Mahi’s choice of pretty girl-next-door Sakshi is at once expected and not quite so. Expected, because most Indian cricketers have settled down with women whose pallus are not wrapped around arclights. And surprising, because as the tabloids love to tell us, many of the debonair men in blue seem to have painted the town red in the company of high-profile ladies.''
Right from Ravi Shastri’s partnership with Amrita Singh, down to Yuvraj Singh’s dalliances with Kim Sharma and Deepika Padukone, with Zaheer Khan (Isha Sarvani), Sreesanth (Shriya Saran) and Harbhajan Singh (Geeta Basra) in between, cricketers and glam gals have been so close, yet so far. The dividing line being drawn by marriage, of course. The exceptions—Sharmila Tagore and Tiger Pataudi and Mohd Azharuddin and Sangeeta Bijlani—are too few to matter.
Says academic Mukul Kesavan, who has written extensively on cricket: “Historically, cricketers have been middle-class people who were not very well-paid till the mid-’90s. In fact, until Tendulkar’s debut, it would have been unlikely for a cricketer to marry a celebrity because he would not have been able to afford her. Pataudi was an exception because he moved in upper-class circles. Over the last 15 years, cricketers began making money, and we saw some mild flirtation with actresses.”
V.V.S. Laxman’s wife Sailaja
Sourav Ganguly’s wife Dona
Ajay Jadeja’s wife Aditi
Parthiv Patel’s wife Avni
Virender Sehwag’s wife Aarti
With small-town, middle-class homes pitching a lot of cricketing talent, expectations from wives and daughters-in-law here are a world away from the designer football WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends) in the West. “It’s about where you come from—a Jyoti Randhawa, married to a Chitrangada Singh, comes from an elite background and is not uncomfortable with women in short skirts. For most of our cricketers’ wives, jeans is probably the ultimate post-marriage upgrade. Many players come from modest backgrounds and want to retain the same culture, rather than introducing a filmstar to the mix and finding her a misfit. They also want a girl who won’t alienate their parents,” observes Khaneja.
As Baig says, “Interaction with a potential partner who is on a different plane is a way of improving yourself. It is not an opportunistic thing but it works well for your image and future.”
Khaneja, however, dismisses ‘image’ as a determining factor for cricketing success. “If I tell most of my cricketers to change their look, they get uncomfortable. This is not an entertainer’s career. Here, unless you are successful, your makeover counts for nothing.”
And has she seen any cricketers’ wives caught on the backfoot in a social situation? “I know girls from conservative families who couldn’t even eat pasta, but two seasons later, they’re actually enjoying it. It’s not like they go for pasta-eating or wine-tasting lessons. It’s a natural progression for them too,” she says.
That seems to suit the boys just fine—no one’s really batting for a power couple in Indian cricket yet. For one, as Kesavan says, it is difficult to bridge the gap between two different forms of celebrityhood, like cricket and modelling or cricket and Bollywood. Further, the concept hasn’t really taken off in sports here: a man who is already a national obsession worth crores does not think he needs a prize catch of a wife to enhance his brand value. As Khaneja puts it: “None of our cricketers would want a Posh Spice by his side.” Not for ever, at any rate.
Reading the article on cricketers’ wives made me think: how odd it seems that our heroes on the field are just typically ordinary Indian men out of it (Squares Make The Cut, Jul 19). Like most Indians, they require not only beautiful, educated wives, but also people to look after the home and hearth. Are they any different from other Indian males, whose marriages, in intent and practice, resemble business contracts? Kirti Pariwakam, Pune
A very sexist article. Does the reporter reckon that cricketers are flirting with women and running away to marry cows? Lokesh Baja, London
The article on cricketers’ wives was condescending, vague and full of specious conjectures (Squares Make the Cut, Jul 19). It did not tire of pointing out that Indian cricketers are often middle-class people with ‘modest roots’. For God’s sake, is Outlook meant for the aristocracy? Each cricketer has a story of grit and hard work to relate; it is not for us to speak patronisingly. Bindu Tandon, Mumbai
Ridiculous article. A moron wants to marry so mom can have a companion and that’s a good thing? They don’t want career-oriented wives. They fool around with many women, but still want ‘good, domestic’ girls for wives. That’s a disgusting attitude; it’s a shame the article is so indulgent about it. A., Danville, US
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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