In the stillness of the dark hours following midnight, Pakistani all-rounder Shoaib Malik broke the silence with one awakening tweet. For the insomniacs as well as true cricket fans, the moment was timely and therefore welcomed with opened arms.
Instead of taking the usual fan queries, he posed his own question and asked his 584,000 followers (at time of going to print), what Pakistani youth can do to improve the country’s social media image, following the Paris attacks. The resultant suggestions should leave no doubt in anyone’s minds that contrary to popular belief, the young people of Pakistan are very much aware of the need for tolerance in today’s terror-afflicted world.
As midnight receded into the shadows and dawn began to ascent, Malik’s followers began to talk about respect, compassion and change. A single tweet had shown a sportsman’s ability to rise above the norm and interact with his fans on a serious note and here-in lies the reason behind Shoaib Malik’s recent rise in the twitter-sphere.
Competing with the ever-popular Shahid Afridi on social media is no mean feat but as the T20 captain has begun to focus on his philanthropic activities, it has been opening batsman Ahmad Shahzad who has been way ahead of his contemporaries. The latter has the ability to touch the heart of the common man with his posts. Tweeting with patriotic fervour has further enhanced his reputation as the king of social media in Pakistan.
However, the previously vastly underrated Shoaib Malik has taken Twitter by storm in the last six months, with his very-much-in-the moment profile pictures and improved command of the English language. Whilst Shahzad has relied on light-hearted television appearances and good-looking selfies (ensured to get his female fan base swooning), Malik has rightfully let his bat do the talking. His appearances in international T20 leagues, his double ton in his comeback Test match and subsequent retirement from Tests, not to mention a world famous spouse attending the 3rd Test in Sharjah have all added to his immense appeal.
Lady luck has been on his side too. Addressing the press conferences after day’s play, Shoaib Malik has made it a point to show his newly-found maturity by greeting the press contingent amicably and responding to questions with a lack of the moodiness he had exhibited in previous years. He has shown the rest of his team-mates how important it is, not only to create, but to sustain a positive public image over a lengthy period of time. Canadian Ameem Haq is the manager responsible for this outward change but the player himself, has to be given credit for the stupendous effort required to make an image turnaround.
With Ahmad Shahzad still hot on his twitterati heels, it remains to be seen who is able to win this unofficial competition in the long run. Out of the two players, though, it is the opener who, with his sometimes controversial tweets , classy Dubsmash/Sholay video and beautifully-framed photographs, has made the rest of the team wake up to the fact that social media is a highly effective tool.
May the best man win.