#PunjabiTadka: The agony and redemption of Arshdeep Singh and Kulwinder Kaur : The Tribune India

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#PunjabiTadka: The agony and redemption of Arshdeep Singh and Kulwinder Kaur

#PunjabiTadka: The agony and redemption of Arshdeep Singh and Kulwinder Kaur

Arshdeep Singh with his father Darshan Singh and mother Baljit Kaur. File

Jupinderjit Singh

Two CISF personnel — located oceans apart and in completely different settings — have curiously been under scrutiny for the same emotions : the call of duty, their identity, past hurts and present actions.

One of them is Kulwinder Kaur, a constable with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), who infamously made headlines over the past few days by slapping newly elected BJP firebrand MP Kangana Ranaut at Chandigarh Airport. The other is Darshan Singh, an ex-CISF Inspector and the father of 6'3" tall Indian fast bowler Arshdeep. Young Arshdeep famously bowled the last over against arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday night, helping India win the T20 World Cup match in New York.

Just before starting his over, Arshdeep ran several meters from square leg towards his left and caught the ball hit by dangerous hitter Iftikhar Ahmed, who had skied a low full toss by Jasprit Bumrah. As Arshdeep sprinted to catch the ball, he nearly collided with another fielder, Surya Kumar Yadav, also running for the catch. Neither was looking at each other, but at the sky and the ball and a collision may have meant that both drop the catch between them, but Arshdeep leaped over Yadav just in time. He secured the ball in his hands. It was a heart-stopping moment, with the hearts of all Punjabis, especially Sikhs, in their mouths.

If Arshdeep had dropped the catch, make no mistake, there would have been another vicious round of hate messages on social media branding him a "Khalistani" who "helped" Pakistan win. Just three years ago, Arshdeep had lived through such a crisis, when he dropped a sitter off Asif Ali in a crunch moment of the Asia Cup Super 4 stage match against Pakistan. Arshdeep was trolled so badly for the spilled catch that it seemed he would never bounce back. Even Wikipedia wrongly added "Arshdeep supported Khalistan" on the cricketer's page for a few hours and removed it only when the government issued a strong rebuke.

Last night in New York - and indeed, across all of Punjab -- marked a redemption moment for the young bowler; the once-nightmarish experience on the micro-blogging site Twitter (now X) was transformed into a trending night of joy. Thousands of tweets, some juxtaposing pictures of the spilled catch in the not-so-long past as well the beautifully held catch last night in New York, questioned those who branded him a "Khalistani." 

The emotional outcry on social media carried a simple message : Don't turn sporting moments into ingredients for poisonous communal branding.

After the catch, Arshdeep bowled the last over, possibly with immense relief, allowing the Pakistani batters to take only 11 runs against the required 18. As 2.8 crore people across the world watched, the boy who was not so long ago branded a "Khalistani" -an anti-national- returned to being an national hero. But Arshdeep's father, Darshan Singh, was having none of it. He was in New York when this reporter called him for a comment, but he refused to say a word. Father and son have always stayed away from controversy, believing that Arshdeep's cricket ball should do the talking. The family lives in Kharar, Mohali.

But Arshdeep's coach, Jasdeep Rai, relented a bit and talked to this reporter about the mental scars that Arshdeep and many Sikh cricketers are subject to when they don't live up to the expectations of a sometimes cruel audience - how tough it is to come to terms with this "communal" pressure. 

"Arshdeep has emerged as a winner by practicing meditation and blocking out the noise," the coach said.

Meanwhile, Kulwinder Kaur, the other CISF Constable who was catapulted into the limelight for slapping actor-turned-MP Kangana Ranaut last week, said her unpremeditated action was because of Kangana's allegedly vitriolic remarks against women farmers protesting against the Centre's three farm laws three years ago. A mother of two children, Kulwinder's emotions ran high after the incident. Later, better sense prevailed, and Kulwinder has since apologized for the incident in her statement to senior officers in the CISF. The case is now a matter of police investigation.

The question now is : Will Kulwinder get a redemption moment? And what will happen if Arshdeep spills a catch in the future?

#Arshdeep Singh

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