Who is Maria Sharapova? Wait, what?!

If you are in the habit of periodically checking Worldwide Trends on Twitter, you’d have noticed a bizarre trend near the top of the list – “Who is Maria Sharapova?” My interest was naturally piqued by what would assume to be an absolutely asinine trend and on probing further, I realised that thousands (or millions, maybe) of fans of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar caused this trend to occur, as revenge maybe, for an offhand comment made by Sharapova stating that she didn’t know who the Little Master was, when such a question was posed by a reporter at Wimbledon. Things were even uglier on Facebook, with virtually every post on her fan page inundated by spam comments from furious fans of the Master Blaster. Declarations such as “Maria Sharapova is an atheist” abounded, seeing as Sachin is referred to as God in India.

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Let’s all take a moment to facepalm. As an Indian, it’s in my DNA to be a massive fan of Tendulkar, but I couldn’t help but burst out laughing at the sheer stupidity of what I was witnessing. Granted, Sachin is the greatest Indian sportsman ever – but that’s more of an indictment of the lack of development of sports, other than cricket in this billion plus populated nation. It is mortifying to observe the hilarious overreaction of Indians on social media – and then individuals from nations where cricket is not popular dishing out insults, and generally being scornful toward a legend of a ten team sport. Sadly, it’s hard to defend such ludicrous behaviour too. This clearly shows the inferiority complex of some of our fellow Indians.

After all, why should Maria Sharapova, a Russian tennis player ought to know about an Indian cricket player? In terms of number of countries playing the game at a high level (about 10-12 Commonwealth nations at best), cricket has to be among the least popular. Russia, which is Sharapova’s home country isn’t a cricketing nation. Infact, none of Russia’s neighbors are cricketing nations. The United States of America, which is pitted as Russia’s greatest enemy, isn’t a cricketing nation either. I’ll be surprised if she’s ever seen even a mere highlight of a cricket match, in any of the formats. Moreover, she’s also visited India only once on a promotional tour – and cricket wouldn’t have been on her list of priorities in a rushed trip. Hell, I doubt she’s even been to any country other than England and Australia where cricket is played. And even in these two countries, cricket is easily nowhere close to the most popular sport. And unlike Roger Federer (who has a South African mother), she probably doesn’t have any overlapping endorsements with any cricketer.

The purported ignorance goes both ways. How many Indians can name a single Winter Olympian, for instance? Hell, for that matter – not many can name the entire starting XI of the Indian national football team, myself included. Yet on cue, we can spout off the entire 23 man squad of the Spanish football team and quite a few of their reserves, too :P. We proudly display our fandom for the likes of Rafa Nadal, Usain Bolt, LeBron James etc. but barring few exceptions, we can’t name their Indian counterparts. And we petulantly fume when a Russian tennis star doesn’t know who an Indian cricketer is!

And don’t even get me started on the fact that the headlines for the articles about this particular matter, published by various media outlets, serve as baits for clicks or they are worded in a manner to distort the truth and/ or give undue importance to a very small portion of what Sharapova said.

Hopefully this event will serve as a reminder of how low on the totem pole Indian sports lie and how much work has to be done to elevate them to a level worth of world renown.

To conclude on a lighter note, what is the similarity between Sachin Tendulkar and me? Maria Sharapova doesn’t know either of us!

Cover Picture Credit: ibnlive

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