It must be deja vu for former tennis professional Maria Sharapova as hundreds of Malayalis flood her social media account with notes and messages. If in 2014, Sachin Tendulkar’s Kerala fans were up in arms on her Facebook wall — when she said she did not know who he was during an interview — this time, it was to apologise for their earlier outburst.
If one user wrote, “When you said you don’t know about Sachin Tendulkar, we came here to trash you. But now destiny has proven why one shouldn’t know about him. You were right Maria. We apologise (sic)”, another said, “Sorry Maria…We apologize for our comments against you when you talked about Sachin Tendulkar…You were right…That man deserves no respect and we realize that. We need to apologize for all the trolls we made against you…SORRY from bottom of our hearts (sic).”
While most messages, some in Malayalam, were apologetic, a few invited the Russian to God’s Own Country and attend the Thrissur Pooram once the pandemic receded. “Mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa,” went another comment while observing how the tennis star was right all along in not knowing a man whom he accused was without a spine.
Known as the ‘God of Cricket’ among his fans, Sachin was among the cricket fraternity and Bollywood stars who rallied around the Modi government in its pushback against support from international celebrities such as Greta Thunberg and Rihanna to the farmers’ protest.
Sachin had tweeted, “India’s sovereignty cannot be compromised. External forces can be spectators but not participant. (sic)” He also used the hashtags used by the Ministry of External Affairs, #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda. The cricketer’s tweet did not go down well with his fans, however, as it read eerily similar to the message that most other celebrities in the country were posting, a veiled response to the international media attention that the farmer's protests have received.
In fact, many a Keralite has been posting their ire over Sachin’s tweet on his social media handle as well. “You are a spineless government celebrity. Stand with Farmers (sic),” said one, while another wrote, “You were a great cricketer, but a failed politician looking for second innings with BJP. Good luck (sic).”
Meanwhile, Maria in a cheeky tweet posted, “Anyone else got their years confused?!” which was once again bombarded with apologies from Keralites.
It’s been over two months since tens of thousands of farmers began camping on the borders of Delhi, protesting against the three farm bills introduced by the government. As many more farmers were heading towards the borders to join the protesting farmers and show their support, Internet services were temporarily suspended at certain areas recently to “maintain public safety and averting public emergency”.
On Tuesday, American pop star Rihanna shared a news article on the farmers’ protest in India. “Why aren’t we talking about this? #FarmersProtest,” she wrote. Her post soon saw many an international celebrity follow suit including Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and Hollywood actor John Cusack. Meanwhile, the farmers’ cause gained international traction through these tweets.
The pushback happened with several Bollywood stars and Indian cricketers joining top ministers in dispelling the “half-truths” of international forces with the use of “IndiaTogether” and “IndiaAgainstPropoganda” that is being used in Minster of External Affairs’ statements regarding the farmers’ bills.