The indecency displayed by the Pakistani hockey players after they beat arch-rivals India in the semi-final of Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar last Saturday has created a storm in the sporting world and the media. [Pakistan beat India in Champions Trophy, celebrate with obscene gestures]
The incident turned more ugly since it involved the sentiments of two fierce competitors but is it always right to blame the players for their deeds which are caught more easily by the camera's glare?
Former editor of The Hindu Siddharth Varadrajan was criticised when he said in a tweet that more than the Pakistani players, it was the unruly Indian crowd which was responsible for provoking them first and led to the retaliation from the visitors.
But bashing Varadrajan doesn't change the character of India's sports spectators.
Even a sloth Inzamamul-Haq couldn't control his temper in Toronto
In September 1997, former Pakistani cricket captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who is otherwise a cool-headed person, charged at a spectator in the stands with a bat in his hand, not meant for soring runs for sure. Inzamam would have surely broken the head of the man, who was armed with a megaphone and was hurling abuses at players including the Pakistani batsman, if other spectators and security staff members did not intervene on time.
In 1996, unruly spectators ruined WC semifinal match; in 1999, India & Pakistan played before empty stands
Targetting players from the stands is not something new in India. We saw how the semifinal of the 1996 World Cup cricket at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata ended on an ugly note as spectators turned violent after India were left in a hapless state against Sri Lanka.
Players in the middle are held more responsible because the camera follows them
The same venue had seen India and Pakistan playing out the final day of a test match in 1999 in front of empty stands after the police drove out spectators who turned angry following a controversial run-out of Sachin Tendulkar.
There are several such instances where foreign players have been targetted, abused and even hit from the stands by over-nationalist spectators but since the camera focuses more on the players in the Centre, it is their reaction that takes the precedence often. One suspects the same had happened with the Pakistani team as well.
When Yuvaraj was taunted in Sri Lanka in 2010, India thought of lodging complaint against fans
Top Indian cricketers like Yuvaraj Singh, Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma were also seen showing fingers at fans abroad after they were allegedly taunted from the stands. In case of Yuvaraj Singh who was mocked as a "water boy" during a test match in Colombo in 2010, the Indian team authorities even thought of lodging police complaint againstthe fans who jeered the cricketer.
Well, well... nationalism blurs objectivity.