Hardik Pandya, the Mumbai Indians (MI) all-rounder, celebrated his high-octane half-century against Rajasthan Royals (RR) in IPL 2020 on Sunday by taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a whirlwind knock, Pandya scored a 21-ball 60* to help boost MI’s total to 195-5, with as many as 52 of his runs coming in just 12 deliveries. He reached his half-century with a six in the penultimate ball of the final over, and celebrated by gesturing to the dug-out, before taking a knee, with one hand raised.
Kieron Pollard, the MI captain on the day in the absence of the injured Rohit Sharma, reciprocated the gesture by raising his hand, and the brief interaction led to speculation on social media that Pandya had done so in support of BLM, a global movement that has involved a variety of individuals and teams across disciplines taking a knee to uphold the principle of equality.
Hardik Pandya took a knee and raised his hands, Kieron Pollard appreciated this gesture and raised his hands too. pic.twitter.com/PUW61s0RF1
— Mufaddal Vohra (@mufaddal_vohra) October 25, 2020
Pandya has since confirmed on Twitter that his celebration was indeed in support of BLM.
— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) October 25, 2020
The subject of taking the knee in cricket has been a hotly debated one. England men copped criticism during the summer for not taking the knee during their series against Pakistan and Australia, having done so against West Indies and Ireland.
Jason Holder, Windies captain and Sunrisers Hyderabad all-rounder, said that he felt it was “sad” that BLM had seemingly gone “unnoticed” at the IPL.
“I haven’t had one conversation up here around it,” he said. “Sometimes it seems it has gone unnoticed, which is a sad thing. I guess it’s for us to re-highlight the importance of it.”
Pandya, whose side still lost the IPL clash to RR despite his brilliant knock, has previously been under the scanner for his comments on a TV talk show about black culture, comments which were considered racist and sparked such outrage that he and KL Rahul, who appeared alongside him on the show, provisionally served five-match bans last year.
Earlier this year, during the peak of the BLM movement, Daren Sammy, the former West Indies captain, revealed he was called ‘kalu’ – a term with racist undertones – by his Indian teammates during his time with IPL side Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2013-14.
“They need to look outside the bubble they live in – for influential cricketers to so blatantly objectify women, it was tone-deaf and smacked of unawareness.”
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) January 10, 2019
Old Instagram posts soon surfaced, in which pacer Ishant Sharma had indeed addressed Sammy by the derogatory term in the caption. Sammy said, at the time, he was made to believe the word meant ‘stallion’.
Since then, Sammy has said he has had clear-the-air conversations with his former teammates over the matter.