LONDON: On Friday, a social media video showing a young fan hurling abuses at Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed in a shopping mall went viral.
It wasn’t an isolated incident.
There were several other unsavoury incidents involving abusive fans and Pakistan cricketers that were aptly dispersed worldwide via social media. Young Pakistan cricketers Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam were at the centre of one of the major ones.
On Saturday, Sarfaraz said that what the world has been witnessing on Youtube and other social media channels was just the tip of the iceberg.
“There have been so many abuses, even physical ones with the boys which you don’t even know about,” revealed an emotional Sarfaraz, as he took questions from reporters ahead of Pakistan’s must-win World Cup game against South Africa here at Lord’s on Sunday.
Such has been the outburst of fans and critics both on the traditional and social media following Pakistan’s embarrassing World Cup defeat against India at Old Trafford last Sunday that the focus has been shifted from the team’s below-par performance to the intense reaction from disappointed fans.
The question that is being asked now is whether it’s fair to attack the players in the manner that they’ve been assailed in recent days.
Sarfaraz believes an emotional response from fans is a natural reaction to the team’s poor performance but he was quick to add that, “you can’t be abusive.”
“You don’t even what we’re going through. It really hurts us, all this abuse (from the fans),” Sarfaraz said. “It really affects you. It affects the boys. The fans have the right to criticise us but you can’t be abusive,” he added.
Asked whether which form was worse, traditional media or social media?
With a grim smile, Sarfaraz responded: “Both are same.”
“The thing is that it’s not in your hands. You can’t stop anybody. Today people do whatever they feel like doing.
“It’s not that we are the first team to lose matches. (Pakistani) teams have lost in the past but then there was no social media.”
Asked whether there should be a law to protect cricketers from abuse on the social media, Sarfaraz just responded by stressing that fans should show more responsibility.
He also tried to refrain from responding to stinging criticism from some former cricketers, who have been targeting Sarfaraz and his under-performing team in TV shows.
“If I respond to their criticism they will bash me more,” said Sarfaraz. But then he changed his mind about not responding.
“Some of them don’t even consider us as cricketer. They are acting God on TV screens.”
What’s happening to Sarfaraz currently is in stark contrast to an all-time high he must have experienced two summers ago.