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The Dark Side of IPL: How Indian Cricket Fans Hunted Down, Stalked the 'RCB Girl'

Photo of the viral RCB girl.

Photo of the viral RCB girl.

Right after the match in 2019, the Internet went into a tizzy trying to find the woman, a cricket fan who didn't know she was being stalked.

As India gears up for another season of Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2021, the last year (2020) has been a tad different – the matches were mostly played without packed stadiums owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Indian cricket fans are growing nervous by the minute as daily Covid-19 cases in the country continue to rise. With restrictions announced and cases spiking by the day, fans who have been waiting for the much-awaited season of IPL 2021 are worried, to say the least. Add cricketers who have tested positive for Covid-19 to the equation and things don’t look pretty. But before the pandemic, the IPL wasn’t all just glorious either.

At the last Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Sunrisers Hyderabad match on May 5, 2019, the real ‘star of the match,’ wasn’t on the pitch – but a girl in the stands. The camera of the fans in the stadium paused temporarily for about 5 seconds on an RCB supporter in a red top.

5-seconds was all it took for a horde of Netizens to take screenshots of her face, share it all over Twitter other social media platforms, and ultimately track down the girl — only to reveal her identity and put it on display for the entire world.

Right after the match, the Internet went into a tizzy trying to find this woman, a cricket fan who didn’t know she was being stalked. The girl had on the first day gained over 150,000 followers, and had changed her Instagram bio to add, “#theRCBgirl.”

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But it wasn’t a harmless quest. Stalking is never harmless. About ten days after she ‘went viral’, the ‘the RCB girl’ took to Instagram to talk about the incident. She posted a picture with the caption detailing how the while she “grateful for the love,” she was “disturbed by the unnecessary negativity. It has been an extreme case of abuse, trauma and mental torture.”

“I am no celebrity, just an ordinary girl who was enjoying the match. I did nothing to warrant the kind of attention that ensued after the TV images appeared & I certainly did not seek it,” she shared in her post, talking about how she was found at the match itself.

Speaking about how complete strangers tracked her down on the Internet and then revealed her identity to the world, the woman writes, “I am confused as to how people found my name/profile. My identity, privacy & life have been hacked in an instant”.

She further talks about the hate she faced for no fault of her own. “A lot of the overnight followers are men who have used this platform to be crude, vulgar, vicious & entirely disrespectful. Even more shocking is the hate I have received from women. How quick & cruel you have been to say mean things to & about me without even knowing me.”

“I am appalled by how I have been judged & condemned instead of being given a compassionate hearing. Stop & think about how it is as a girl to have been subjected to this unwanted attention,” she continued further in the post.

“I am #theRCBgirl but I am SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT,” she added.

The RCB girl wasn’t the only one and despite the limited crowd, 2020 also saw a repeat of this same stalker behaviour, yet again. On October 22, 2020, with the game at the crucial juncture with KXIP needing two to win from one ball, the cameraperson panned to the stands to capture the emotions of a spectator. No surprises, a girl. The Internet then launched into manhunt mode to find the girl – terming her ‘2020 mystery girl.’

In 1993 film Shah Rukh Khan played the role of a stalker in Darr. It’s been 26 years since then, and in that time span, we’ve only changed the method of stalking, and not stalking itself. Really. Since it’s inception, Bollywood has kept trying (and is perhaps still trying) to normalize stalking where a male protagonist follows a woman around until she realizes that she too, has Stockholm syndrome…err, we mean, that she’s also in love with him. It has simply evolved over time. We went from just romanticizing stalkers on screen, to justifying our behaviour when we do it in person, on the Internet.

Maybe this year we’ll break the chain of hunting down women from the cricket stands.

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first published:April 08, 2021, 12:55 IST