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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.
Putting Radio Rwanda to shame. What consistency! pic.twitter.com/b4y9q2orKH
— Aman Wadud (@AmanWadud) October 25, 2021
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.
Sanghis have started abusing Md. Shami after the loss.
After the racist attacks against few English players at Euro, the team came in support of them.
India’s hockey skipper Rani Rampal criticized casteist remarks against a teammate.
— Abhishek Baxi (@baxiabhishek) October 24, 2021
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.
— Mohammed Azharuddin (@azharflicks) October 25, 2021
355 International wickets. It is India that beats in the heart of anyone representing India. And Mohammad Shami has been an outstanding and yet unsung servant of Indian cricket. More power to him.
— Venkatesh Prasad (@venkateshprasad) October 25, 2021
I stand behind Shami & Team India.
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) October 25, 2021
Mohammed Shami has been a stellar performer for India for eight years, playing a significant role in many a victory. He can't be defined by one performance. My best wishes are always with him. I urge fans & followers of the game to support @MdShami11 and the Indian team.
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) October 25, 2021
We are so proud of you @MdShami11 bhaiya 🇮🇳
— Yuzvendra Chahal (@yuzi_chahal) October 25, 2021
— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) October 25, 2021
The online attack on Mohammad Shami is shocking and we stand by him. He is a champion and Anyone who wears the India cap has India in their hearts far more than any online mob. With you Shami. Agle match mein dikado jalwa.
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) October 25, 2021
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.
— Seema Chishti (@seemay) October 25, 2021
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.
When three black English footballers were trolled in July for missing penalties, Boris Johnson said people responsible for the “appalling” abuse, which is being investigated by the police, “should be ashamed of themselves”. https://t.co/uKxixf7U4M
— Seema Chishti (@seemay) October 25, 2021
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.
After England's black players were targeted post Euro 2020, Harry Kane had told the racist fans that they're not needed.
Today, Mohammad Shami is being abused after India lost to Pakistan.
Time for India's Hindu players to stand up for their Muslim teammate.#INDvPAK
— Parth MN (@parthpunter) October 24, 2021
Mohammad #Shami we are all with you.
These people are filled with hate because nobody gives them any love. Forgive them.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 25, 2021
Dhoni and Kohli could joke with their Pakistani counterpart after losing the game.
Mohammad Shami, on the other hand, is being subjected to abuse and hatred on the Internet for having not lived up to expectations.
— Mirza Arif Beg (@Iammirzaarif) October 25, 2021
#MohammedShami was one of 11 players who lost last night, he wasn’t the only player on the field. Team India your BLM knee taking counts for nothing if you can’t stand up for your team mate who is being horribly abused & trolled on social media.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) October 25, 2021
My last cricket thought of the evening is that even when we lose matches, Pakistani fans have a sense of humour about things and a kind of elan. I'm horrified by the vile abuse heaped on Mohammad Shami by his compatriots. The rot of hatred seems to have infected everywhere there
— fatima bhutto (@fbhutto) October 24, 2021
Let’s understand that the real heroes of India such as @imVkohli and @sachin_rt are disgusted with the campaign against #MohammadShami.
It’s the low lives who are spewing spite and communal hate. They are scum anyway.
— Saba Naqvi (@_sabanaqvi) October 25, 2021
Add Mohammad Shami after the vile comments hurled at him today. Stand up for him, Team India, if you won't take the knee.
— Karuna Nundy (@karunanundy) October 24, 2021
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.