Pakistan cricket chief Najam Sethi Thursday played down allegations that the national team’s star pacer Hasan Ali overstepped the mark during an appearance at the border where he squared off with Indian soldiers.
The viral video of the 24-year-old pacer at the main border crossing at Wagah in Punjab province over the weekend sent shockwaves through social media in the subcontinent.
During the incident Ali puffed out his chest mimicking gestures made by Pakistani border guards and also slapped his thigh while staring down Indian security forces, a gesture he often does on the pitch after taking a wicket. The performance was largely cheered by Pakistani cricket fans but drew protests from Indian users who slammed the display as jingoistic.
“No bro, just no. Use your platform to do something constructive, not spread hate!” one Indian fan tweeted.
However, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Sethi played down Hasan’s antics, dismissing attempts to politicize the incident. “Our national cricket teams always go to the Wagah Border for the flag lowering ceremony,” Sethi told Pakistan media. “It’s unfortunate that social media has given it a political color, what he did he usually does after taking a wicket.”
Ali became the top ranked one-day international bowler in global rankings last year following his 13 wickets in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy triumph in England. He has so far played two Tests, 20 one-day international and 16 Twenty20s.
During the same ceremony at the border, senior batsman Azhar Ali offered more conciliatory gestures, saying he hoped for eventual peace between the rivals—who have not played a bilateral series since January 2013.
“Peace is the way forward,” tweeted the batsman along with a picture, where he posed with Indian and Pakistan forces at Wagah.
India-Pakistan ties, including sports and cultural contacts, plummeted after the 2008 militant attacks in Mumbai, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistani militant groups. Delhi has suspended most bilateral sporting ties with Pakistan since 2008, with high-profile cricket tours bearing the brunt of the moratorium. They have, however, continued to play each other in multinational events like the World Cup.