Mar 8, 2009

Behold the ghost of cricket

“Gawd,” said President Zardari, as he whipped out his Sterling Silver Mont Blanc fountain pen and wrote in the Visitor’s Book at Mr Jinnah’s Mausoleum, many moons ago. “Give me strent,” he added, visibly moved. They still haven’t found who moved him, like, months later they are going to be unable to find the dozen happy-go-lucky attackers who took out the Sri Lankan team at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. Such things are never solved in Pakistan as it has been determined that the nation can’t take this. A few signs noticed on the national landscape have arrived, and though some of you may already have seen these, are worth sharing. There is the destined to be, immortal, “Dainting Painting,” followed by a great Chinese delicacy called “Chicken Chumian.” A biker has a hair-raising slogan across his machine. “Don’t warry be happy,” and we all must switch to Nise Cola “a water so pure there is nothing but crips, clean refreshment in ahead and enjoy a great tasting.” What more could one ask for? Nise, isn’t it? Two cops, bored to death but armed to the teeth, sit next to a sign which beckons. “Chick Point,” it suggestively offers. Another shop, which may be given the President’s Pride of Performance Award claims, “Open 25 hours,” and a rickshaw driver, reflecting the hard times we live in, is offering “Love for Sale Discount 100%.” Two signs from our bearded brethren across the Attock are gems. A group of the hairy ones are shouting, “We condom attack.” They may please be provided what they so desperately want. Another placard carried by the Jamaat-e-Islami, Peshawar, is good news for dog-lovers. “Buhs is a big terrior of the world.” The marvels of genetic engineering are with us.But why delve into the murder and rape of the language, you might well ask, when everything else that surrounds us is so dark and gloomy? Well, there is no answer, and why should there be? After all, when was the last time we had a good answer that satisfied everyone and sent a smile across our faces? Instead, we are assaulted by news and comments that are plainly insulting and well indicate what is thought of our basic common sense. In the aftermath of the Lahore attack on the Sri Lankans, as expected and as is the drill, the President and the PM were deeply shocked. In a few days they will also condemn this “dastardly attack,” and there will be any amount of people who will say that what happened in Lahore is not really us. If this is, by some remote stretch of the imagination, accurate, one would like to know what is the real us. That being a question without a real answer, we will instead be fed drivel like RAW organised the attack, that we are all peace-loving people and this attack is to destabilise the democratic forces and bring a bad name to the country. We will also be told – and actually are being told, that there was no security failure. When a convoy under strict security and threats comes under fire with disastrous consequences, it is a security lapse. Those saying otherwise are only mocking us. The route is being questioned, the Blue Book is being debated, the last-minute route change is being discussed, the “No Fear” boys who fell like ninepins in the onslaught of a well-coordinated and ruthless attack by a dozen men who were bouncing on the greens as if they were on a picnic are images which should haunt those who were supposed to be guarding these guests. But because the shame quotient here is higher than ever before, there will not be a single resignation. Instead, angry and righteous denials will be issued and justified. In a few days the cops will have been buried and cast aside and life in the VIP lane will move on as before. Now and then appropriate noises will be made and clicking of tongues in mock disapproval will betray the official response. But no heads will roll, no one will admit it was a botched-up security plan that went haywire and cash compensations – our answer to every human tragedy – will be announced.Which brings us to cricket, or indeed whatever is left of it. There is not much, as any idiot can tell you. What we have is the debris of a building that once was a much loved and much supported icon. Now it is history. We can kiss any tours happening here for at least the next five years. As for the World Cup, it too is history, as would be the Champions Trophy and any visit by a country other than Timbuktu. So what do we do with the huge cricket edifice we have built over the years? There are two ways to go from here. The first is to convert all the grounds into commercial plazas and “shaadi ghars,” as this business is going to grow. The other is to adopt “gilli-danda” with open arms and establish that as the new spectator sport, but we are not sure how the beards would react to that. After all, the shape of the playing tools can leave most of them rather excited and this could mean trouble. Maybe, painting them a lurid green colour could save the day, but that would still be dodgy. Call Dr Nasim Ashraf back. Since the Senate Committee thinks he is the cat’s whiskers, the bees knees and the rabbits’ foot all rolled into a dynamic ball of energy and enterprise, he would, if nothing else, blow away whatever little is left of the PCB’s kitty, and being officially broke, the PCB can be wound up and buried in one of the dead plots Curator Agha Zahid is so good at making. Or if the PCB is serious it could take stock of the present situation as follows:No foreign teams will be visiting Pakistan.No tournaments will take place here.Events like the Asia Cup, the Champions Trophy and the World Cup are history.Pakistan will be the new cricket desert of the world.Perhaps a study of the period when South Africa was isolated and cast aside might well be in order. For that long period when they were the pariahs of the world, they built up their domestic cricket structure, seriously, methodically, brick by brick, and put together one of the finest structures anywhere in the world. We all know that for years and years so many people have demanded and pleaded for a sound domestic cricket structure but the answers have never been forthcoming. I think I can speak with confidence that men like Majid Khan and Imran Khan, who know their cricket, have gone hoarse asking for a proper infrastructure, and many other Pakistani greats have followed suit. Maybe it is not half as glamorous as international cricket, but when that has become a mirage, surely this could be a dream worth chasing. If Pakistan emerges out of this isolation five years down the road with the Jihadis having been laid to rest (a pipedream, if ever there was one), it may not have a great line of sporting highlights to show off, but it could show the world another Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Majid Khan, Imran Khan or Asif Iqbal, to name but a few. That would be far better than telling the world that we are the victims and waiting for Mr Malik, our Security Czar, to resign.

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