit’s wife into the mix, and said it was excellent PR from her. Some asked why I had not said a word on Rohit, when, in reality, I had put out a video within 30 minutes of his dismissal. And the rants continued for the next few hours. How on Earth can one question Kohli, or Rohit for that matter?

Some of these trolls call themselves Viratians. And some are Rohitians. It makes one wonder if they have heard of the word “Indians”.  

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The Indian batting failed as a collective, and that’s why the team lost. The top order was poor in both innings, and has been for the last few years. No one averages more than 35 among Kohli, Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. Not one of them has come close to what they were once capable of.

And frankly, it wasn’t Kohli that lost. Or Rohit. It was India that lost, and that’s what hurts. Had Rohit or Kohli got a hundred in an Indian loss, the hurt would be the same. Had both scored golden ducks and India won, there would only be jubilation. It is about India. Not Rohit, not Kohli.

The toxic fan army on Twitter and other social media needs to understand that. By being loyal to an individual, the larger cause is defeated. India haven’t won a single major trophy in the last 10 years. That is the truth. And perhaps the only truth. India did not win a single major honour of consequence with Kohli as captain. And the trend continues under Rohit.

As RevSportz had written yesterday, we need someone as ruthless as Pep Guardiola to change this trend. Someone who doesn’t care about individuals or egos. Worship of individuals has forever been the bane of Indian sport. It is as if fans are happy if Kohli scores, but India loses. So what if the nation has lost? Their hero has scored, and that is the end of the matter. The very same applies to so-called Rohit fans as well.

Before Kohli and Rohit, you had Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. And Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. But we haven’t seen fan wars as toxic as what we now see between Kohli and Rohit fans. And in all this, there is one loser – Indian cricket. Abusing me for saying that the top order failed shows the unfortunate reality of Indian cricketing fandom. You can close your eyes to the truth, but you can’t run from it.

The truth can’t be hidden, however much these toxic fans might want that. And the truth is that India’s famed top order hasn’t performed to potential for years now. And this WTC final failure wasn’t an aberration. It has become the norm. We need to accept it, for only then can we find a remedy. Only then can we mount a strong challenge in the next WTC cycle. Only then can we hope not to lose more finals.

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