LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja made it clear that hooliganism had no place in cricket after Pakistan’s thrilling victory over Afghanistan at the Asia Cup was marred by clashes between the two sets of fans in Sharjah on Wednesday night.

Videos on social media showed Afghan fans failing to control their emotions after seeing their team lose the match by one wicket and expressing their anger by hitting Pakistan fans as well as vandalising stadium property.

Ramiz told reporters at a news conference here on Thursday that the PCB will lodge a complaint with the International Cricket Council to make sure that Pakistan’s cricket fans don’t face a similar situation again.

“You don’t identify hooliganism with cricket and this is unacceptable,” Ramiz said at the presser for the draft of the Pakistan Junior League.

“This game doesn’t want such an environment. The visuals were really bad. This wasn’t the first time such a thing happened. Emotions should be kept in check, we own our fans and we lodge a protest with the ICC.

“Winning and losing is part of the game and even the Pakistan team could be in danger in such an atmosphere.”

Pakistan beat Afghanistan after Naseem Shah hit two sixes off Fazalhaq Farooqi in the final over of the match to take the team into Sunday’s final of the T20 tournament.

Trouble started when Afghanistan pace bowler Fareed Ahmad had a heated exchange with Pakistan’s Asif Ali after giving the batsman a send-off following his dismissal.

Fareed celebrated animatedly right in front of Asif, who in return pushed the bowler back and when countered again by the bowler, he almost hit him with the bat before players intervened along with the umpire to defuse the tension.

The rising tempers shifted from the field to the stands with videos circulating of Afghanistan fans ripping off seats and throwing them at fans in Pakistan shirts while raising slogans like ‘Afghanistan Zindabad’.

Former Pakistan bowler Shoaib Akhtar tagged a video and tweeted: “This is what Afghan fans are doing. This is what they’ve done in the past multiple times. This is a game and its supposed to be played and taken in the right spirit. @ShafiqStanikzai your crowd & your players both need to learn a few things if you guys want to grow in the sport.”

Former Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive Shafiq Stanikzai issued a withering response to Akhtar’s remarks.

“You can’t control the emotions of the crowd and such incidents happened in the world of cricket multiple [times], you should go ask Kabir Khan, Inzimam Bhai and @iRashidLatif68 how we treated them,” he tweeted.

ASIF, FAREED FINED

The ICC said on Thursday that Asif and Fareed had been fined 25 percent of their match fees for their heated exchange.

One demerit point each has been added to the disciplinary records of the players, both of whom did not have any previous offence in a 24-month period.

The incidents sparked debate on Pakistan’s diplomatic relations with Afghanistan but the Foreign Office spokesperson said it was highly unlikely that they were going to be “impacted by such emotions in the sports arena”.

At its weekly briefing on Thursday, the spokesperson was questioned that despite Pakistan having helped Afghanistan and its people during times of crisis, the acrimonious scenes in Sharjah had cast a pall over it.

“I think what happens on the cricket field should be left there,” responded the spokesperson. “There are sometimes heightened emotions and that is normal. We should be mindful of the close and brotherly relations that exist between Pakistan and Afghanistan — the historical, cultural affinities, and the strong spirit of brotherhood that is there between our two peoples. I do not think it is going to be impacted by any such emotions in the sports arena.”

The unsavoury incidents during the match also came under discussion during a parliamentary panel on Thursday with the National Assembly Standing Com­mittee on Inter-Provincial Coordination “condemning the non-professional & unethical attitude of Afghan players as they misbehaved with Pakistani cricketers”.

The Committee recommended that the PCB takes up the issue with Afghan Cricket Board to avoid such incidents in future.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2022

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