The world famous meme. One of the most looked at faces in the subcontinent, in last one year. The symbol of dejection.
That's Muhammad Sarim Akhtar, the 'angry Pakistani fan', who has had crazy 12 months. Sitting near the boundary line during Pakistan's World Cup match against Australia, Sarim saw his team dropping easy catches and his silent, 'desi-dad-disappointment-look' was something the entire world could relate to.
His picture started getting circulated, literally from the minute it was captured by the cameras and more than year after that look went viral, we thought of knowing the man behind the meme. So, we got in touch with him.
To begin with, Sarim describes himself as a 'regular 9-5 office going and shy person by nature'. He is an auditor by profession and lives in London with his wife and kids.
Before this, he used to work in Kuwait and went there after completing his education in Karachi, his hometown.
Now, how did this 'regular' person become such a big sensation? It was by chance. In a conversation with ScoopWhoop, Sarim narrated everything that took place before he found himself in the stadium for that match, and here it goes:
On June 12, 2019, there was an important World Cup game. Well, you could argue that every match in the World Cup is important, but Muhammad Sarim Akhtar's home country was playing that day.
However, to attend or not to attend, that was the question.
Mostly, Sarim did not want to. He had just shifted to a new house and bought a new car. So he thought he'd give it a miss. Maybe follow it on social media, watch the highlights - stuff like that.
But when one of his friends, who was traveling from Dubai persuaded him, Sarim agreed. 3-hour-long drive seemed a bit of a hassle, but he went ahead with the plan.
Thank God he did, because that was the day his life effectively changed. He became an overnight star, something which Sarim says he had never expected.
The viral nature of it overwhelmed me that day as I could never have anticipated that happening to an ordinary cricket fan. Plus, the rapid nature of it was totally surprising because by the time I sat down, I started getting messages from friends. They had seen me on TV. But soon afterwards, I saw a few memes being shared with me and people who were sitting around me, started talking that 'isn’t this the guy?'. Then after 30-45 minutes, when Zainab Abbas appeared with the cameraman and said 'you know what you have gone viral' and that she wants to interview me. Wow! I was over the moon.
And as you can imagine, the sudden fame was not just shocking for him, his family also did not know how to process it, or react to it.
My family was overjoyed obviously. My siblings, cousins, friends, colleagues, classmates...whoever knew me...contacted me to say that they are getting so much attention because they know me. On a lighter note, if you ask my immediate family, they will tell you that I have carried my scorn/angry look from home to the stadium and made it famous.
So, one wonders how things are looking now?! Of course the fame has finally sunk in, but Sarim says there are still days when he gets surprised by the love he gets from the fans. Fans who really can't get over him - something proven by the fact that as soon as the sport resumed after the COVID-enforced break, his meme got back in the game with full power.
Yeah it’s been over 14 months now and during that time what has surprised me the most is how global the meme has gone. It has gone to non-cricket playing countries I couldn’t have imagined. What is astonishing is that memers and fans contacted me on 12 June this year to thank me for giving them the best meme template ever and congratulated for the anniversary!!(Apart from that) well, life was normal at that time and still is. I got recognised back then very often and was requested for selfies and even now, sometimes people recognise me. But social media is still on fire, and after the cricket restarted, it’s gone big again.
This made us think if he was offered any projects. Because you know, it would only make sense to rope in one of the most popular faces on social media. To no one's surprise, he did in fact got an offer to do a Coca-Cola ad, an experience he enjoyed a lot.
No nothing much, except for one commercial offer for Coca-Cola. But I had a lot of fun doing that. When I was travelling to Lahore for the shoot, I was bumped up to first class twice because the counter agents recognised me.
Now, you can't talk to a Pakistani cricket fan without mentioning the Pakistan cricket team. When asked about the current squad and his favourite player, if any, this is what Sarim said.
Well to tell you the truth, none. They are an average lot with no heroes. Some players like Babar have the potential to be big and as a team they need to perform consistently in order to win.
And this was his opinion on the team winning a major tournament in near future.
Oh yes, they will perform better in the shorter formats and give the top teams a big scare in the next T20 World Cup in India.
Coming back to the meme - his photo, of course, is our favourite. But what's his? Always the one to laugh at himself, he said he finds the one below, very creative.
Well there are several memes that are my favourite and I enjoy the very creative ones the most. Someone put a headscarf over my face, recently, and I had a big smile added to my disappointed expression.
But the best one to date is a layered one, where, within a span of 15 minutes, Pakistan loses 4 wickets in a Test match. That’s the only one where the memer has photoshopped me from the back and shown my bald head. Still, it cracks me up thinking about it. Pak are 70 odd for no loss and I am shown in a happy mood giving interview to Zainab Abbas. Then I go to the toilet and am shown from the back. By the time I return, Pakistan is 75 for 4 and my disappointed expression is shown.
Finally, he revealed his 3 favourite Indian cricket players and the reason behind his choices (there is also a request for the Indian PM, which we sincerely hope he notices).
Oh, I have 3 Indian players whom I adore at the moment. 1. Dhoni, 2. Virat and 3. Rohit.Dhoni is a genius who took Indian team to new heights and made them world beaters. Virat is an Australian in an Indian team by way of his spirit and passion, and has been successful in adding to Dhoni’s legacy. Off the field, Virat is a master class as well - the way he carries himself, his personality, the sportsmanship he shows, the life partner he has chosen.. all are classics.Rohit is probably way ahead of his pears at the moment, the way he paces his innings to reach a 200 is tremendous. Mark my words he will be the first one to reach 300 in the ODIs...fabulous. Lastly, I would like to see Dhoni play in the T20 World Cup next year in India and would humbly request Modi sahab to encourage Dhoni to continue playing one more year till the World Cup.