Monday, May 2, 2011

Cricket Diplomacy or Cricket vs Diplomacy

Afridi does his worst effort
 Earlier publihsed on my blog
  The word cricket diplomacy is not new for Pakistanis and Indians; it is the cricket which has always paved the new paths for both countries in testing times. Pakistanis made their first tour to India in 1952 which was also the first ever overseas tour of Pakistani cricket team. They wrote the history and won their first test in the series thanks to magical Fazal Mahmood. Afterwards both countries never played continuous cricket due to tense diplomatic ties. India visited Pakistan in 1978 after a long wait of 18 years and in return Pakistan toured India in 1979. The same pattern remained intact in mid eighties when both countries played on each other’s soil but the goal always was not to play cricket but to pave the path for dialogues with each other to find new possibilities of mutual relationships. Pakistan’s historical tour to India in 1999 was a part of the efforts to diffuse tensions between two countries created after the nuclear detonations which followed by Lahore declaration 1999. An analysis of results of all test and ODI series confirms the theory of diplomacy through cricket and confirms my suspicion over India-Pakistan cricket rivalry. I will give only one example of such suspicious matches played over the years.

 It was the first test of Pakistan’s tour to India in 1999; Pakistan gave India a target of 271. India was winning that test comfortably till the score of 253/6 with Tendular on 136* but they collapsed and got all out for 258 and Pakistan won the test match by a narrow margin of 12 runs. Shahid Khan Afridi played a great inning in that match and scored 141 runs in first inning. But to everyone’s surprise Sachin Tendulkar was judged man of the match for his 136 in a loosing cause although he got out for 0 in first innings. This was one of the many friendly gestures made during diplomatic cricket matches.

I will go that way soon

Coming to the recent encounter of semi-final between both teams, I was very confused to conclude a result. The match created confusions and later developments have again given rise to suspicion in minds of the cricket crazy fans. In 1996 Pakistan lost a similar match in Bangalore where India thrashed Pakistan in much hyped quarterfinal of the world cup 1996. That match is astonishingly similar to the recent semi final but the reaction is totally different. In 1996 Pakistan was in match but last two overs went for 40 runs to give Pakistan a difficult target of 287. Pakistan was cruising with 113/1 in less than 15 overs but collapsed and lost the match by 39 runs. Pakistani nation was shell shocked after that loss and the reaction was bitter. Protesters protested in almost all major cities and player’s houses were stoned. Waseem Akram was specially targeted for withdrawing at the last moment. Players returned one by one and some disguised themselves as common men to avoid the public outrage.

This time the match was bigger and hype was more, Prime Minister was there to watch our team winning. Pakistan managed to get India out on their lowest total in the tournament and the game was in the bag, stage was set to beat India and give Pakistan the biggest ever win in the sports history. Indian commentators and experts were criticizing their team’s performance, Bishan Singh bedi (on CNNIBN) was angry with Tendulkar and he was advising him to retire citing his poorest innings of 85 and inability to handle Ajmal. Our cricket genious IMran Khan and Waseem Akram were more than happy and proud. But we succumbed tamely and lost the chance to earn glory and happiness. How Pakistanis batted was a shameful sight for millions of the fans, when Hafeez was trying to get out, a commentator yelled “ ohh he is getting anxious to get out, what is he doing?”. Looking with a fan’s eye I found every change, every shot, every single decision made by our captain as suspicious. Taking the powerplay when all of the recognized batsmen were gone, giving Umar Gul the last overs when ball was reverse swinging and Razzaq had bowled only 2 overs (he is the best option when ball getting reverse swing), Sticking with the same poor batting order, do not pressing to get Indian tail enders out. These all decisions were poorest and ultimately suspicious. In the field our players dropped 4 catches of Tendulkar (God forbid), during batting none of the batsmen (except one or two) got out on a good bowl or with an effort of bowler/fielder. They all played horrible shots, Misbah and Younis Khan were looking jokers out there. Shahid Afridi got out on full toss ball from a spinner, Hafeez introduced the strangest shot of the tournament, Umar Akmal as usual played his part and got out and rest did what they have been doing for the last two years (Baray mian to baray mian chotay mian subhan Allah).

Shoaib Akhtar saga is alse very depressing part of the whole campaign; thanks God Wahab did a brilliant job otherwise? He played a great match versus Sri Lanka. Against New Zealand Kamran Akmal droped two crucial catches in his over to give Taylor lives to carry on. He gave away over 20 runs in his last over, looked completely out of gears, 5 out of his last six deliveries were full tosses then He was dropped. On his return Shahid Afridi targeted him by saying that he should not have announced the retirement during the tournament but If I am not wrong Shahid Afridi did the same thing as a captains in the middle of a test series in England. Was there any cold war going on between Juniors and Seniors in team? It is a million dollar’s question. Shoaib may have the answer and some secrets to share let us wait for some time.     

What happened afterwards is more suspicious; I mean I do not remember when any of the Pakistani governments and two provincial governments bestowed the cash prizes and dinner receptions to a team loosing to India in India in such a poor way. Even the teams winning the global tournaments had very rare receptions at Prime Minister House in the history. Adding fuel to fire Indian foreign office has announced that they are ready to send their team to Pakistan in near future. Last night Shahid Afridi in an interview with Geo made some stupid statements like, Tendulkar had done a black magic, Misbah was doing the job given to him, Kamran Akmal is one of the most talented players in Pakistan, Hafeez always gave me good advices (he is professor). He should keep his mouth shut and look forward to create some sense and a cricketer instead of making joke of the whole nation. (I missed, an sms campaign and a media campaign was launched to hail Afridi for making excuse, who initiated this campaign?)

Media has played its role as usual, first they created such a hype and made a match a holy war for the whole nation to earn money, and when we lost they started advising us to compete India in other fields. If they knew we can not beat India then why did they play with the public sentiments? Moreover why the government officials are getting anxious to meet a miserably loosing team on dinners and luncheons? I admit that Pakistani team exceeded the expectations of many but it does mean that they play in the manner they played their last match. We may have very difficult times in Pakistan fro cricket but they were not beaten by a superior performance but by their own efforts. No one might have questioned if they had played to their potentials and put up a fight but they did not. Cricket diplomacy might be successful but I think we should not mix the sports with the bloody politics, if we keep doing that then no Pakistani would idealize Sachin Tendulkar, no Indian would love Inzamam and I would have no reason to love West Indian cricket. Then we would have only Akmals ,Umars andYouniss left to love, inspire and idealize.

I may be too negative in my analysis but I have the questions and would love to have answers.


1 comment:

  1. As-salamu alaykum Shahid :)

    Firstly-I have neither answers (as it would be insane if an Indian answers for you) nor do I have teasing exclamation marks for you but only smileys :)

    Great narration-I could feel connected throughout the post.

    I don't know how much right you are in your diplomacy theory. I pray you are wrong. Because if true it would be real betrayal for us fans-both Indians as well as Pakistanis!!!

    I have always maintained a fantasy and even tried to share it across - 'what a team it would have been if Indian batsmen and Pakistani bowlers would have sweated along side':) :) :)