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Sarfaraz demands an end to abuse from fans

Sarfaraz Ahmed has requested aggrieved Pakistan cricket fans to tone down their emotions and stop abusing the players as they prepare to take on South Africa in a must-win game at Lord's on Sunday.

Pakistan's shambolic defeat against arch-rivals India at Old Trafford triggered a bunch of offensive comments from supporters back home and fans residing in Britain, which culminated in some people heckling the players.

According to reports, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam were at the receiving end of abuse while having lunch at a public place on Thursday, with a few fans accusing the cricketers of responding aggressively and physically shoving them away.

Amidst this backdrop, Pakistan players have been suggested to avoid getting into arguments with fans and Sarfaraz claimed this was taking a toll on the squad members and their families, who were being needlessly dragged into the abuses.

"Players have their personal lives," Sarfaraz said on the eve of the match against the Proteas.

"Whatever they (the public) think, they write it on social media. That hurts, too much.

"Players are affected psychologically. Such things should not happen."

Pakistan are currently placed in a precarious position in the World Cup as they languish at the ninth spot facing the prospect of a first-round exit.

Also Read: 'We have to lift ourselves' – Wahab urges Pakistan to stick together

They thus require victories in all of their remaining games in addition to results of other matches going in their favour in order to advance into the semi-finals.

Sarfaraz said he empathized with the sentiments of the resentful fans and insisted the players feel the same way too.

"I know you cannot stop anyone," said Sarfaraz.

"Our fans are emotional and these same people lift us when we win.

"But if they feel sad on a defeat we also feel the same way. We feel it much more because we are playing for Pakistan."

A recent viral video depicting the Pakistan skipper, accompanied by his family, facing abuse from a fan at a shopping center was widely condemned on social media and the said fan later apologized to Sarfaraz on Twitter.

'Talk about cricket but don't abuse us'

"Our families get affected," said Sarfaraz. "If someone is hitting, then pushing anyone that's not good. So the request is to talk about cricket.

"Social media and media are not in our control. They are so big that you cannot stop them.

"Teams have lost before, they will lose again, but now with social media such big it gets unstoppable."

Sarfaraz said certain media campaigns went too far in targetting the players' personal lives rather than sticking to constructive criticism of their performances on the field.

"There should be no abusing, criticise our game. That's not an issue," he added.

"I have said before that cricket is such a game that it takes you high one day and then you fall the other day.

"I have always tried to keep myself at the same position. I am like I am before. I have been with people who have kept me humble and down to earth."

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) dismissed rumours of players being restricted from going outside of their hotels altogether for fear of their own safety.

"There were incidents of players being abused when they went out for lunch and dinner. That is condemnable but Babar and Imam never misbehaved," a PCB spokesman told AFP.

"We have advised players to be aware of the situation around them and be cautious.

"It is not correct that we have barred them from going out as is projected in some parts of the media."