Ex-Indian cricketers Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have drawn criticism from a section of Indian society for supporting former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi's foundation in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Former Indian cricketers Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have come under severe criticism after they expressed support for former Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi's charity foundation in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Afridi's appeal for donations to help people affected by the deadly virus in Pakistan has had overwhelming support from leading cricketers.
Harbhajan urged people to contribute in a video message and called on other cricketers in the two countries to make similar appeals. "These are testing times, it's time to look out for each other," Yuvraj wrote on Twitter in a call for funds.
But the two South Asian nations are bitter rivals and some Indian Twitter users posted angry tweets slamming the two Indian players for supporting the initiative of a rival player who has been a fierce critic of India's handling of the Kashmir dispute.
"Do you have any sense?" wrote one Twitter user. "Lost respect" for Harbhajan Singh, added another. "Sorry guys you lost it," posted another user.
Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, although both countries only control parts of it. While rebels in India-held Kashmir have been fighting Indian rule for decades, New Delhi frequently accuses Pakistan of organizing "terrorism" on its side of the border.
India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral cricket series since 2012-2013 due to political tensions between the two countries.
Afridi thanked the two Indian players and condemned the online backlash.
Yuvraj Singh defended his actions, saying that his message for helping those in need during the COVID-19 outbreak should not be misinterpreted.
"I really don't understand how a message to help the most vulnerable gets blown out of proportion!," he wrote. "All I tried to achieve via that message was to help people in our respective countries by providing healthcare, my intention was not to hurt anyone's feelings. I'm an Indian and will always bleed blue and will always stand for humanity."
India, which has been under a 21-day lockdown since March 24, has so far recorded 1,998 coronavirus cases and 58 deaths, according to data released by Johns Hopkins University. Pakistan has been the country worst hit by the pandemic in South Asia, with 2,118 confirmed cases and 27 deaths.