After India lost to Pakistan by five wickets on Sunday, the left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh found himself in the the crosshairs of social media users who singled him out for the defeat. Arshdeep had dropped a simple catch of Pakistan’s all-rounder Asif Ali in the 18th over which eventually proved costly. However, that wasn’t the sole reason behind India’s defeat.
Certainly, Arshdeep was unfairly lambasted by a section of Indian media and fans. But what muddied the waters was the outrageously diabolical act by some Pakistani fans, included a few so-called journalists, who raked up his Sikh identity and posted an array of obnoxiously distasteful tweets.
The IP addresses of these bots, who posted vituperative tweets, have been traced to Pakistan. One of the IP addresses is 184.108.40.206 and is from Pakistan’s city Murree.
Some users even had the temerity to call him a ‘Khalistani’ which was a pathetic attempt to paint him as a separatist. The motive was obviously to trigger spiteful wrangles among people of both countries on social media.
This sordid act by Pakistani bots was flagged by many prominent netizens on social media.
I saw more tweets- most of the accounts abusing #arshdeepsingh don't look like actual Indians!
It seems a perception is being created that we Indians are not sporting & are abusing #arshdeep !#INDvsPAK#INDvPAK
Note: Ofcourse some are not- sporting but most accounts are fishy!
— Tehseen Poonawalla Official 🇮🇳 (@tehseenp) September 4, 2022
The flak for a poor performance is something every athlete learns to take in his/her stride. But what is completely unacceptable is the personal abuses and revolting slurs cricketers are subjected to on social media.
In the old days, the homes of cricketers from subcontinent used to be stoned and attacked their team’s defeats. Wasim Akram could not land in Pakistan after his team lost to India in the quarter-final of the World Cup 1996. Akram opted out of the match at the last moment due to injury and Pakistani media and fans smelt a rat.
After India crashed out of the World Cup 2007, the homes of many Indian cricketers were stoned. Burning effigies of cricketers on road was also a usual occurrence especially after India and Pakistan matches. The examples are legion.
But after the advent of social media, the mob on the road has apparently descended on social media to vent out their frustration. After the Asia Cup 2012, Pakistani pacer Wahab Riaz had faced death threats against his family after he came a cropper against India. Virat Kohli, Sarfaraz Khan and Mohammad Shami have also been at the receiving end of horrid social media barbs.
— Saikiran Kannan | 赛基兰坎南 (@saikirankannan) September 5, 2022
But the matters are even worse after India and Pakistan games. Firstly, the emotions of supporters of both teams run high during pulsating encounters. Secondly, some nefarious elements – who aren’t exactly sports aficionados – start sowing wild oats to foment faultlines which go beyond the sport.
Now, let us look at how the entire episode unfolded during the match and is Arshdeep really to be blamed for India’s defeat?
On the third ball of 18th over, bowled by the leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, of Pakistan’s innings, Asif Ali tried to larrup a delivery which was wide outside the off-stump. But the thick outside edge ballooned in the air and Arshdeep Singh at short third-man was right under the ball. However, he grassed a sitter and drew angry outrage from the captain Rohit Sharma and Indian fans.
At that stage, Pakistan needed 32 runs off 16 balls and were in a tight corner after the dismissal of Mohammad Rizwan in the previous over. The wicket of Asif at that stage would have made the chase even tougher for Pakistan. But that was not to be.
Am old enough to recall that last ball six by Miandad off Chetan, the same Chetan who took the World cup's first ever hat-trick a few months later.
Arshdeep, you are a star and every Indian loves you. Ignore what Pakistani bots are trying to do here – they did the same to Shami.
— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) September 5, 2022
Asif coolly blasted Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a six and a boundary in the 19th over and plundered 19 runs to put Pakistan in the commanding position. The distraught Arshdeep was left to defend only 7 runs in the last over. Asif rubbed salt into his wounds by cracking another four on the second delivery of the over and the equations stood at 2 runs off 4 balls. But the left-arm seamer kept his emotions in check and bowled a dot ball. On the fourth ball of the over, he trapped Asif in front of the stumps.
The match was again at the knife’s edge and could have gone either way. The new batter Iftikhar filched a couple of runs on the fifth ball to seal the match for Pakistan. But under intense pressure, Arshdeep had redeemed himself to an extent by bowling a sterling last over.
That dropped catch certainly proved costly but wasn’t the sole reason for India’s defeat. In fact, the 19th over by Bhuvneshwar in which he conceded 19 runs was the turning point of the match.
I found nobody, repeat nobody, not a single account on my TL abusing or trolling #arshdeepsingh . You can very well check your own timeline as well. You will find the same. Please do check. Same was in case of #Shami. Why exactly are the Pakistan sponsored bots being amplified?
— Yashwant Deshmukh 🇮🇳 (@YRDeshmukh) September 5, 2022
Blazing innings by Rizwan and Mohammad Nawaz and the failure of the Indian middle-order were the principal factors behind India’s defeat. The point here is not to target or defend an individual. Arshdeep’s dropped catch certainly was a blunder and criticising him, along with highlighting other factors, is par for the course.
But what followed was a sinister attempt to slander a young cricketer on account of his nationality and identity which can scar him mentally.
While social media has myriad benefits, it also has a seamier side. It is a beast which is looking for a whipping boy everyday. One of its biggest drawbacks is that it amplifies hate spouted by a few individuals till the venomous narrative becomes mainstream. The modus operandi is the same but the victims – which are often sportspersons – keep changing.
It is about time that these organisations put in some stringent checks and balances to hold nasty elements, who thrive on creating faultlines, accountable for their flagrant skullduggery.