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Hassan Ali’s dropped catch has Pakistan in a fix: Was it ‘mauka’ to win T20 World Cup or not?

The narrative within sections of Pakistani media is that the T20 World Cup was Pakistan's to win but it slipped from Hassan Ali's hands.

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New Delhi: Pakistan seemed to have its name on the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup trophy. But it “slipped from the hands” of pacer Hassan Ali at deep midwicket against Australia on Thursday — or at least that’s the prevailing narrative within many sections of Pakistani media and social media. Meanwhile, the #maukamauka squad spared no trouble going that extra mile to pile the pressure on the Pakistan cricket team.

Under the acclaimed leadership of Babar Azam, the Pakistan cricket team had secured five wins out of five in the Super 12 stage, smashing India and New Zealand along the way, and stormed into the semifinals as tournament favourites. However, surrounded largely by Pakistan supporters at the Dubai International Stadium on Thursday evening, Australia recorded a dramatic five-wicket win, setting up a trans-Tasman final with rivals and neighbours New Zealand.

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Australian ‘hero’, Pakistani ‘villain’

Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade survived a Hassan Ali drop catch immediately before hitting three consecutive sixes in a Shaheen Shah Afridi over that ultimately went for 22 runs.

Awarded the player of the match for his unbeaten 41 off 17 balls, Hobart-born Wade became a national hero Down Under, while the rest of the cricketing world laid their eyes on Shaheen’s spell in the death overs and especially Hassan’s dropped catch.

During the post-match presentation, Babar Azam had pointed out the drop as the “turning point” of the contest but also said that it could have happened to any fielder in the circumstances and that he would continue to back Hassan Ali.

The likes of Samaa TV news presenter Faisal Karim back home, however, didn’t see it that way.

In a video posted on YouTube and titled ‘The World Cup fell into the hands of Hassan Ali’, Samaa TV and Karim appeared to lay the blame for the defeat squarely on Hassan Ali.

Pakistan cricketing legend Shahid Afridi, a guest on Karim’s show, also emphasised the importance of fielding, stating that Pakistan will become a consistent title-winning side only if they completely cut out such errors in pressure situations.

“[The match against Australia] was the final for me, I knew we were going to beat New Zealand [to win the world cup] either way,” Afridi said, adding that the drop caused a complete momentum shift in Australia’s favour and made Wade’s task easier.

Many users commenting on the YouTube video, however, sided with Babar Azam’s post-match remarks and called out Karim and Shahid Afridi.

“It is unfair to blame Hassan Ali, his attempt was fine. Again it’s just a game,” Vijay Sheth said.

“No one’s talking about the three sixes conceded by [Shaheen Shah] Afridi after that,” Arvind Nair said.

“Shahid didn’t want to point his finger at Hassan Ali, but this cunning host of the show tried best to bring the discussion on Hassan Ali and make a controversy for higher TRP,” Niaz Morshed Khan said.

While some commenters blamed the toss, implying that it is easier for the chasing side on the Dubai pitch, others took digs at Shahid Afridi.

“Shahid is saving his son-in-law,” one user said, in a reference to reports of Shaheen Shah’s plans of marrying Shahid Afridi’s daughter.

“He is a clever person, he didn’t say his son-in-law got 3 sixes,” user Adeel Akhtar said.

“Ever since [Shahid] Afridi retired, Pakistan really improved,” another user stated.

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Divide between Pakistan fans

A divide between fans and close followers of the Pakistani men’s cricket team was visible on other social media platforms as well, but the outpouring of support began to dominate the discourse.

Fan account Grassroots Cricket pointed out commentator Shane Watson’s supportive remarks about Hassan Ali and Shoaib Malik’s actions immediately after the drop.

Journalist Rana Ayyub, who had previously predicted an England v Pakistan final, said Hassan would now receive a great deal of hate. While journalist Naila Inayat said that Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s trip to watch the T20 World Cup final got “cancelled”.

Australian cricket blogger Dennis Freedman, who divides his loyalties between his home country and his large fanbase in Pakistan, blamed Hassan Ali for “dropping the World Cup” before putting out more supportive tweets later on.

Meanwhile, some users took the opportunity to pile the blame of Pakistan’s performance being “undone” and mock Hassan Ali for injuring himself in his celebrations in an older Pakistan match, and blamed him for the defeat.

Most visibly, however, was the support for the entire team from Pakistan Cricket Board chief Ramiz Raja and Pakistan PM Imran Khan, both of whom are well known for their historic achievements as yesteryear male cricketers of Pakistan.

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