A host of Indian cricket stars have leapt to the defense of pace bowler Mohammad Shami after he received a litany of “shocking” online abuse after his team suffered a dismal defeat to rivals Pakistan on Sunday.
Pakistan claimed a surprise win on Sunday in their T20 World Cup group-stage match in Dubai as they routed India by 10 wickets.
For the Indian team, who lost to their great rivals for the first time in a World Cup match, the occasion was further souredshortly afterwards when Shami, who is the only Muslim player in the Indian team, was targeted for repeated online harassment.
Shami turned in a below-par performance, bowling 0 for 43 from 3.5 overs and giving up seven boundaries during an unimpressive display.
The vitriol from some sections of the Indian fanbase was evident, as Shami’s Instagram profile was inundated with accusations of him being a “traitor” and calls for him to be dropped from the team.
The rancor, which appears to be grounded by ongoing historical tensions between the two nations as much as by Shami’s performance, prompted a host of Indian cricket’s biggest names – as well as some high profile media figures – to jump to his defense online.
“What is happening to Mohammed Shami is totally unacceptable. If the team can’t even stand up for their own teammate it is shameful. Instead of taking a knee it may help if they grew a spine,” said Indian television personality Sumanth Raman.
“Really heartening to see India take the knee in support of BLM and against racism. The vile targeting of Mohammed Shami for India’s T20 loss is pure bigotry and racism,” added Sayeeda Warsi, a peer of the UK’s House of Lords.
“Really upsetting & disgusting Islamophobia & hate speech online against Mohammed Shami after India lost out to Pakistan in a cricket match. Calling him a Pakistani agent & spy. Sickening,” wrote another media personality, Saima Mohsin.
What is happening to Mohammed Shami is totally unacceptable. If the team can't even stand up for their own teammate it is shameful. Instead of taking a knee it may help if they grew a spine. #T20WorldCup #MohammedShami
— Sumanth Raman (@sumanthraman) October 25, 2021
Really heartening to see #India take the knee in support of #BLM and against racism.
The vile targeting of #MohammedShami for India’s #T20 loss is pure bigotry and racism.
The @BCCI & @imVkohli must call out this hate.
Root out racism in cricket and #StandWithShami
— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) October 25, 2021
Really upsetting & disgusting #islamophobia & hate speech online against #MohammedShami after India lost out to #Pakistan in a cricket match. Calling him a Pakistani agent & spy. Sickening.
I hope #ViratKohli the #India cricket team & @BCCI speak out after they #taketheknee
— Saima Mohsin (@SaimaMohsin) 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 Shami and the Indian team,” added Indian cricket icon VVS Laxman.
Virender Sehwag also waded in: “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.”
There have been some suggestions that part of the maelstrom may be linked to the Indian team’s decision to kneel on behalf of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement – but this is something which Omar Abdullah, formerly the chief minister in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir also addressed.
#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
“Team India your BLM knee-taking counts for nothing if you can’t stand up for your teammate who is being horribly abused and trolled on social media,” he said.
Both India and Pakistan have a troubled history, with several fracas developing between the Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, with three wars taking place since their independence in 1947 – with cricket matches between the two nations often inflaming tensions.
Celebratory gunfire was noted in Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Karachi following the victory against India, while there were also reports of violence in Punjab and in Bangladesh, where local media reported that two Pakistan cricket fans were violently attacked by Indian supporters.