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PCB to write to ICC to 'lodge a protest' over crowd trouble in Sharjah

On-field incident between Asif Ali and Fareed Ahmed in nail-biting finish, before tempers flared in the stands

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Fareed Ahmad and Asif Ali were involved in an altercation  •  Associated Press

Fareed Ahmad and Asif Ali were involved in an altercation  •  Associated Press

The PCB will write to the ICC to "lodge a protest" over the crowd trouble and "gruesome visuals" that followed the Afghanistan-Pakistan game at the Asia Cup.
Addressing the media, PCB chairman Ramiz Raja said: "You can't link hooliganism with cricket and this environment makes you sick. We will write to ICC, raise concerns, and do whatever we can because the visuals were gruesome.
"This [crowd trouble after an Afghanistan-Pakistan game] didn't happen for the first time. Wins and losses are a part of the game. It was a gruelling contest, but emotions should have been kept in control. Until the environment is right, you can't grow and go forward as a cricket-playing nation.
"So we are going to express our anguish and frustration to the ICC. We owe it to our fans, anything could have happened... Our team could have been in danger... So whatever the protocol is we will follow that and lodge our protest."
Raja is also part of the ICC's working committee tasked with reviewing the state of cricket and how it is run in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country last year.
Following a spectacular, see-sawing game in Sharjah, in which Afghanistan were fighting hard to stay in the tournament only for Pakistan's last-wicket pair to dramatically clinch their own spot in the final, crowd trouble erupted in the stands. Several Afghanistan fans were detained by the Sharjah police following the incident. However, no arrests were made.
Tempers flared as soon as Pakistan brought up victory courtesy Naseem Shah's twin sixes in the final over. In the aftermath, fans, believed to be Afghanistan supporters, began throwing punches at people wearing Pakistan jerseys.
ESPNcricinfo understands the trigger for the incident was Asif Ali's run-in with Afghanistan fast bowler Fareed Ahmad after he had been dismissed. A visibly charged-up Fareed threw celebratory air-punches very close to Asif's face, who responded by pushing Fareed back and raising his bat at his face. Both players exchanged heated words before Afghanistan's Azmatullah Umarzai and Pakistan's Hasan Ali stepped in to calm things down.
Footage captured in the stands also showed fans pulling out bucket seats and flinging them at each other. Cushioned seats were also torn up. Considerable damage had been done by the time the ground authorities and the police swung into action. The organisers quickly ushered the public out of the stadium to prevent any further damage.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board put out two tweets on September 8 calling for people to "work together" to bring the "cricket fraternity closer", and "somehow try to spread love". "Cricket is regarded as a phenomenon of harmony and more intimate relations between nations. Let's work together for bringing the cricket fraternity closer. Cricket does not allow for us to show negative emotions on the field and turn the friendship atmosphere into violence," one of the tweets read. The other tweet was:
Earlier on social media, former Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO Shafiq Stanikzai had called for a ban on Asif for his aggression. "This is stupidity at extreme level by Asif Ali and should be banned from the rest of the tournament, any bowler has the right to celebrate but being physical is not acceptable at all," Stanikzai had tweeted.
This elicited a response from former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar. "Afghan players put right back into their place by 19-year-old kid Naseem Shah. Unforgettable match against people we have loved & supported always. Lekin bat tamizi aur arrogance nay un no foran neecha dikhaya," (But bad behaviour and arrogance showed them in poor light).
Afghanistan and Pakistan are set to next face each other on October 19, in a warm-up match in Brisbane in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup. The teams are not in the same group in the first stage of the tournament.
Flashpoints between Afghanistan and Pakistan fans are not an uncommon occurrence. At last year's T20 World Cup, "thousands of ticketless fans" from both teams tried to force entry into the stadium in Dubai. When this was met with resistance by the local ground authorities and private security agencies, heated exchanges between both sets of fans led to the external barriers being pushed over.
Prior to that, at the 2019 ODI World Cup, security personnel appeared to underestimate the feeling between the fans of the two countries, who began fighting in the stands, hurling rubbish on the field and invading the pitch even as the players scrambled to reach their respective dressing rooms.
The increased number of incidents stems to some degree from longstanding and complex geopolitical tensions between the two countries. But the players themselves have largely been quite cordial with each other. Afghanistan's have taken an active part in the Pakistan Super League and Pakistan greats like Inzamam-ul-Haq and Rashid Latif have been part of Afghanistan's coaching staff. Umar Gul is their current bowling coach.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo