By Dr Nauman Niaz
I reflect back to the late Omar Kureishi’s flirtations with cricket writing and management, the year 1950 was a watershed for him. He felt palpably his freedom from the narrow questions of imperialistic ideas which had, for so many years, absorbed his energies. At the same time his intellectual confidence was secure, rooted as it was in his mastery of the philosophical foundations of his ‘AH Kardar’ perspective.
It was reflected in the breadth and urgency of Kureishi’s later writings; and in his exploration of new questions-questions of art, professionalism, culture and aesthetics all amalgamated in cricket.
Although in some ways he was returning to the themes of his early years, his approach was deeply marked by the new and original conception of modernizing and equipping cricket which he had developed by the end of his stay in England. He could foresee that Asia would stand out, the players having more flair and flamboyance however he could also perceive cricket becoming a ‘merchandize’. At the centre of this vision was his recognition of the creative energies of ordinary cricketers and their critical place in the Pakistani game as the force for recognition and product development.
If the conventional cricket and political work Kureishi had carried out in Pakistan had brought him to this point, it was, above all, his experience of having attended Harvard University which changed his mature perspective on international cricket and the paradigm shift he could contemplate so early in his life. What Kureishi had discovered in Pakistan cricket was that the question he considered to lie at the heart of development process itself -- the relationship between the players and their highbrow captain AH Kardar, absolute control of a captain who couldn’t ever be wrong, the relationship between individual freedom and social life-was most starkly posed; Kureishi was Kardar’s close friend and liked his authoritarianism; actually he didn’t support his ‘authoritarianism’ but the method with which he executed it and controlled the environment; inside his heart Kureishi was convinced that the success that Kardar’s captaincy had brought to Pakistan, it was purely ‘individualistic’ and not a ‘system’ that could echo in future once he wasn’t there; it exactly happened like that?
What Kureishi tried tutoring me, I acknowledge, I understood the movement of the modern cricket to be one of increasing commercialism and less integration. The growing interconnectedness of things through the expansion of financial markets, the centralization of capital within India, the accumulation of knowledge, the breakdown of work ethics, was mirrored in my view, by the increasing denigration of scruples and national pride and high influx of money and sponsorship into cricket. The personalities of the players unlike that of AH Kardar or an Imran Khan, never before had individually been so fragmented and restricted in the realization of their creative and ethical capacities.
In my writings, I tried uncovering in Pakistan an intense desire among people to bring the separate facets of their experiences into an active relationship with cricket, to express their full and free individuality within new and expanded conceptions of social life, a social life that had effectively become asphyxiated, intense and marred by rising inflation and financial incompatibility hand in glove with geo-political and democratic frailties. To them cricket was ‘the struggle of happiness’.
Nonetheless, virtually day to day there were happenings that only added pain to the people of Pakistan to whom cricket could be a struggle of happiness. Mohsin Khan, PCB’s chief selector threatened to resign if the differences that he had developed with his colleagues over the selection of the fifteen-man team that was picked for the two Tests in the West Indies were not resolved. It was always surprising that Mohsin who mostly seems to be ‘gentlemanly’ could last with an intractable and highly dictatorial, ostensibly rigid and virtually unforgiving Ijaz Butt, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board? At times Mohsin had tried defending the indefensible PCB on the verge of looking obtuse, dialectically giving reasons which even the reasons didn’t understand.
I tried talking to Mohsin on telephone on Tuesday inquiring why he was enraged and he as usual didn’t reply candidly, emphasizing that I could know once he went to the press that he was contemplating the pros and cons and he was more than eager to reveal that it wasn’t just the PCB but some other ‘factors’ had also coerced him to get disillusioned. As reported, there had been an argument over Adnan Akmal’s exclusion and preference of Mohammad Salman. Salman’s show in the One-day Internationals against the West Indies was unblemished whilst Adnan had performed creditably in the four Tests he had played against South Africa and New Zealand.
Previously Salahuddin Ahmad, Aamir Sohail, Abdul Qadir, Iqbal Qasim and Wasim Bari had all been marginalized tactfully; Aamir resigned though events were manipulated knowing fully the type of personality he had; Qadir was also ‘tempered’ and ‘tampered’, Iqbal Qasim showed ‘finesse’ whilst Wasim Bari meekly responded to the calls of shifting from being concurrently the chief celector and the chief operating officer to a lower designation at the PCB, not showing the ‘grace’ that Qasim had delineated; Adnan to Mohsin had been hard done, as alleged since he had picked eight catches in a Test in 2010. Qasim was unconvinced about the farce of ‘rebuilding’ as there were players included in the line-up close to 30 years of age and termed as ‘youngsters’? I acknowledge that Qasim’s remarks were most appropriate; what happened to Danish Kaneria was also a mystery in itself; he wasn’t cleared by PCB’s ‘Integrity Committee’ whilst Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik were excused; interestingly no charges against Kaneria were proven even in England?
How India from a pedestrian team developed into the world champions was their creative power, the democratic desires, the expansion of personalities, the record of their achievements that was a ‘silent’ revolution. In contrast Pakistan’s product was eroded because of the repressed democracy and primarily because of intractable people like Ijaz Butt.
It hurts me more, as I had been part of Pakistan cricket’s management once, and I am aware of these tensions all around, it is to be seen nowhere more clearly than in the contradictory position of country’s team, their integration (patchy) and disintegration (incessant), within a culture that has dilapidated.