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26 Oct, 2021

India’s split-personality psyche exposed by a cricket match in Dubai

If the Indian tourism industry is pondering the country’s future brand image and reputation, it need look no further than the aftermath of the 24 Oct cricket match with arch-rival Pakistan at the ICC T20 World Cup tournament in Dubai. The contrasting reactions are a clear reflection of India’s current split-personality psyche and the political-social-cultural-economic crossroads at which it now stands.

Pakistan beat India by a shockingly lopsided margin. Just two Pakistani opening batsmen fended off the best Indian bowling with amazing ease. When the match ended, the Indian Captain Virat Kohli gave them both a genuinely warm, congratulatory hug and handshake, wearing a sincere smile of respect and admiration.

It was a grand gesture, an indicator of not just true sportsmanship, but a more exalted level of statesmanship and friendship.

Both teams had honoured the pre-match show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. But Virat Kohli’s out-reach went far higher. He assuredly showed that cricket matters, that politics and sport are separate, that rising above the fray is an act of sublime humanity and maturity – a characteristic entirely lacking amongst the Indian national leadership at large.

His team was beaten fair and square, and the victors deserved to be congratulated.

Just moments after that magnanimous gesture, another gaggle of Indians took to the social media to vent their very anti-social fury, not at the Indian team or its captain, but one lone individual, Mohammed Shami, the only Muslim on the team.

His crime: Giving away the most runs. Never mind that the team’s two star opening batsmen had both failed. Never mind that none of the other bowlers had taken a single wicket either. The guy named “Mohammed” alone was to blame.

The discriminatory outpouring of viciousness was as shocking as the poor performance of the Indian team.

It made headlines worldwide, particularly in the UAE, the Gulf countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan, across the Islamic world. They were seen by diplomatic missions, media-monitoring groups and civil society movements.


Sadly, the headlines reflect a darker reality, not just of isolated, one-off events but as part of an ongoing and steadily-growing movement to change India from a thriving, secular, pluralistic, constitutional democracy with a once-vibrant free press and independent judiciary to a mono-cultural top-down extremist nation led by a narcissistic megalomaniac.

So the question facing Indian travel & tourism is:

(+) How will this metamorphosis affect the credibility, status and image of India, both in the immediate and long-term future?

(+) Which reality represents the India that the Indian travel & tourism fraternity wishes to see on the global stage?

(+) Which path should Indian tourism follow?

(+) Or will it make no difference once way or another?

Like the Covid-19 virus, extremist nationalism and jingoism is a threat to the very fabric of India. If not contained, the political, social and cultural consequences could be as lethal as the medical.

One virus is under control. The other is spreading freely, as the aftermath of the T20 match made evidently clear.

Deal with it, or eventually you will all be consumed by it.

I wish all my Indian readers a very Happy Diwali. A good time to pursue some badly-needed Enlightenment during the Festival of Lights.