As Hasan Ali faces abuse, a voice from his inner circle says he will bounce back

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Some of the abuses on social media are unprintable. Fast bowler Hasan Ali’s ‘offence’ was a dropped catch of Matthew Wade and three consecutive sixes that followed sealed the semifinal for Australia.

Cricket can be a lonely game. When the curtain fell, Hasan was alone despite Shoaib Malik walking up to him like an elder brother and lending a hand.

The player looked distraught. Maybe, he had an inkling of what was coming. Abuse is a common pastime on social media platforms. India fast bowler Mohammed Shami was at the receiving end of it after India’s loss to Pakistan. That Hasan’s wife is Indian, gave some of the trolls from Pakistan an extra abusive edge.

Hasan’s Pakistan Super League franchise Islamabad United’s general manager Rehan-ul-Haq confirmed that the fast bowler was unwell, going into the game. He was seen throwing up on the field.

This is a man who had the most number of wickets for Pakistan in international cricket this year, going into the T20 World Cup. Shaheen Shah Afridi overtook him during the tournament, but 61 scalps this year spoke volumes about Hasan’s contribution. He didn’t have a good World Cup – five wickets from six matches and an economy rate of nine runs per over – but Rehan called him “the outstanding death bowler in the PSL and one of the outstanding death bowlers for Pakistan”.

To put things in perspective, Hasan has resurrected his career, bouncing back from a career-threatening back injury.

Maybe unwittingly, Babar Azam made things worse by pointing towards the dropped catch. “On the day, catches were dropped and because of that the match changed. Had the catch not been dropped, the scenario would have been different,” the Pakistan captain said at the post-match press conference.

Rehan gave Babar the benefit of the doubt.

“I think Babar was mentioning the moment rather than the player. And anyone can drop a catch. Jonty Rhodes dropped catches. Ricky Ponting dropped catches. Even wicketkeepers wearing gloves drop catches. I know Hasan. He hates losing. He will be more hurt than any person trolling him right now. He will be more critical of himself than everyone who is criticising him,” Rehan said, speaking to The Indian Express.

Going through the bubble life, when mental health takes precedence, such vile abuse can break a player. But Rehan is not concerned.

“He is a champion, he is a fighter. When he is down, he knows how to get back on his feet. He’s been through really tough times due to injuries. He was out of the Pakistan team, his career was thought to be done, but he came back to become Pakistan’s best bowler once again.”

Babar made amends in his dressing-room team talk after the game, a video clip of which was posted on the Pakistan Cricket Board’s Twitter handle. “Nobody should point a finger towards the other, that somebody has done this, somebody has done that. We will learn from this and will not repeat our mistakes in the future. Am telling you, this bond must not break just for one defeat.”

Two years ago on Shoaib Akhtar’s YouTube show, Hasan was talking dance moves with choreographer Gillian Rhodes, the latter being a guest on the show. Conversation quickly moved to more serious issues, Hasan’s injuries to be precise. Shoaib opined that nobody in the Pakistan team understood the fast bowler’s body properly.

Hasan agreed, admitting that extra workload led to fatigue and consequently “back-to-back injuries” (back and a stress fracture of left ribs). The setback came when his career was going well. Becoming the Player of the Tournament at the 2017 Champions Trophy was a high point. Last night was a low.

But ups and downs have been part of his life since he started playing tape-ball cricket in Gujranwala many moons ago. Progress was never linear. But ebb and flow taught the 27-year-old to take failures in stride.

Rehan offered an insight. “Hasan is always full of energy. One thing that people don’t realise is how important he is in the dressing-room. He is one of the leaders in the dressing-room. When someone is down, he is the first person to go up to him. Now he needs his teammates to cheer him up. What Shoaib Malik did last night is exactly why Shoaib Malik is in the team; a calming elder brotherly influence.”

What Hasan didn’t get last night was a fair deal. Let alone the faceless trollers whom Virat Kohli called “spineless people”, Pakistani cricket statistician Mazher Arshad’s Twitter timeline revealed that even some white-collar people hurled insults towards the fast bowler. Mazher’s put-downs accompanied facts and stats.

As for Rehan, he called this “a very subcontinental culture type of thing”, citing Hasan and Shami’s examples, and condemning the trend. The victims of abuse may also find comfort in Kohli’s words: “There’s a good reason why we are playing on the field and not some bunch of spineless people on social media that have no courage to actually speak to any individual in person. They hide behind their identities and go after people through social media, making fun of people and that has become a social entertainment in today’s world, which is so unfortunate and so sad to see.”

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