“Ill-intended lies”, said an outraged Anushka Sharma, while a baffled selection panel member termed it “malicious” after former wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer claimed that the actor wife of India captain Virat Kohli sat with the selectors and was served tea by one of them during the World Cup this year.
Speaking to a newspaper, the 82-year-old Engineer, who played 46 Tests for India, ridiculed the credentials of India’s five-member selection panel, led by MSK Prasad and comprising Sarandeep Singh and Jatin Paranjpe, Gagan Khoda and Devang Gandhi.
Engineer claimed that he saw one of these five men serve tea to Sharma during the World Cup in England but didn’t name anyone.
Prasad, while speaking on behalf of his colleagues rubbished the allegations.
“During the World Cup, none of the selectors were sitting in the box where the Indian captain’s wife sat and this is an absolutely rubbish, malicious and defamatory assertion,” Prasad told PTI.
“I feel sad for someone deriving sadistic pleasure out of indulging in petty talk, thereby demeaning & disrespecting the selectors and wife of Indian captain through false and frivolous allegations,” an angry Prasad added.
“Let’s not forget that this selection committee has been appointed by BCCI through a proper process in an AGM,” Prasad added.
Sharma came across way more furious in her statement.
“...the latest version of these ill-intended lies is that I was being served tea by selectors at matches during the World Cup! I came to one game during the World Cup and sat in the family box and not the selectors box as reported but when has the truth mattered when it’s about convenience!” she said.
“If you want to have a comment on the selection committee and their qualifications please do so as it’s your opinion but don’t drag my name into it to substantiate your claim or sensationalise your opinion. I refuse to allow anyone from using my name in such conversations,” was her retort to Engineer’s claims.
In her statement, Sharma also addressed the past controversies she has been embroiled in.
“I have stayed quiet through all the times I was blamed for the performance of my then boyfriend, now husband Virat and continue to take the blame for the most baseless things involving Indian cricket,” she stated.
“...how I have overstayed my authorised time with my husband on foreign tours which if anyone really cared about finding facts from the board, would know that I have always and always followed protocol but yet, I kept quiet,” she added referring to a past report, which claimed that the BCCI decided its roster for players’ wives and partners based on Sharma’s schedule.
Sharma said she has been buying her own flight tickets to be with Kohli, who has also in the past, called the allegations against his wife a shame.
Sharma, in her latest statement, slammed another earlier media report in which the BCCI was criticised for letting her be a part of a Team India group picture with the Indian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom last year.
“I was asked to stand in a group photo by the High Commissioner’s wife despite my hesitation to be in it and a huge issue was created over this blaming me for intentionally wanting to be part of it and the said event, even though I was invited for it,” she said.
Sharma said all the reports linking her to controversies in Indian cricket have been “regressive and horrible and malicious and vicious”.
“I am not and will not be a pawn to be used by anyone’s thoughts or beliefs or agendas and next time you want to use my name to discredit someone or the board or even my husband, do it with facts and proof and leave me OUT of it.
“Maybe, it’s hard for some to believe that, because, I am a self-made, independent woman who only happens to be the wife of a cricketer and for the record, I drink coffee,” she concluded.
Prasad feels that it’s time that Engineer behaved his age as it doesn’t behove his stature to pass such nasty comments about anyone’s wife, be it Indian captain or any ordinary man.
“Someone at the age of 82 should reflect maturity and enjoy the progress of Indian cricket from his time to the current day.”