Abusing the team

Updated June 22, 2019

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THE scathing criticism of the Pakistan cricket team’s dismal World Cup performance is at an all-time high, especially after the team collapsed against India in a match in which the captain and most players appeared to have done everything wrong.

In fact — other than a thrilling victory against England whom we narrowly beat by 14 runs — our team has lost three matches, against the West Indies, Australia and India, while the game against Sri Lanka was abandoned because of rain. In a nutshell, the team’s World Cup 2019 stint has been utterly disappointing, leaving it last but one in the rankings, only slightly ahead of Afghanistan.

Naturally, the disappointment from the losses — particularly the thrashing from India — has opened the floodgates of criticism and allowed the dams of anger to burst. From diehard cricket fans to former cricketers and analysts, scores of individuals are commenting on the poor show put up by Pakistan. While the players’ performance is indeed cause for concern for the Pakistan Cricket Board and the team’s management, it appears as if some elements have crossed the line and gone well beyond constructive criticism.

Among them is former cricketer Shoaib Akhtar who has publicly called Captain Sarfraz Ahmed and the team management “brainless”. Separately on social and mainstream media, a video is being circulated of the players at a night out with their families; the latter have also become the target of critics. This was evidenced by the response of Sania Mirza, wife of Shoaib Malik, who lashed out on Twitter at those “disrespecting her privacy” and bullying her online for the team’s losses.

Although disappointment is a justifiable emotion in this case, the personal attacks and harsh words used against the players who are still very much in the World Cup are unfair. With four matches remaining — and victories needed in all to qualify for the semi-finals — unnecessarily vicious comments are taking away from constructive feedback and putting further pressure on a team that has been unable to handle the strain.

There is no doubt that the team has made bad decisions; from choosing to bat second to playing consistently non-performing players and dropping catches — the list of careless mistakes is endless. In this situation, the focus of criticism should be on bad choices and poor strategy — and not on name-calling. Ridiculing the team will hardly produce positive results; commentators should know better and use a less belligerent tone to convey their concern.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2019