A livid India captain Virat Kohli on Saturday hit back at "spineless trolls" who attacked Mohammed Shami's religion after the team lost to Pakistan in its inaugural T20 World Cup game and said targetting people for their faith is "the most pathetic thing" to do.
Shami, who endured an off day in India's 10-wicket defeat, was trolled on Instagram for his Muslim identity.
“Attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing that a human being can do. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion and what they feel about certain situations. But I have never ever thought of discriminating [against] anyone over their religion,” Kohli said on the eve of India’s crucial match against New Zealand.
“That [religion] is a very sacred and a personal thing to every human being and that should be left there,” he added. Kohli said it wasn’t worth paying heed to Shami’s trolls as they do not recognise his contribution.
“They have no understanding of the fact that someone like Mohammed Shami has won India a number of matches. He has been our primary bowler with Jasprit Bumrah.”
“In Test cricket you see him run in to bowl, and if people can overlook that and his passion for the country, honestly, I don’t even want to waste a minute giving attention to those people, and neither does Shami or anyone else in the team."
For Kohli, social media trolls are nothing but a bunch of "spineless" people, who don't have the courage to face real people in real life.
“There's a good reason why we [the team] are playing on the field and not a bunch of spineless people on social media who have no courage to speak to any individual in person. They hide and go after people through social media.
“And that has become a source of entertainment in today’s world, which is so unfortunate and sad because this is literally the lowest level one can operate at.”
Lack of compassion has become a norm, agreed the star batter.
"They don't have courage or spine to do something like that. So that's how I see things. All this drama created on the outside is purely due to people's frustration and lack of compassion so they find it so amusing to go after people," he said.
'Toxicity' will have no impact on team morale
Kohli reminded the naysayers that the bond among the team members is so strong that this kind of chatter doesn't infiltrate the protective shield they have created for themselves and added that such toxicity will not affect team morale.
“We stand by him fully. And all those who have attacked him can come with more force if they want to. Our brotherhood and friendship within the team cannot be shaken. I can absolutely guarantee, as the captain, that we have built a culture where these things will not infiltrate into the [team] environment even 0.0001%"
"How people react on the outside has no value in our group and never focused on it and we will never focus on it.
"People don't understand what it takes to do the job on the field at the international level and we are not going to go around just announcing to everyone what we do and how we do it," he said.
"We just carry on with our business that we are supposed to do. We take the learnings and move forward and not one game is more important than others," he added.
(With inputs from PTI)