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Cricketers vs World

Cricketers vs World

We all love our cricketing heroes when they’re winning matches, breaking cricketing records, making inanimate things like a stick and a round objects do things like swing, turn and sweep. But as said by the famous philosopher (fun fact: also avid cricket fan) Anonymous: “if you can’t accept me at my violent worst, you don’t deserve me when I make a double hundred.”

In order to be a true fan you have to accept cricket at its worst as well - a list which includes Ravi Shastri, inconsequential Test match sessions and cricketers being absolute jerks to one another and their fans.

Cricketers being nice to fans is fine I guess, but don’t tell me it’s not boring to see fully groomed players obliging fans with selfies and acting humble in the face of profuse of praise. SNOOZE. Sports is increasingly sucking in players with personalities and churning out well-behaved “ambassadors of the game” who are well-adjusted, humble and self-aware. So it’s always refreshing when cricketers fight back against the system and show some individuality!

Let’s face it, fans can be really annoying: they’re demanding (being nice to strangers takes active effort), they’re unimaginative (everyone wants a selfie, how original) and they carry germs (cricketers cannot afford to fall sick and human contact = germs). Non-cricketing muggles need to treat cricketing gods with the respect they deserve, and upon transgression they need to be shown their place.

Fortunately some brave warriors, emancipated from the shackles of propriety and oppressive codes of conduct imposed by Boards, have stepped up to claim their god-given right be divas.

Disclaimer: Cricingif condemns violence in any way, shape or form. This writer however is okay-ish with it as long it is provoked, proportionate and caught on camera.

1. Ahmed Shehzad vs. Selfies, feat. Umer Gul

All great icons strive to reinvent themselves, and there comes a time when they must reject the very thing that defines them in order to rise from the ashes to prove to their fans, nay themselves, that they are more complex than the one-dimensional figures they were once reduced to.

In that act of self-immolation, Ahmed Shehzad decided he was tired of crowds yelling “selfie, selfie” as he attempted to showcase his craft to the undeserving world. He knew that in order to be taken seriously as the greatest batter of his generation (who bravely defies the strike-rates of his contemporaries) he must reject the very thing he loves--selfies.

So recently when a fan, attempting to connect with the 25-year old asked for a standard selfie, Ahmed seized the opportunity to symbolically kill his former self and be reborn--the fan’s phone merely collateral damage for the greater good.

To add to the performative act of negation of the self, Umer Gul put in a valiant performance as the supportive friend who also puts the ego aside with zero stakes and for indefinite reasons by joining in the abuse.

2. Younis Khan vs. the System

Younis Khan is a fighter. He is known for his fighting words against institutions like the PCB and giants on the field. In short, Younis does not have have time for your bullshit. While there are many things to admire about Younis--his hard won 10,099 Test runs, the grit that defines his batting, his amazing body--however the most admirable part is his no-nonsense attitude towards people who drag him down.

 Not all heroes wear towels.

Not all heroes wear towels.

Scene: Karachi, Korangi Town cricket club. Match between Karachi Gymkhana and Malir Gymkhana in the Karachi Champions League.

Overcome by the sight of Younis playing in front of them, some fans invaded the ground mid-match. That’s when a fan made the active choice to run towards his cricketing hero and deliberately slip on what looks like a dewy outfield, and Younis was having nothing of it. Whenever someone falls unexpectedly, it’s gravity reminding humans that despite all our achievements we can just randomly trip... because science.

However Younis, a seasoned cricketer and human, knows what people like this can do to you--they drag you down with them. So when the fan tripped, he remembered all the times Younis has been the rock for Pakistan and natually held onto Younis for support, bringing everyone in his path tumbling down. Our beloved one half of #MisYou decided that this was the last straw: too many batting partners had collapsed around him and way too many social climbers had tried to ride his coattails. He decided to fight back and drag the fan with him to the dressing room to give him what we can only assume was a lesson in gravitational physics.

 Live footage of Younis Khan explaining gravitational force to a fan.

Live footage of Younis Khan explaining gravitational force to a fan.

3. Inzi vs. Fat Shaming

I like to think of cricket as an inclusive sport, which is odd given its elite origins and colonial legacy. However despite its chequered history, it is only of the only remaining sport in the world where you could be a Nasir Jamshed (pre-match fixing, of course) and still be allowed to play despite total disregard for athletic standards of fitness. As someone hunched up in front of a screen right now as you read this, I’m sure you can appreciate the beauty in that.

It is because of that inclusive spirit that we were allowed to enjoy the batting stylings of someone like an Inzamam-ul-Haq for so long. And so when a fan decided to apply standards of professional fitness from the stands, Inzi’s bat decided to stand up for all that makes cricket beautiful.

The year was 1997 and emotions were running high as Pakistan played India in... Canada (?). Someone from the crowd thought it was a good idea to call cricket’s most adorable teddy bear “aloo” and “motu”. Inzamam, who was fielding at the boundary line, put that fat-shaming to rest--emphatically.

Following footage is a must watch for any Inzamam historian or Inzi-curious young one:

4. Andrew Symonds vs. Freedom of Expression

Societies have long debated the contours of the right to free speech. Where does the right end and social etiquette begin? The cricket field is no stranger to these philosophical debates and often times these issues need to be tackled head-on: which is exactly what Andrew Symonds did when a streaker descended upon the pitch in the second ODI Final (D/N) of the Commonwealth Bank Series in 2008 between India and Australia. Symonds, it appears, believes that there are some limits to one’s freedom of expression, especially if it means an under-dressed man hurtling towards you in the middle of an important match.

If you want to do a deep-dive into this incident as I did, there exists an excellently useless interview of the streaker post-incident. When asked if he regretted it, the streaker shrugged and said not really.

5. Yusuf Pathan vs. his Career

Apparently incensed by comments made during the Ranji Trophy Cricket match between Baroda and Jammu and Kashmir in 2014, Yusuf Pathan felt compelled to go out of his way to call the abusive fan to his dressing room so he could deliver a slap. Considering his flagging international cricketing career, seeking out fans to slap shouldn’t be your first course of action when you’re trying to get into the national team, but we are no one to judge. We’re just grateful that Yusuf made sure that the incident took place in full view of the cameras resulting in perhaps the crispest video footage on this list, you can even hear the sound of the slap. So thanks?

6. Ben Stokes vs. Ashes

English all-rounder and Test vice-captain Ben Stokes was recently arrested in connection to a brawl in Bristol in the presence of his team-mate Alex Hales. The incident did not just cause him legal problems but has put his position in the Ashes squad precarious.

While most would reduce this to a drunken mistaken, given the timing of the incident it seems that Stokes meant nothing personal against his object of aggression. Much like Ahmed Shehzad, Stokes appears to be engaging in a symbolic protest: rebelling against the undue attention that the Ashes gets within the English cricketing structure. Why are matches with the Australian team in white uniform given more importance than similar matches against other teams? Why must we be held hostage to ridiculous traditions of yore? While most English players are vying to secure a spot in an Ashes team, Stokes rejects his selection through a public show of defiance. He’d rather play other “lesser” series than participate in this charade of hype and quality cricket. Also Aussie crowds are mean, who wants to face them anyway.

7. Imad Wasim vs. Ed Sheeran

Frankly, while I don’t condone the methods employed in the previous fights, I don’t blame Imad for this one. “Shape of you” has been so ubiquitous in 2017 that even my father recognises it. It’s everywhere, playing all.the.time. No song should be heard this often.

Imad, being one of the best amongst us, must have felt compelled to do something. Obviously he couldn’t dismantle the corporate behemoths and record labels who dictate what populates our airways and curate our tastes, so he did the next best logical thing: make the song so undesirable that no one would want to listen or play it. And that is exactly what he did, his cover “Shape of You” has made it impossible for anyone to listen to the song without wanting to voluntarily switch to Rambo’s commentary for respite.

 (heart-)shape of you

(heart-)shape of you