LONDON – Embattled Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed has pleaded with furious fans to stop abusing his team ahead of Sunday's World Cup clash against South Africa.
Pakistan's painful defeat against bitter rivals India in Manchester last Sunday sparked a furious reaction from supporters, with ex-pats living in Britain taking out their frustrations on the players.
Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam were reportedly abused and shouted at while at lunch on Thursday, with fans claiming players responded by pushing them.
Pakistan's players were advised to be cautious following the incidents in London this week and Sarfaraz admitted the team and their families have been troubled by the taunting, which included social media trolling.
"Players have their personal lives," Sarfaraz said on the eve of Pakistan's must-win game against the Proteas at Lord's.
"Whatever they (the public) think, they write it on social media. That hurts, too much.
"Players are affected psychologically. Such things should not happen."
The 1992 champions are close to World Cup elimination after winning just one of their five matches.
They not only need to win all their four remaining matches to have a realistic chance of reaching the semi-finals, but also improve their inferior net run-rate.
Sarfaraz admitted fans will inevitably show their anger after such a disappointing World Cup for his country.
"I know you cannot stop anyone," said Sarfaraz, who was abused by a fan while at a shopping centre with his family.
"Our fans are emotional and these same people lift us when we win.
"But if they feel sad on a defeat we also feel the same way. We feel it much more because we are playing for Pakistan."
The video of the incident involving Sarfaraz went viral on social media, leading to condemnation of the fan who later apologised to the Pakistan captain on Twitter.
"Our families get affected," said Sarfaraz. "If someone is hitting, then pushing anyone that's not good. So the request is to talk about cricket.
"Social media and media are not in our control. They are so big that you cannot stop them.
"Teams have lost before, they will lose again, but now with social media such big it gets unstoppable."
But Sarfaraz insisted the personal abuse was going too far, calling for supporters to stick to criticising their form on the field instead.
"There should be no abusing, criticise our game. That's not an issue," he said.
"I have said before that cricket is such a game that it takes you high one day and then you fall the other day.
"I have always tried to keep myself at the same position. I am like I am before. I have been with people who have kept me humble and down to earth."
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) denied media reports that players are barred from going out for their own safety.
"There were incidents of players being abused when they went out for lunch and dinner. That is condemnable but Babar and Imam never misbehaved," a PCB spokesman told AFP.
"We have advised players to be aware of the situation around them and be cautious.
"It is not correct that we have barred them from going out as is projected in some parts of the media."