The India-Pakistan cricket series comes to a close and I, for one, am wallowing in languid satisfaction: a state of mind I desperately failed to attain the last time we toured Pakistan, even though in 2004 (unlike what happened in 2006) we clobbered them then in what really matters– the Test matches.
On the face of it, this seems rather strange. The first two Tests in the 2006 series were insipid, lifeless slogfests and the last one was a humiliating defeat for the Men in Blue (And no I am not rejoicing in that—despite the fact that being a Ganguly fan and so by extension non-patriotic, I am supposed to do so.) The ODI series was also a vapid no-contest with India dominating match-after-match so much so that individually counting each hair in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Samsonian mane would perhaps have been more exciting.
So then what’s the “feel good” here about?
Precisely the fact that we were not subject to “the universal brotherhood” bonhomie we had to sit through the last time. Pakistani supporters cheering the Indian team, people with Indian and Pakistani flags painted on their cheeks—the saccharinity of it all made me want to go into a diabetic coma. It seemed so fake—a disturbance of cosmic equilibrium on the scale of a wife saying that her mother-in-law is her best friend or a husband saying he has eyes only for his wife.
Yes it was that unconvincing.
The Pakistan I love are that bunch of uber-gifted cricketers — arrogant, brutal street-fighters who enjoy nothing more than to humiliate their opponents when they are on top, unfailingly make excuses when they lose, and who, most of all, will adopt any method—fair and foul to win. And the Pakistani crowd I love are the ones who have elevated taunting Indians to a fine art, shout “Allah ho Akbar Pakistan jeetega” even when all hope is lost and who go deadly silent when a Pakistani wicket falls.
The Pakistan of Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz who once bowled bouncers that cleared the batsmen’s head by a distance so as to deprive India of a victory (In those days bouncers were not called wides). The Pakistan of Javed Miandad who would keep on trash-talking Indians and bringing in religion and politics while our gentle lambs tried to bat. The Pakistan of Wasim Akram who on being defeated by India in World Cup
98 99 (thanks Pratyush) brushed it away by saying:” We took this match as a practice match” (as if the Indians deserved no respect as opponents–and this too when they had lost !) The Pakistan where in 1990 when Prabhakar had the Pakistani top order on the mat, the crowd erupted, the police conveniently turned the other way and the match was abandoned.
The Pakistan of sexual arrogance—Imran Khan comes to India, reportedly becomes “friends” with Zeenat Aman and then adds one more to his trophy chest. Mohsin Khan conquers Reena Roy and then kicks her out. Wasim Akram has a torrid affair with Dimple Kapadia and also reputedly dumps her (source: Stardust magazines I used to read in the barber’s shop). Shahid Afridi brags about bedding a star or two and someone as insignificant as Yaseer Hameed says:
“If Aishwarya Rai or Preity Zinta [Indian actresses] come for the match, ask them to come and meet me.”
Yes they shall come to meet the great Yaseer Hameed. Now that’s confidence for you.
This is the Pakistan I have grown to love and admire—-one which I felt I had lost in 2004 with the shouts of “Balaji Balaji”, the thunderous applause when India took a wicket and Inzi’s gentle Paddington-bear demeanor at post-match conferences which lacked the arrogance and “up yours” attitude that Imran, Miandad and Wasim Akram brought to the podium.
I spent sleepless nights thinking— has Pakistan ultimately decided to take to heart the patented Indian dictum that “participation is the main thing and not winning” and that the competitive sports is all about character-building and honor?
Frankly I think the Indian attitude sucked—the way we always take the high moral ground of being morally-upright “gentlemen” while standing on the loser’s stand. I was aghast when our captain allowed the patently un-injured Saeed Anwar take a runner just because he wanted to concentrate his energy on thrashing the devil out of Anil Kumble during the Independence Cup.(He did not sustain an injury during the duration of play which is the only reason why you can have a runner).
No Pakistani skipper worth his salt would ever accord an Indian the same privilege.
But in 2004, the Pakistan team and crowd that I saw had come dangerously close to this ideal.
However 2006 has re-affirmed the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. While cricket experts like Bishen Singh Bedi, in his column, kept on pulling down the Indian team (true to form), the Pakistani trash-talk-experts, who had retired from active duty, put on their media caps for one more piss-match on India.
Miandad was consistently dismissive about India and Moin Khan essayed a master-class stoke when he wrote that Sachin “walked” because he was afraid of Chuckta’s pace. This was then followed by a mad scramble from the Indian press-wallahs to parrot Moin Khan –in the process writing off Sachin Tendulkar as Endulkar —-and I laughed the laugh of the vindicated. Yes things were the same again—united Pakistanis trash-talking, gentle Indians backbiting.
Shahid Afridi, who like Dev Anand is forever “Main Solah Baras Ki” and whose brother (unlike Dev Anand’s) is a freedom-fighter in Kashmir, wonders aloud to Irfan Pathan if his deliveries will ever reach the batsman’s side of the pitch. That’s what I am talking about. Throughout the series he keeps up his reputation as a taunting motor-mouth and God knows how much pitch tampering he did….after all once he had been caught by the TV cameras during the English series I am sure he would be a bit more careful while engaging in similar acts of sportsmanship.
Shoaib Chukhtar unleashes a beamer at Dhoni. I am beside myself with glee. Sachin Tendulkar gets stones thrown at him….beautiful. In orkut discussion groups, Pakistani supporters heap abuse on Indians as cow-worshiping, piss-drinkers and blood is now flowing back in my veins. This is the real stuff.
Inzi who it seems suffers from the conundrum “Leave the ball is I am out, touch is the ball I am out” and is blissfully unaware of the rules of cricket (may have something to do with him reportedly hiring a person to run his runs in lower grade cricket—someone else perhaps also learnt the rules for him) obstructs the ball in order to prevent himself from being run out. India appeals and he is given out–obstructing the field.
And then, in a true Pakistani twist, Inzi accuses the Indians of being unsportsmanlike in appealing for a dismissal where in the first place, he was being unsportsmanlike by obstructing the ball ! True to form, Moin Khan jumps in —with both of these fine sportsmen forgetting how they had appealed successfully against Sachin Tendulkar in Calcutta, 1999 when Sachin’s bat had gone into the air after a collision with Shoaib Chukhtar—which was a genuine accident because Sachin was not attempting a run (unlike in 2006 when Inzamam did not block the ball accidentally but very deliberately)
This is what Pakistan stands for and I admire them for it—-their focus on victory…wait not just victory but in rubbing their opposition’s face in the mud. They are here to win the game and not a popularity contest.
Which is why I just could not reconcile myself with the Pakistan of 2004. After all the last thing I wanted was the blood-and-sweat descent into hell that a Indo-Pak cricket match is to turn into a politically correct, chess duel between two old gentlemen on a park bench catching the last rays of the sun on a lazy November afternoon.
But I had been overtly apprehensive. All is well again.
[Here is something I wrote on great Indo-Pak cricket moments some time ago. ]