Face the cameras like Virat Kohli, not Hardik Pandya. This was the key tip given to 33 players from the core group of the Indian hockey team by their national governing body at a media training workshop last Friday in Bengaluru where the national camp is underway.
The players were also given a list of dos and don’ts while talking in public, and encouraged to learn from Kohli on how to deal with the media after a defeat.
They were also warned against behaving like Pandya. The flamboyant all-rounder’s remarks on women during a TV show in January had triggered a massive controversy and saw him being sent home from the tour of Australia, along with teammate K L Rahul.
At Hockey India’s workshop, the players were shown clips of the talk show in which Pandya and Rahul made the remarks that were widely criticised as “misogynistic” and “racist”. Hockey team sources said the players were reminded of what is considered sexist and racist behaviour.
“Since a lot of them were playing domestic tournaments, they were unaware of how serious the episode had become. It’s when we started discussing various issues that they realised the seriousness of it and the importance of conducting themselves well,” sources said.
The players were also shown videos of Kohli’s press conference after the defeat to Pakistan in the 2017 Champions Trophy final. The idea, sources said, was to show players how to react after losing an important match. At the same time, tennis star Novak Djokovic’s recent speech at an award function, where he spoke about his mindset during a slump in form, was also screened.
But almost 40 minutes of the hour-long session revolved around Pandya’s comments, sources said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Hockey India CEO Elena Norman said: “It is absolutely important for hockey players to conduct themselves well and be aware of the fact that they represent the Indian national team. As national players, they have a fan-following and have youngsters looking up to them.”
She said this exercise has been on for a couple of years to give the players “holistic training across important avenues”. “However, this year onward, we have made this mandatory for all core probables, including junior and senior men, and women athletes, who come to the national camp… Since this is an important period leading up to the Olympic Games in 2020, there is bound to be more attention on these athletes and it is important that they are prepared for it,” Norman said.
During the session, one of the senior players admitted that they feel the “pressure of being fun” while appearing on some TV programmes. “The main lesson was to not get provoked or overwhelmed. It’s okay to be humorous but without crossing the line,” sources said.