Casino and the Prayer Mat: Cricket on a Limb

[aflatoon is a philosopher who walks the hills of Pakistani terror territories. He is a long time supporter of CM and we are delighted to share him today. We hope for his return soon. — sepoy]

Pakistan Team Praying

The chief selector, Moin Khan, has been spotted in a Casino in New Zealand, and some others have spotted Pakistan team offering their prayer collectively in the middle of the ground, in the middle of the World Cup, in the middle of the match against West Indies accusing it of exhibitionism of unpardonable proportion; as if the team has not been depending on cricket but on a prayer’s limb. Moin Khan might equally have been guilty of match fixing in team’s favor outside of cricket. Who knows? In case of cricket, it is always non-cricketing reasons that come to define Pakistan’s victory or defeat. It is never cricket. Continue reading “Casino and the Prayer Mat: Cricket on a Limb”

Archive Remix I: Bike Rides

[You may know that CM has long had an official Archivist – a person who has helped maintain the Facebook page, and helped me cull through the huge archive for posts and materials. You know him as Salman in the comment sections, SalmaanH on twitter, and patwari as author on CM. This is a first in a series of posts on CM where he will highlight various themes from CM using his own narratives – it is one way to keep the archive from being less a silo and more a quilt. We want to thank patwari for this, and for continuing to be part of the CM family. Love – sepoy, lapata, (that farangi)]

Cricket maintained its presence in my childhood in many forms, be it book cricket in classroom, or make-belief cricket in living room where I would stand in a corner and pretend to be this or that international batsman reeling off six after six, or indoor cricket with my brothers. Sometimes even abbuji played cricket with us in the veranda and bowled underarm to me. But soon enough, my brothers started going out to play street cricket, which I was not allowed to do yet, leaving me with not much to do besides riding my tricycle in the veranda, or nibbling on my mother’s decommissioned dupattas.
Taking note of that, one day my father had me hop onto my older brother’s bicycle and had me paddle as he held on to the carrier at the back of the bike. I could see abbuji breathing heavily as he tried to keep pace with the bicycle. Then, unbeknownst to me, he let go of the bicycle. I paddled for a little while before realizing that he had let go, at which point I looked down at the ground below and the cycle-handle wobbled in my hands. I must have been about to fall when abbuji called out, “Keep the handle straight and keep paddling. You are doing fine. Kuch nahin ho ga.

It wasn’t until 9th grade that I got what I considered a man’s bicycle –a 20+ inch Sohrab. My best friend and I would ride all evening, from one friend’s house to another, going to our tutor’s house and taking our sweet time in getting back. As the span of my bicycle trips increased, so did my sense of self and of the world around me. It is to that combination of boyhood and freedom to explore I return when I read about bike rides.

Imran Khan, Considered

In The Review, I have a review of Christopher Sanford’s Imran Khan in which I briefly consider the man. Below is what didn’t make it into the review – for fairly obvious reasons – but, I thought I’d spin it here. No pun.

Much has been written on Imran Khan’s transcendence from the game of cricket but little justice has been done to his game itself. Sandford, as well, finds it hard to capture any sense of the player even as he pays exquisitely detailed attention to life and politics on and off the field. Before we turn to all those enticing issues away from the game, let us linger, for a moment, on the game itself. Imran Khan was one of the smartest cricketers. His greatest strength as fast bowler was that he was a true batsman. He knew how to think as a batsman which meant he made sure that the batsman played every ball he hurled at them. Consider that in his entire ODI career he bowled 216 overs with only 18 maidens. Now most would read this as sign that he was easy to score against, but his economy rate of 3.7 runs conceded per over belies that supposition. Simply put, he bowled at the batsman. This quality, above all, not only contributed to him being one of the highest wicket takers during his career, but it ensured that his co-bowlers consistently picked up a higher percentage of wickets.

As a batsman, he had a high arch to his bat and a tendency to commit to the front foot often and early. He wasn’t too orthodox in his shot selection yet had an enviably straight bat. He was also one of the best players of the short ball (a much needed skill since his own tendency to bowl short balls guaranteed reprisals). His hooks and pulls were always a joy to watch and he rarely succumbed to the third-man trap.

In the field, he wasn’t the swiftest nor the surest. As a true embodiment of “gentleman’s game”, he rarely flung himself at the speeding ball. Still, he had safe hands and rarely dropped a catch. But from his long-off perch, he managed the entire field as a seasoned sea-captain coordinates the crew – constantly shifting the field, swapping players, speaking with the bowler. His fields were always dynamic organisms, drawing in and out in sync with every ball that sped towards the bat.

This last was his particular strength as a captain. Unlike other team sports, the cricket captain has to act both as the heart and the mind for the team. When on field – which was the only place some of us could witness him in action – Imran Khan was a hybrid conductor and a puppeteer. He orchestrated every movement of the other ten men on the field. He was quick with a scold as with a pat, and always in complete control. Not for nothing that Imran Khan, as the captain, was often called ‘the dictator’.