Pantomime of war

The final at The Oval brought out the best in the defeated Indian team. Pakistan rubbed the defeat in.

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Published:June 24, 2017 1:45 am
Starting 1952, India-Pakistan cricket has always been a kind of wrestling match. When Pakistan’s hockey team was the world champion, its Indian counterpart was a timid weakling, but the real battle was always in cricket.

On June 18, Pakistan thrashed favourites India by 180 runs to clinch the ICC Champions Cricket Trophy title in a thrilling competition at London’s The Oval ground. Earlier in the tournament, India had inflicted a humiliating defeat on the same Pakistani side that could neither field-and-bowl nor bat properly. Then uncannily, it arose from its ashes and defeated three teams to play India again in the final.

India and Pakistan can’t play bilaterally although Pakistan wants it badly if cricket is to survive in the country. The problem is that no one comes to Pakistan to play cricket because of terrorism that targets foreign teams; and no amount of security assurances have worked so far to attract the world back and save the Pakistan Cricket Board from starving of cash. The last time that Pakistan requested Bangladesh to break the taboo set by India it got a no because the players were scared. But the real rub is that India doesn’t allow Pakistan cricket teams to play in India too. The BCCI wants it but the government doesn’t, perhaps as a policy of keeping Pakistan under pressure. Yet the fact is that India is no longer safe for Pakistanis because of the “street power” vigilantism. Pakistan has its terrorists, India its own variety of fanatics. And, ironically, both want to play cricket.

No matter what the media warriors may say, the final at The Oval brought out the best in the defeated Indian team. India’s charismatic skipper Virat Kohli praised the Pakistani team pinpointing their strong points. Ex-skipper M.S. Dhoni showed his humanity by carrying Pakistani captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s baby in his arms, smiling blissfully for the camera. Perhaps one highlight of the competition was ex-skipper Sourav Ganguly’s commentary during the final match. Not only is he the best-speaking cricket observer, his analysis enriched the experience of watching the match. His assessment of and advice to the Pakistani side justified the title of “dada” given to him by Pakistani players.

But defeat carries insult which the unworthy victor must fling in the face of the vanquished. The Pakistani media did it and the Indian media responded with counter-insult. The low point was reached many times. Before the match, the exchange was humorous and lightly sarcastic; after the match Pakistan showed no generosity and rubbed the defeat in. The fact remains that the Indian side is still the best cricket side in the world and the Pakistani boys need to play with it to raise the quality of their game. India’s IPL attracts the entire world and quality players give up their places in the national sides to come and entertain the best cricket-watching crowd in the world, found in India. Pakistan is still too isolated to become the parallel arena of this great sport. Bangladesh refused; Afghanistan has also begged out.

After the victory, Pakistan was festive. After watching the match on the big screen set up in street-corners, crowds spread out dancing amid blood-curdling challenges to all comers in cricket. The youth was at the forefront but the very senile too abandoned their cots and danced to the drumbeat of nationalism. The entire population was united as one nation, a rebuke to those very credible scholars who declare on good evidence that Pakistan is a state that hasn’t yet become a nation. Even some of the madrasa leaders who usually stay away from sport, as a distraction from piety, joined the saturnalia, equating cricket with jihad.

Sport in history has been a pantomime of war among city states. The nation of Pakistan got united because the contest was with India, which clearly means that the cementing factor was the urge to “throw the Hindu wrestler”. (These days Indian kabbadi-players regularly floor their Pakistani counterparts.) Starting 1952, India-Pakistan cricket has always been a kind of wrestling match. When Pakistan’s hockey team was the world champion, its Indian counterpart was a timid weakling, but the real battle was always in cricket.

Starting with Abdul Hafeez Kardar down to Imran Khan, religion was not directly inducted into cricket; but now you have to prostrate yourself, preferably bearded, on the pitch if you score a hundred or take five wickets. This time at The Oval the entire team did it to complete the parable of jihad. The best message of congratulation appropriately came from Pakistan’s army chief. India, shelling Pakistan’s border villages across the ceasefire line, was supposed to feel humiliated. And peace, obviously, is nowhere in sight.

Oddly, India has never been more “united” than now under a ruling party that has a clear majority in Parliament, but this unity is bothering communities being made to stand outside it. This is very much like what Pakistan has made of itself. Politically it is so divided that it has become uncertain about where it wants to go. Cricket unites it but in the negative sense: It wants to challenge India or respond aggressively to its punitive policies. Cricket is supposed to unite, not divide, if you want to go on playing.

The writer is consulting editor,‘Newsweek Pakistan’

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  1. B
    Bhola
    Jun 25, 2017 at 4:55 am
    Are you pakistani?I feel amazed ,How come most Muslim writers biased writi g against hindistannn and hinduss and modi govt. Or it is media which only publish articles which have enough material against India ,Hinduism and Modo govt?.It is amusing to equate Pakiiistan a terrosit country with India an Open country.
    Reply
    1. R
      Raja
      Jun 24, 2017 at 10:41 pm
      Where is tolerance, equality and secularism in Islam?
      Reply
      1. R
        Rana
        Jun 25, 2017 at 4:29 am
        Let me tell you my dear respected friend there are more Muslims(which you call Muhammad's followers) In India than in Pakistan. We have a habit of dragging every issue at a petty level. Take it as a game and move on. In both countries a big percentage of the population is struggling to get basic amenities of life. We need to educate our masses and move forward with tolerance instead of isolating each other...
        Reply
      2. R
        Raja
        Jun 24, 2017 at 10:40 pm
        Problem is Mohamed's ideology of supremcism and intolerance. Muslims are willing to accept and die and kill for it. That is why Rishi Kapoor said game is game, but come on Mohamed followers pleas stop the killings in name of Allah. Yesterday 60 killed in Pakistan and today Muslims tried to kill pilgrims in all of all places- Mecca
        Reply
        1. L
          lafanga
          Jun 25, 2017 at 5:34 am
          You are talking about intolerance about others and you belong to a country where people get lynched for eating beef and millions of poor Dalits are cast as untouchables and treated worst than animals. Look in the mirror first. India is the most racist country on the planet.
          Reply
        2. E
          Ehsan Habib
          Jun 24, 2017 at 8:46 pm
          I don't get it, Pakistan has always dominated the sub continent scene of cricket. We have defeated all three, India Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka more and is the only team that has more win record over seas. As recent as 2012 Pakistan won a series in India, and yet it is Pakistan cricket that is being ridiculed. Strange.
          Reply
          1. K
            Kg
            Jun 24, 2017 at 6:57 pm
            Also Pakistani's lectures of "culture", here are the facts for you.The Islamic invaders came from Turkey and deserts of Arab, at both places, Rice were not grown those days, even now it is almost impossible to cultivate Rice. Niether spices. Even today you go in Balochistan and any farther, they eat meat with salt and green chilly only, you know it.There goes all your claim of Biryani etc, all of which were created in India by Indian people.Not even architectural building exist in the homeland of invaders to indicate that they brought anything from there.All architecture (which is actually were created by India people, even then all those buildings are not even one hundred of one Hindu temple in Ellora.Therfore stop this stupidity, you people are folowing cult of Saudi Arabic Camel drinking tribes, don't speak too much.
            Reply
            1. R
              Rana
              Jun 24, 2017 at 4:47 pm
              This shows the double standards and manipulation of Indian Media. I am settled in Canada for the past 10 years. People just wanted the game it was like an Indian SuperBowl. It doesn't matter who lost or won because it's a game and it was for entertainment, its not a decider of Kashmir issue or proves the superiority over one an other. Being a professional engineer and mostly having friendship and acquaintances from both intellectual sides, all my Pakistani and Indian friends agree that cricket should be revived. Co operation, friendship and tolerance is the key to move towards progess.Germany China an South Korea are just a few examples of Nations that literally rose to world leaders from Ashes, unlike us who are always divided, you can expect the uneducated fans to pull petty jokes but coming from the intellectual is very unfortanate. A good chunk is well below poverty line and India suffers it way more than Pakistan.Watch the analysis from Sehwag and Gambhir, it proves otherwise.
              Reply
              1. V
                VT
                Jun 24, 2017 at 7:19 pm
                Did your friends from the other side also agree that they shud give up on terror and Kashmir ? Nah. Then u r living in fools' Arabism. Wake up before ...
                Reply
              2. E
                Employ Ment
                Jun 24, 2017 at 1:52 pm
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                Reply
                1. K
                  Kg
                  Jun 24, 2017 at 1:36 pm
                  Having lost four wars to India, Pakistan people are going on about a cricket match as if they have conquered the Universe.Get over it, It is fine that you celebrate it but get real now, it is a cricket match, a week earlier and about 10 times before that you had lost to India, we also celebrated our victory, it is ok, well played, see you in World Cup.
                  Reply
                  1. U
                    Umar Nazir
                    Jun 24, 2017 at 6:31 pm
                    Pakistan snatched 40 of Kashmir in 1947 so Pakistan win, in 1965 India want to conquer Lahore but defeated and PAF shut down 95 Indian jets and loose only 20 so Pak win 1965 as well. yes in 1971 you win clearly and in Kargil againt its Pakistan who defeated INDIA. please correct ur info my son
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      Kg
                      Jun 24, 2017 at 6:47 pm
                      You can live in fool's paradise, that's ok. There is only one definition of victory and defeat in war, that is, did you achieve the purpose for which you attacked? The answer is No.Four times you attacked and four times you failed to snatch Kashmir from India, and as a net result of these four attacks you ended up losing half of your nation which is now called Bangladesh.That is the bottom line.Otherwise also, you have been creating problems in India for more than half a century, India has moved and progressed but your country has become a begging terrorist state in the process, so, who has one?Before you call anyone something, get a lesson real perspective, not one told by your biscuit making Army.And about your name calling, for us, you are not worth replying to, but don't live in your self created wonderland.
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