A late outswinger from former Indian captain Kapil Dev has started a tornado on social media. His remarks in a viral video on the mental fragility of today’s youngsters have swept into their vortex age-shamers, mental health evangelists and deniers, cricket-watching armies, and, the most militant of them all, the wokes.
“Youngsters today keep cribbing about ‘pressure’. Cricketers say playing IPL causes ‘pressure’. So, don’t play. When you are doing something you love, how could it be ‘pressure’? It ought to be ‘pleasure’ instead,” Kapil Dev is seen saying at an event.
“How dare he?” was the immediate collective response from mainly youngsters.
“What an uncle thing to say.”
“He is mocking mental health issues. They are real.”
“That’s straight boomer talk. Boomers are the worst.”
It’s a minor matter that in their great gusto for virtue signalling, they unleashed the worst ageist slurs, trampled on Kapil’s freedom of speech and opinion, dismissively flicked out of the window his unparalleled accomplishments, and missed the point altogether. But we will come back to that.
Let us take a few examples of utterances by the current Indian team.
Batsman Suryakumar Yadav explained away a friendly skirmish between captain Rohit Sharma and wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik blaming it on “on-field pressure”.
Star batsman Virat Kohli has often spoken about pressure and under-confidence.
“Being under constant pressure can affect your mental health negatively,” he had once said.
“It’s the moments when you are sitting in your room with absolute zero confidence, with zero conviction that you can perform the next day, and what it takes to overcome that,” he said once. “But it is very difficult for anyone to know what it takes for you to play under the kind of pressure you have to play in.”
There are many other such instances. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong in opening up about stress and mental health. It’s also a preoccupation of our times.
But with the mixed performances of the Indian team in the last couple of years, repeated injuries or just sitting out because of mind issues, one wonders whether at the topmost level of competitive sports one can afford such frailty.
Should one be in the kitchen if the heat bothers him or her so much?
Have we seen the legendary Australian or West Indies squads complain about stress?
Have we seen even Kapil’s successors like Sachin, Sourav, Kumble, or Dhoni cite ‘pressure’ as a reason for failure?
Do Indian champions in other sports like Mary Kom or Neeraj Chopra talk about mental health?
Kapil Dev was not mocking mental health. He was pointing out the fact that wokeness and other elements of popular culture have encouraged a section of the young population to hide behind such glib terms.
It is not Kapil Dev who demeaned those with mind issues. It is those who use mental health as a shield for their laziness, stagnancy, or failure who disrespect and trivialise those who genuinely suffer.
As Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff say in their book, The Coddling Of The American Mind: “A culture that allows the concept of ‘safety’ to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.”
And at another place: “Teaching kids that failures, insults, and painful experiences will do lasting damage is harmful in and of itself. Human beings need physical and mental challenges and stressors or we deteriorate.”
Kapil Dev has thrown the stone right at the heart of the Gen Z/late millennial beehive. The storm is raging so hard because there is a strong element of truth in his words which has found the place where it hurts.
Abhijit Majumder is a senior journalist. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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