FAST BOWLER Arshdeep Singh’s father Darshan Singh, a former Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Inspector with 25 years of service behind him, watched from the stands of the Dubai International Stadium as the Asia Cup game against Pakistan slipped away from India — and his son was made the scapegoat for the defeat.
Sunday’s Super 4 game was the first time that Darshan and his wife Baljeet Kaur watched their son play for the country from a stadium. But after Arshdeep dropped Pakistan’s Asif Ali in a tense chase, he faced a barrage of criticism on social media with an unidentified user even editing the player’s Wikipedia page to add references to “Khalistan”.
“As a parent, it feels really bad. He is only 23. I don’t want to say much about trolls. You can’t shut everyone’s mouth. Without fans, there is no game. There are some who stand by you no matter what and others who can’t digest a single loss. But at the end of the day, only one team can win,” Darshan, who landed in Chandigarh from Dubai on Monday evening, told The Indian Express.
On Monday, the Ministry of Electronics and IT summoned executives of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, seeking an explanation on how the page of the cricketer was edited to add inflammatory content. At the same time, several former India players and political leaders rallied in Arshdeep’s support.
Darshan and Baljeet “spoke to Arshdeep before boarding” the Dubai-Chandigarh flight. To their relief, Arshdeep had taken all the criticism on the chin and was upbeat. “His exact words were, ‘I am laughing at all these tweets and messages. I am only going to take positives from it. This incident has only given me more confidence’,” Darshan, who is currently the chief of security in a private company, said.
“Arshdeep told us that the whole Indian team is supporting him,” Baljeet said.
Ali was yet to get off the mark when Arshdeep dropped the catch at short third man off the bowling of leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi in the 18th over. Pakistan were 151 for four at that stage while chasing 182. In the last over, Arshdeep gave India hope when he trapped Ali (18 off eight balls) LBW in the fourth ball. But the bowler had just seven runs to defend in that over and Pakistan won with a ball and five wickets to spare.
“If he had to defend 10-12 runs, he would have won it for India,” Darshan said.
Despite the fallout, Arshdeep’s parents plan to return for the final. “If India qualifies for the final, we will be in Dubai. We want to be there if India wins the Asia Cup. Arshdeep told us that he is looking forward to contributing to an India win,” Darshan said.
According to him, Sunday’s scapegoat could have been from the Pakistan team if the match had gone India’s way. “It could have been Fakhar Zaman because of the catch he dropped and the misfield at the end of India’s innings. Every cricketer wants to win the game for his country. No one plays to lose. Arshdeep will only get mentally stronger after this,” Darshan said.
Arshdeep’s mother, meanwhile, has found a silver lining amid the storm. “Those who are abusing Arsh must have high hopes from him. They are saying all these things out of emotion. When he does well, all these things will be forgotten,” Baljeet said.