The game of cricket in India is no less than a religion, where great cricketers enjoy the demi-god status and every victory is celebrated like a festival.
However, former India opener Gautam Gambhir is not a fan of this 'hero worship' culture. In fact, has spoken against it every now and then and recently expressed his reservations once again.
According to Gambhir, this culture has led to fans hailing stars like Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni in such a way that they have forgotten or disregarded the contributions of other players.
"Don’t create monsters in the dressing room. Only monster should be Indian cricket, not an individual,” Gambhir said while speaking to Indian Express in their show 'Idea Exchange.'
“Do you think that this whole hero worship chokes the next star to come up? Nobody has grown in that shadow. It was Mahendra Singh Dhoni earlier, it is Virat Kohli now," he added.
Gambhir cited the example of the recently held India versus Afghanistan match in the Asia Cup 2022 to justify his point.
In that game, Virat Kohli slammed his much-awaited 71st international century while Bhuvneshwar Kumar returned with a five-wicket haul (4 for 5 in four overs), helping India defeat Afghanistan by 101 runs.
Gambhir claimed that no one was talking about Bhuvneshwar after India’s win as everyone was busy praising Kohli.
“When Kohli got a 100 and there was this young guy from a small town of Meerut [Bhuvneshwar Kumar], who also managed to get five wickets, no one even bothered to speak about him. This was so unfortunate. I was the only one, during that commentary stint, who said that. He bowled four overs and got five wickets and I don’t think anyone knows about that. But Kohli scores a 100 and there are celebrations everywhere in this country. India needs to come out of this hero worship. Whether it’s Indian cricket, whether it’s politics, whether it’s Delhi cricket. We have to stop worshipping heroes. The only thing that we need to worship is Indian cricket, or for that matter Delhi or India," he said.
“Who created that? It is created by two things. First, by social media followers, which is probably the fakest thing in this country because you are judged by how many followers you have. That is what creates a brand."
Gambhir further pointed out that this "hero worship" culture has been prevalent in Indian cricket since 1983, when the Kapil Dev-led side won the World Cup by defeating West Indies at Lord’s. He further said that similar thing happened in 2007 and 2011 when India clinched the T20 World Cup and ODI World Cup under Dhoni.
“Second, by the media and the broadcasters. If you keep talking about one person day in and day out, it eventually becomes a brand. That is how it was in 1983. Why start from Dhoni? It started in 1983. When India won the first World Cup, it was all about Kapil Dev. When we won in 2007 and 2011, it was Dhoni,” Gambhir stated.
“Who created that? None of the players did. Nor did the BCCI. Have the news channels and broadcasters ever spoken about Indian cricket? Have we ever spoken that Indian cricket needs to flourish? There are more than two or three people who are stakeholders of Indian cricket. They don’t rule Indian cricket, they should not be ruling Indian cricket. Indian cricket should be ruled by the 15 people sitting in that dressing room. Everyone has a contribution to make … … I’ve never been able to follow anyone in my life. And that has been my biggest problem. The media and the broadcasters create a brand, no one else creates a brand,” he further remarked.