As Ex-Cricketers Show Support for Mohammad Shami; BCCI, Current Players' Silences Ring Loud

Shortly after India's loss to Pakistan, commenters sought to single out Shami for the defeat, called him "traitor" and asked him to "go to Pakistan".

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New Delhi: In the aftermath of India’s T20 World Cup loss to Pakistan, Indian bowler Mohammad Shami has received a volley of online abuse. Key former cricketers and public personalities have, however, rallied on his behalf in a show of communal harmony India is hard-pressed to witness these days. The silence of India’s topmost cricket governing body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and Shami’s present day teammates, have meanwhile rung loud.

Shortly after India’s loss, commenters sought to single out Shami for the defeat, called him “traitor” and asked him to “go to Pakistan”. Shami is the only Muslim cricketer among the eleven who played against Pakistan on Sunday.

The attacks on Shami come as several Kashmiri students from universities in Punjab have alleged that they were assaulted by fellow students in the immediate aftermath of the loss.

While many aired these views on Twitter, most of the abuse came through comments on Shami’s Instagram posts.

Lawyer Aman Wadud tweeted that an Assamese news channel, Prag News, sought to establish that Shami was a “Pakistani agent” who accepted money from the cricketing rival. “How much money did he take?” the headline read.

Facing backlash, the channel deleted the Facebook post and added words to the headline to make it appear as if it was a post compiling online reactions. But their Twitter post is still up.

Many pointed out the irony of Indian players taking the knee for the Black Lives Matter movement in the US when its own players were coming in the face of discriminatory abuse due to their religious identity.

As news on the online attacks on Shami began trending on social media, former cricket bigwigs including Mohammad Azharuddin, Venkatesh Prasad, Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman and even Sachin Tendulkar, along with a few present day players took to Twitter to support Shami.

Sports researcher Priyansh, writing for The Wire, however, noted that this show of support fell short, largely because it did not address the root cause behind Shami receiving such abuse – his Muslimness – and instead sought to highlight his achievements as a player, indicating somehow that the abuse was unjustified because he was an ace bowler and not because he was an Indian citizen.

Also notable is the fact that outside of Chahal, current cricketers, especially in the T20 World Cup squad are conspicuous in their silence. Journalist Seema Chishti pointed out the BCCI’s own silence over the matter.

As some called on India captain Virat Kohli to speak up for his teammate and others pointed out similarities with the racist abuse faced by England players at the Euro 2020 finals recently, Chishti noted the disparity of response between UK prime minister Boris Johnson and the Indian dispensation.

While Johnson had unequivocally condemned the abuse of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka over missed penalties, his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi has been silent over this anti-Muslim abuse.

Many not associated with cricket, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and National Conference’s Omar Abdullah, tweeted support for Shami.

Comments expressing love and appreciation for Shami also came thick and fast on the Instagram post of the cricketer, which had been initially targeted.

“Genuine India Fans won’t say anything bad! They’ll support the players in bad times. I SUPPORT YOU SHAMI,” read one comment.

“Well bowled champ. You tried your best 🔥but it just wasn’t our day today,” said another.