Predict the outcome of the Pakistan vs Sri Lanka Test series
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Pakpassion considers the complex relationship between the players, the fans, and the media.

By Usama Ahmed (25th June 2012)

Cricketers are often subject to a boatload of accusation and critiques. This is unfortunately not limited to commentary on their on field performances. Players have a 24/7 job of handling the drama that comes along with the paparazzi and fans. While, some would say it's a part of the deal when you sign up to become a cricketer. Many times the average fan does not realize that these players are human beings and should not be expected to always remain on excellent behavior. For Pakistani cricketers, the intensity is raised up a notch as there are political issues to deal with and intense scrutiny of their every move.

The Shahid Afridi claim of potential retirement at the airport upon return is an example. An obviously perturbed Shahid Afridi coming back from a dismal SL tour, immediately was asked about retirement. In a setting not conducive for such serious conversation; obviously he said something without real intent. An innocent comment about considering his future was turned into a full blown claim about internal dysfunction. This is what you end up getting with the fan base that is looking for the latest controversy and a media willing to supply the drama. 

There are a lot of events that take place before such words are said. Was it right for Afridi to say such a statement? Probably not. This is considering the way the media tends to handle such issues. However, it is the responsibility of the fans to understand what is serious and what isn't. Unfortunately, with a little bit of spicing up his comment were taken slightly out of context.

The issue of cricketers being normal human beings is of importance here. They will all have lapses and the fans should be respectful of this. There should be a proper setup in place as done by all leagues abroad that bar media personnel to contact players at airports. There should be properly held press conferences and media interviews based on an accepted schedule. These sniper like questions are always asked with the wrong intentions and are looking for gossip. It is a fan's duty to realize the situation in where a question is asked. The responsibility is not always solely on the player.

During the Sri Lanka series there were points where it appeared as if players were getting heated up. There were intensified conversations that came across as "aggressive" to some. It is unfair on all the players involved when fans start assuming what is going on. Immediately, fans were all over this claiming 'infighting' and 'political tensions', when no one really knew what was said. The fans have a responsibility of hearing what the players have to say. Most of the times, if there is tension it is dealt with in the dressing room. When fans start painting the players in a bad light, one should not expect them to behave like angels. For all we know, they were maybe fighting but guesswork is always wrong and unjustified.

There have been countless points where a player is criticized regardless of what they do. This is often seen with sub continent cricketing nations and it has been going on for a while. If a player is aggressive in the field (i.e. sledging), they are considered to be bad sports. If a player is gentle in the field, they are called timid and lacking of passion. At this point, what does a player do? As long as they are within the laws of the game, performances should count and not their behavior. Passion does not show through sledging and neither does bad behavior. It is a ploy used in cricket to get into the batsman's mind and that's all. No more should ever be read into such ploys by the fielders. Unfortunately, we do not see this happening with the fans who are happy to jump on the backs of the players.

The fans are the heart and soul of the game. There would be no cricketers, if there were no passionate fans to show up at the games. This is an accepted point, but it does not justify the behavior of many fans towards their own players. Attempting to demonize them, if they are not their favourite player or, attempting to defend them and their every action, if they are their favourite player. This is not the way a proper fan should be behaving and conducting themselves. Reasonable arguments should be made with an eye towards the betterment of Pakistani cricket. A player's character should never be questioned by the performances they give on the field. If there is reasonable proof of poor conduct, only then is it fair to criticize. This is a point that is often seen going over the heads of fans.

No fan is perfect and no one is expected to be. This is the same way no cricketer should be expected to be perfect. There are varying types of personalities in the game of cricket and this should be accepted and welcomed. There should never be monotony in the game, it will get boring in a hurry. However, do not use spiced up quotes as a method to bring out excitement in the game. Leave that to Hollywood and their gossip magazines, this is a gentleman's sport and fans should behave in the same manner. This does not mean fans should never criticize, but there should be valid points raised. It should not be a mud slinging match that only promotes the activities of the media. If there is no one watching the gossip driven cricket news stories, the channels will automatically change tracks. If Pakistani cricket's improvement is the main goal, channels will stop focusing on individual cricketers. The fan base decides which way the media goes, not the other way around. At least, it should not be the other way around.