Head Before Wicket

No fun being a fan of Pakistani cricket lately. Of course, I have risen above such petty nationalisms a long time ago. I am now an objective connoisseur of the tao of cricket. But for those that care, Pakistan has taken a beating far surpassing their usual flameouts. Consider this: First Test – Australia wins by 491 runs after Pakistan is bowled out in the second inning for 72 runs. S-E-V-E-N-T-Y-T-W-O. Second Test – Australia wins by nine wickets after Pakistan scuttles for 163 in the second inning. Third Test – Australia wins by nine wickets after hammering Pakistan for 568 in the first inning.

Sweet Holy Baba Farid! What went on Down Under? The batting collapse is obvious. But, even the pacemen couldn’t get anything? Next came the humiliation in the one format that should favor Pakistanis -the Twenty20. Aussie “A” kicked their ass. The trend continued in the ODIs where Australia won by 6 and 9 wickets in their two meetings. As if all that was not enough, rape allegations against an unnamed player surfaced. Though the PCB says the claims are baseless, there is much bad vibe in the air. PCB is publicly angry. Not that that means anything. If there is one kafkaesque bureaucracy in Pakistan, it is the Pakistan Cricket Board.

The team can only pray that all this is a bad dream and plead for a stress-free tour of Bangladesh or maybe a casual series in Srilanka. But, next up is India. And The General is pissed and, in his eagerness to become Zia II, has issued “guidelines” to the team.

The India tour, slated for next month, is indeed big news. Big in every respect. Most significantly, will the Pakistani players party as hard as the Indians did in Lahore? But seriously, this series is another milestone CBM (not Continental Ballistic Missiles but Confidence Building Measure). There is a book on Cricket Nationalism that someday I won’t write. Starting with Zia’s famous “cricket diplomacy”, but really going back to Ayub, India and Pakistan have pushed their cricketers to be their proxy warriors, diplomats, heroes and villains. Perhaps a little unfair that such a burden should fall on the shoulders of men trying to figure out their sweep shots but such are the vagaries of life in South Asia.

With Pakistan’s current state of affairs, I don’t hold much hope for them in India. Still, I will be covering the series as your political correspondent (from my comfortable couch).

7 Replies to “Head Before Wicket”

  1. Yea, whatever happened to casual Punjabi swearing we all indulge in so blissfully? Anyway, wonderful piece. And I guess we were in the same room (the LUMS auditorium) when everyone was chanting Balaji’s name. Small world.
    Actually, I made a trip to Delhi in September last year. Must admit that the generous hospitality extends both ways, my friend.

  2. anand: thanks for that. excellent piece.
    THO: “That’s the only time I hear behen**** in Lahore as he curses at the car’s driver.” I simply DON’T believe that! What insult!

  3. I think that Indo-Pak cricket stars can play a responsible role in dissolving deep-rooted tensions. For example, the Pakistani team was invited to a preview of Mughal-e-Azam in India a while ago. Ofcourse melting emotions may make the matches less attractive to Coke and Pepsi…

  4. I think it was Partha Chatterjee who traces an amazing acount of cricket, the growth of nationalism and ofcourse, colonialism in India in one of his articles. petty nationalisms aside, I am a big sucker for india-pakistan cricket matches and i will be paying some dollars to watch it on cable. or perhaps i am better off waiting for cricinfo.com to keep up their “live” updates?

  5. Hmm, I hope it improves, if only because Pakistan are fun to watch (and maybe an Englishman’s fear and optimism as he looks to the Ashes–just a little). I don’t know if you saw this, it gets a bit over-polemical but it highlights another major problem: fitness and injury.

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