Pakistani Cricket – Reality Calls

India won the cricket world cup semi-finals against Pakistan on the 30th of March. It was a fine display of one team outclassing the other, and one team making full use of the other team’s inadequacies in the game. Obviously, the team doing both of these was the team that won.

Pakistan has long been the “arch-rival” to Indian cricket. From the Indian perspective, these games have long been a forum for Indian team to display its prowess in the much adored game. It has never been just about religion, or politics, or vengeance or any other divisive notion. It has always been more about being better in the game. But for Pakistan, it is always going to be about being better than India. No, not just in cricket, but at the most fundamental level, just being better than India. Forget the economy, or the level of education, or the basic progress of society; if Pakistan bests Indian cricket, then Pakistan has won vindication. This is a pitiful state of affairs for a country that has diminished to being an international joke.

In the wake of the Mumbai attack, nobody in India has failed to see the irony in how Pakistan has dealt with their own duplicity in the atrocities. The perpetrators were Pakistani – yes. They caused unprecedented mayhem on foreign soil – yes. Any other country would claim the attack to be judicious grounds to declare war – most definitely. But India stayed put, and stuck to the softest possible response in the situation. All bilateral talks were grounded, and relations between the nations were dumbed to a standstill. However, to see the absolutely absurd reactions to this recent cricket match from across the border, given the decades of weighted backgrounds and this recent blatant attack on Indian sovereignty, one is simply flabbergasted.

The Captain, Oh Captain

Take the much-adored Shahid Afridi – his fans simply can’t get enough of him, so much so that they clamor to lay their hands on his pictures, those of his wife (check the comments – “Pathans dont show/shear their family (LADIES)” and of his daughters as well. From general perception and press coverage, he is amongst the most popular on the team right now. He is expected to be the grounding force in the team, now their leader and role model. However, anyone listening to him rant these past few days could well be shocked at the levels of immaturity on display. Let’s analyse some of his comments:

“Indians will never have hearts like Muslims and Pakistanis. I don’t think they have the clean and large hearts that Allah has given us,” Afridi was quoted as saying on a television channel.  

“It is a very difficult thing for us to live with them (Indians) or to have long-term relationship with them. Nothing will come out of talks. See how many times in the past 60 years we have had friendship and then how many times things have gone bad,” he said as the audience in the TV channel’s studio applauded him repeatedly. – The Nation, Pakistan

Afridi has reacted in the most juvenile way to a clear and unquestionable failure by his team. India beat Pakistan in the game. They did not have to fix the pitch, bribe an umpire or sway the media. In fact, Afridi’s own government put more pressure on his team, taking into account the fact that three of their top stars were banned for match fixing recently.

Rehman Malik (current Interior Minister of Pakistan), speaking to reporters in Karachi on Monday, had said that the team is being monitored closely to avert a repeat of the embarrassing spot-fixing scandal in August last year. “The team is being kept under close scrutiny before the match because of the recent spot-fixing scandal. We are not taking any more risks and do not want more such scandals,” he said. – The Express Tribune, Pakistan

Given that a minister of his own country issued this kind of a public warning against the national team, it goes to show the exact extent to which his own countrymen can extend their “large hearts”. With a government like this, who needs an enemy in Indian media; right, Afridi?

Is He Forgetting?

Also, these statements of Afridi are coming after he was a prominent presence in the test team that India beat on Pakistani soil in 2004. He would do well to remember the kind of security that the Indian team required to play in his home country. I’m sure Pakistanis are “large-hearted”, but even the Pakistani Government did not want to risk things going badly for the series. After all, we can almost guess what the Sri Lankans have to say about Pakistani hospitality.

Coverage of the attack –

Never before has violence of such ludicrous levels hit the sport of cricket. This kind of absurd inadequacy in security arrangements shows the incompetence of the government, the national cricket board as well the the complete ruthlessness of a people gone berserk. Controlling extremists is the priority when any such large-scale international event is hosted in a nation. But, even if Afridi insists, large-heartedness can never cover for the gross negligence at display, and the obvious move of the ICC to suspend all cricketing events in that country. Idiotic statements aside, he doesn’t seem to realize the impact this attack has had on the perception of Pakistan as a cricketing nation.

Fans and Responses

The Pakistani cricket fans seem to show a similarly nonsensical response to the loss. When Sonakshi Sinha, an Indian actress debuted alongside Salman Khan in a movie that became extremely popular in Pakistan (Dabbangg was seen as “Khan Bhai’s” capturing of the Indian movie industry), she won over many movie buffs across the border. They followed her on twitter, made lewd suggestions and requests for her pictures, morphed her face onto lingerie models and even started forum pages dedicated to the lass.

However, a recent tweet (see picture on this link) of hers garnered so many adverse/hate responses that she was forced to pull the picture off her page.  News report here.

This upset some of her pakistani fans. Many tweeted telling her to be a goodwill ambassador between the two countries and learn a few things from Salman Khan. Some of them even unfollowed her on twitter. To which Sonakshi tweeted; ‘pak fans v upset. jung ke maidan mein ladne se toh accha hi hai khel ke maidan mein ladein! im all for love thy neighbour. be a sport yaar.’ and later deleted the picture. she replied to her upset fans by saying ‘was all done in good humor. and if people dont understand that…its really not my fault’
A few days later she posted on her twitter ‘no jokes today. too many people here without a sense of humour. boo.’
do you think she went too far? should she just apologise?
I personally feel that she should just apologise straight up. Imagine if the picture was reversed and how upset indian fans would have been? I feel it was insensitive and as a public figure she needs to be careful not to ruin relationships with pakistani people. She should learn from more seasoned actors/actresses like SRK who celebrate without humiliating anyone and never try to upset their fans.

Ah yes, Salman Khan must be the embodiment of Indian dignity, of course. Pakistani fans did not handle this loss well, but their own celebrations over cricketing victories in the past have shamelessly brought up everything from Jinnah and Kashmir to Bollywood and Hinduism. The immaturity from their captain begins to make sense when this background of a typical fan is investigated. However, telling her to follow the example of Salman Khan is just pushing it, no? After all, does being an alcohol-addicted, SUV-driving-pedestrian-killing moron make him the *cough* shining example?

Must Sonakshi dance like him also? I think her Pakistani fans might prefer that.

Of course, these statements Afridi made garnered hard-hitting responses from Muslim scholars:

Eminent Indian Muslim scholars have said that his comments were immature and uncalled for. “If Allah has really given Pakistan and Pakistani Muslims such a large heart, why is it that the minorities, the Ahmedias and the Shias, live in fear there,” asked Mumbai-based Shia scholar Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi. Young men such as Afridi who are role models for millions of cricket fans, said Rizvi, should not have spoken so irresponsibly. “It is this supremacist idea of Islam that is forcing well-off Pakistanis to flee that country. While the affluent are leaving the country, the poor are getting killed in the almost daily terrorist attacks in Pakistan,” he said.
Scholars mentioned the recent murders of liberal voices such as Punjab governor Salman Taseer who had opposed the man-made blasphemy laws as an example of increasing intolerance in Pakistan. “I am shocked that Afridi forgot so soon the kind of magnanimity and hospitality Indians showed him and his team on the occasion of the semi-final match at Mohali near Chandigarh,” said Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer. “Were not Indians large-hearted when they cheered Pakistanis’ conduct on the field and off it? What else did he expect?” asked Engineer. – Times of India

I won’t delve into the religious aspects as much, seeing that they are more or less irrelevant to how well you play the game, as far as cricket is considered this side of the border. But, it is simply absurd on a captain’s part to steep to such blatant foolishness and pandering and use it as a cop-out to get back on the “good side” of his minions and fans back home. The treatment and security arrangements provided to the Pakistani contingent was top class. There were absolutely no problems even at Mohali, with the Indian Government playing a sporting host to the Pakistani Prime Minister as well as several Pakistani fans who were issued temporary visa-permits and tickets to watch the game live. Given the Mumbai attacks looming fresh in the minds of Indians all over, this was perhaps the biggest show of “large heartedness” possible by an entire nation still smirking from the atrocity. In fact, as far as friendship-symbolism goes, this action from the Indian people was so large it was morbidly obese, gargantuan even.

India could NOT have gotten chummier with Pakistan, in the current context.

If Afridi had particular problems with any arrangements, he should have voiced them here. He wasn’t denied a voice or a platform. His move to walk back home, head hanging in shame, with his own daughter crying on national television, must have brought out this cowardly response; because his pathetic batting form obviously didn’t help him register a response on the cricket ground. No doubt, the Pakistani forums are already mumbling in agreement with Afridi’s reasoning. No doubt, his statements will instigate much data-mining by the news shows there. However, nobody would expect someone like Dhoni, or Tendulkar, or even Sreeshanth to resort to such absurd comparisons to religion-induced large-heartedness and media skulduggery when justifying a loss. It is a sorry state to see the scion of Pakistani cricket resort to such nonsense, but not unexpected of a people slowly losing their stakes in their own conduct. It is hard to say if the Pakistani team will reclaim the iota of respect they had garnered from a semi-final ending run in the world cup. But whatever happens from here, it is not difficult to imagine that reality is shouting a different tune to what currently passes for it in Pakistan.

UPDATE: Watch the Dawn interview below.
 0:56 –
“Jitne bhi hum koshish karle, jitne bhi haanth bhadayen, joh hamare dil hain woh unke nahi ho sakte”
“However hard we [Pakistan] try, however much we extend a hand [in friendship], their hearts can never be like ours”