Virat Kohli came out strongly in support of his teammates, especially Mohammad Shami, who were abused on social media after their loss to Pakistan.
Traditional rivals Pakistan beat India by 10 wickets in the teams' opening match of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021. While the match was played in good spirits by the two teams, and there were many shows of friendship from either side, the result brought out the worst in some sections of fans on social media.
Mohammad Shami, the India pace bowler, who went for 43 runs on the day, came in for particular abuse, with many targetting his status as a religious minority in India.
Kohli was vocal in his disgust at the comments. "To me, attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing that a human being can do," he said. "Everyone has the right to voice their opinion, but I have never ever even thought of discriminating against anyone over their religion. That is a very sacred and personal thing to every human being.
"[People] have no understanding that someone like Mohammad Shami has won India 'n' number of matches in the last few years and he’s been our primary bowler with Jasprit Bumrah in making an impact in Test cricket. You see him run in to bowl – if people can overlook that and his passion for the country, I … I don’t even want to waste one minute of my life to give any attention to those people. And neither does Shami, nor anyone else in the team.
"We stand by him fully, we are backing him 200%, and all those who have attacked him can come in more force if they want to. Our brotherhood and our friendship within the team – nothing can be shaken. I can guarantee you that as the captain of the team that we have built a culture where these things will not even infiltrate into this environment 0.0001%, that is an absolute guarantee from my side."
Social media trolls, Kohli said, were "literally the lowest level of human potential that one can operate at". And it was for that reason that the team was focussed on remaining "disconnected" from the outside noise.
There’s a good reason why we are playing on the field and not some bunch of spineless people on social media that have no courage to speak to any individual in person.
"There’s a good reason why we are playing on the field and not some bunch of spineless people on social media that have no courage to speak to any individual in person," he said. "They hide behind [anonymity] and go after people through social media, making fun of people and that has become a source of entertainment in today’s world and that is so unfortunate and so sad to see.
"This is literally the lowest level of human potential that one can operate at. That’s how I look at these people.
"We as individuals understand what we want to do on the field. And the strength of character and mental toughness we have is precisely why we are doing what we are doing on the field and none of these people are even in the vicinity to even imagine doing something like that. They do not have the courage or the spine to do that.
"All this drama that is created on the outside is purely based on people's frustrations, their lack of self-confidence, their lack of compassion, and hence they find it so amusing to go after people. So we as a group understand how we need to stick together, how we need to back individuals, how we need to focus on our strengths."