Have they failed Pakistan or has Pakistan failed them? This is a perennial question not just for the Pakistani cricketers but for every Pakistani coming abroad. Is every Pakistani abroad supposed to be an ambassador for his country? Clearly not in my opinion as no one choses to be born in a particular country so why should they carry this extra baggage around? Especially when the going is already pretty tough for Pakistanis in any case. Anyway the author cites following ills affecting the Pakistani cricket team. drug abuse ball tampering excessive religiosity player factionalism spot fixing
The book sets out a pretty ambitious and rather grand objective at its outset. `Does cricket reflect a nation's character, its history, its personality, its culture, its social make up, its insecurities, its politics, its religious commitment?' Most of the book then goes on trying to equate the nature and style of cricket teams with the overall character of the country, which I found slightly disingenuous as it seemed too shallow, but at least its a start. The authors have managed to produce a pretty concise and focussed book in explaining Pakistan from using cricket as a prism. I must say they have done a pretty good job as the book provides many answers to a relative laymen like me, especially in cricketing terms.
I have finally got an answer to a long standing question of mine. Why did cricket become so popular in India over other sports like football introduced by British around the same time? According to the book, cricket in India reflected a mirror image of the class differences that existed on the cricket field in England. In India the Princess took up the game in fervour, so the popularity of cricket is owed directly to the Indian Princess. In Pakistan cricket became popular in the 1970's among the masses. Test cricket between India and Pakistan was as boring as the continuing political stalemate in Kashmir. The authors mainly attributes cricket's rise in popularity to the emergence of one day cricket among other smaller reasons.
Some other telling observations made by the very astute ex-chairman of the BCCP were....
Our players knew little of cricket history and drew no inspiration from it. Senior players tended to treat the physio as a personal masseur, calling him up for body massages at odd hours. According to Woolmer, Pakistani team fitness was at 30% level of the required international level. Australian umpires have a habit of making biased decisions at critical junctures of the match. It was common for senior players not to field in first class games and use substitutes instead. ICC tends to favour India more than Pakistan, in pressing bans and deciding venues. Cricket became popular in Afghanistan after the return of refugees who had picked up the sport in Pakistani camps. Inzamam, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saeed Anwar and even Salim Malik have joined Tableeghi Jamaat. Is it penitence for their alleged involvement in betting scandal or another way to woo the adoring public? Read the how Tableeghi Jamaat works on the Pakistani players coming from middle class backgrounds. Why did Yousaf Yohanna convert to Islam? Education and nurturing is sighted as one of the reasons for the Pakistani cricketers demise. Players are used to stringing together broken phrases to give interviews. Once Inzamam was asked on how his his unborn child was progressing. 'Praise be to Almighty Allah the benevolent and merciful, all credit goes to the boys.'
The best chapter for me was the detailed yet utterly fascinating story of the Oval forfeited Test match due to the antics of the infamous Darral Hair. Authors portray an image of a beleaguered Pakistani team fighting for their honour off the pitch instead of on it for they were all cricketers not lawyers or diplomats. This singular event signifies an important feature in Pakistani psyche, honour and respect have to be earned not expected and demanded. With this one chapter the authors are able to finally prove their grand assumption made in the beginning of the book about cricket 'reflecting the nature of a nation' theory, thus making this a great book to read indeed.
So what Pakistani character is seen through cricket prism? We may cheat, we may steal but we certainly do not kill.