The disconcerting trend of targeting sportspeople and their families after a bad day on the field has tarnished the very essence of fandom.
Sometimes, unscrupulous individuals, veiled behind the anonymity of online platforms, also take aim at personal lives of opposition players for putting up a stellar show, inflicting blows far removed from the sporting arena.
Every time Virat Kohli has failed to score, these digital provocateurs have maligned his wife and Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma. During IPL (Indian Premier League) 2023, Shubman Gill’s sister Shahneel was abused online after the Gujarat Titans batter scored a ton to push RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) out of the playoffs. The examples are endless.
When Travis Head’s 137 helped Australia thrash host India by six wickets to claim the ODI World Cup title on November 19, the trolls reared their ugly heads once again.
Even before the dust could settle on the celebrations in Ahmedabad, the Australia batter’s wife, Jessica Head, became an easy target for vile comments on social media, raising questions on the boundaries of decency in cyberspace.
She had faced the same when Travis took the game away from the Indians with a century during the World Test Championship final in June this year.
When Sportstar asked whether these incidents left a bad taste in her mouth, Jessica said she had come up with a way to do away with the negativity.
“I simply ignore it. I read every comment, but I have a filter that immediately blocks the negative comments. So, I don’t even see them,” she said.
Even their one-year-old daughter, Milla Paige Head, wasn’t spared of the insidious behaviour and hate.
Jessica thinks that wouldn’t have been an easy thing to do if the people calling out names had the fortune of meeting the child once.
“Milla has the most beautiful personality. She is so social, so welcoming, and so loving. The trolls are people who have not been fortunate enough to meet her, because if they had, they wouldn’t be able to say bad things about her. She would have welcomed them with open arms, and in return, your heart would melt from the kindness,” Jessica says.
Although Travis’ professional commitments may have often kept him away from family, Jessica says he has been very supportive during tough times like these.
“It does (get difficult sometimes). Travis doesn’t make any parties, weddings, or birthdays, so I’m often attending by myself. The highs and lows of cricket, I suppose. (But) Travis is the most supportive partner. Although he travels most of the year, he always manages to make sure his family is supported.”
Having travelled with the Australian team for the entirety of the tournament, Jessica is, however, convinced that all people aren’t of the same mentality. And this blip aside, she admits her first trip to India has been magical.
“I know 99.99 percent of people are so supportive and kind. I haven’t wasted any energy on the trolls. India is a stunning country. The culture and the people are so beautiful. I found the people incredibly welcoming towards babies. I loved how much the people welcomed Milla. I did a four-hour tour in Kolkata, and I loved how different life is there compared to Australia. It’s busy and colourful. There was so much music in the streets; I loved that. Mumbai was incredible as well. The food was amazing,” she says.
Jessica considers herself lucky to have witnessed one of the greatest years of Australian cricket from close quarters. The side first retained the Ashes, then won the WTC final, and later capped 2023 off with a clinical victory at the World Cup.
“It feels amazing. It was so great that we got to experience it as a family, and it’s an amazing tour that we will remember for the rest of our lives. I was there for both games (WTC final and CWC23), and it was a very nerve-racking but exciting experience. I was trembling during the World Cup final as I felt India had been playing incredibly throughout the tournament. Once Travis reached 80 runs, I felt so nervous. He was giving the Australian team hope, that they had a chance to win and that comes with a lot of pressure.”
It was an emotional moment for the Heads when Travis raised his bat to silence the partisan crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium. Jessica believes things have started changing for the better since Milla’s arrival on September 2 last year.
“Milla taught us how quickly time goes and to embrace every moment. I am travelling more now than I ever have before, because she has taught us that this doesn’t last forever, and the opportunities we have now we should embrace while we can. She is growing up so fast, so we want to create as many memories as possible as a family.”
So, it obviously didn’t come as a surprise when Travis dedicated the World Cup trophy to his daughter with a post saying, “This is the reason for it all <3” on Instagram.
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