Criticise us, but don’t abuse us – Sarfaraz Ahmed

Who says India-Pakistan doesn’t matter anymore? Judging by the reactions of some Pakistani fans to their team’s defeat to India last Sunday, it matters to them, and perhaps a bit too much.

The last week has been a cruel one for Pakistan’s players. Becoming the subject of countless memes is now par for the course, but the kind of real-life abuse their players have received has been harrowing.

The captain Sarfaraz Ahmed – with his child – was abused to his face by a fan who, having videoed it on his phone, later issued an “apology” in which it sounded as if the fan had been unintentionally caught on camera. Two other players were abused while out shopping. Families have been dragged into it. They’ve been pilloried for daring to be out and about, as if to have dinner itself is a crime. Ex-players have joined this deafening cacophony.

“Teams have lost before but now on social media it is unstoppable. Whoever thinks [anything, they just] write it on social media. That hurts, too much”

Sarfaraz Ahmed

The PCB has taken note. “We have advised players to be aware of the situation and be cautious,” a spokesperson said. “It is not correct that we have barred them from going out as is projected in some parts of the media.”

Sarfaraz, captured yawning during the game against India, has borne the brunt of it. And ahead of a series of do-or-die games starting with South Africa at Lord’s on Sunday, he looked like a man on whom this last week has weighed heavily.

It has been, Sarfaraz admitted wearily, a tough week. They took two days off immediately after the India game and since practice has resumed, Mohammad Hafeez and then Wahab Riaz have also asked for a certain degree of calm and respect from fans.

“Don’t criticize in a way that breaks us more” – Mohammad Hafeez’s message to the Pakistan public. #CWC19 pic.twitter.com/WhHAr5JRQ1

— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) June 22, 2019

“Social media and media are not in our control,” he said at Lord’s. “They are so big that you cannot stop them. Teams have lost before but now on social media it is unstoppable. Whoever thinks [anything, they just] write it on social media. That hurts, too much. Players are affected psychologically.

“Criticise us on our game, that’s not an issue, but don’t abuse us. Their families get affected. If someone is hitting, then pushing anyone that’s not good. Our fans are emotional and these same people lift us when we win. But if they feel sad on a defeat we also feel the same way.

“We feel it much more because we are playing for Pakistan.”

Sarfaraz himself has tried to retain whatever semblance of balance he can through all this, insisting that he is like he was before, that cricket brings ups and downs like this. But the pressures are telling.

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