(AFP)-India captain Virat Kohli launched a blistering attack on his team’s critics on Saturday, blasting them as “spineless” and “pathetic”, reserving particular vitriol for the trolls who blamed Mohammed Shami, the only Muslim player in the squad, for the loss to Pakistan.
Kohli was furious over the social media reaction to his team’s 10-wicket rout at the hands of India’s arch-rivals in their opening game of the T20 World Cup.
“There’s a good reason why we are playing on the field and not a bunch of spineless people on social media that have no courage to actually speak to any individual in person,” said Kohli.
“It has become a social pandemic in today’s world, which is so unfortunate and so sad to see because this is literally the lowest level of human potential that one can operate at. And that’s how I look at these people.”
Kohli was particularly angry over the abuse aimed at Shami who played in the defeat.
“Attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing that a human being can do,” said Kohli.
“They have no understanding of how much effort we put on the field. They have no understanding of the fact that someone like Mohammed Shami has won India matches in the last few years.
“Honestly I don’t even want to waste one minute of my life to give any attention to those people and neither does Shami and neither does anyone else on the team.”
In an indication of the passion and controversy generated by the rivalry, India police arrested three Muslim students and a teacher for celebrating Pakistan’s crushing victory.
The arrests came after police launched an investigation into several hundred students who burst into celebrations in Kashmir following last Sunday’s match which was watched by millions across South Asia.
Anti-India sentiment is widespread and deep in Muslim-majority Kashmir, a Himalayan territory claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan.
Last weekend was the first time in 13 white-ball World Cup meetings that Pakistan had defeated India.
– ‘Long break’ –
Since then, Pakistan have won two more games against New Zealand and Afghanistan to move to the brink of the semi-finals.
On Sunday, India play their second match against New Zealand.
“It’s been a long break for us. It’s been a lot of time waiting and just doing nothing, really, for us as a team,” admitted Kohli of the lopsided schedule.
“Now we’re just itching to go back on the park and be competing again and look to correct the things that didn’t happen well in the first game.”
New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult said he had watched how fellow left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi had ripped out India openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul last weekend.
Boult said he intended to “mirror” Shaheen’s heroics.
“If Trent says he wants to replicate what Shaheen did against us, obviously he’s motivated to do so and we have to be motivated to counter that and try to put pressure on him and the other bowlers as well,” said Kohli.
“That’s how basically the game goes anyway. We played against all these bowlers for a long period of time. And we understand exactly what we need to do.”
Kohli will step down as captain of the T20 team at the end of the tournament as India look to add the 2021 title to their victory at the inaugural event in 2007.