COMMENT: The conflict at Mohali —Shahzad Chaudhry - Monday, April 04, 2011

Afridi brought unity to a divided nation, from FATA and Swat to Karachi, across the sectarian divide, across ethnicity, and across the social spectrum

Cricket trumps ‘conflict studies’ at least for this week; the final of my four articles on conflict must wait. No loss is ever easy, nor was the one at Mohali. I watched the match at a large screen event in Dubai the in presence of a large number of well-heeled Indian expatriates. Being well heeled in no way tampered their sentiment. As soon as the match began and Virendar Sehwag opened up against a mollified Umar Gul, I suspected I was the only Pakistani around. The Indian crowd was vocal, aggressive and clearly unaffected by the presence of other patrons who got increasingly irritated by the Indian shenanigans. Wars and sports bring around similar intensity of sentiment. Better to vent out your sentiments in sports where no blood flows.

A few things are pretty clear: both sides played according to their potential. That may sound strange but in reality it unravels the reams of embellishment that we lay on these star performers and create images of demigods in frenzied passion. Tendulkar in India is elevated a level beyond that — he is considered a god. And yet this god of cricket was all at bay against Saeed Ajmal. He could not, even once, correctly read Ajmal’s doosra. The IT hubs of Bengaluru worked overtime to provide Tendulkar the escape in the Decision Referral System (DRS) when he was actually plumb on an arm ball of Saeed Ajmal. The review showed an amount of deflection on the ball that Saeed Ajmal would have been proud to claim on any of his off-spinners. Forget about the four ‘dollies’ that went down from the hands of the Misbahs and the Yunuses of the team, and a stumping that no umpire in the world can ever be found to carry on his hand against the god. There are moments when even gods are at sea, and through every shred of their being seek an exemption from the agony of the moment — Tendulkar’s was a plight of such gods. He wanted out; someone, anyone please, remove him from under the yoke of a non-performing god. But, then, like in cricket of our younger days, we gave him six turns. But this sounds like a loser’s bickering. And that certainly is not my intent. Despite Sehwag going berserk against a mentally dislocated Umar Gul, a score of 260 was just that — 260, perfectly gettable. Pakistan gave the match away to India; India did not win it. Shastri’s ‘BMW’ was as bland as the Pakistani ‘auto-rickshaw’. He had so characterised the two teams a day earlier.

There are but two culprits of this Pakistani loss. After having celebrated Pakistani team’s unique gift of unity to the disparate people of their nation and a few other pluckings of both taste and flavour in a season when we seemed to be going astray, when scepticism ruled and when invective surfaced as the scum of an obnoxious mix in our national discourse, it is time to be surgical and excise what is extra and flab. Yes, there are, not for this match alone, two culprits: Misbah and Yunus, and I am going to give it to them.

First, who of these was the grafter, the sheet anchor as we love to say? Cannot be both. We had Asad Shafiq too — what a great find and how cool and measured. He got out playing across to a turning Harbhajan, a colossal mistake against any off-spinner. Remember who was on the other side: Yunus. Why did it happen? Because when your stars do not or ‘cannot’ score, the youngsters are encouraged to chance their arm. I have not played international cricket, but I have played enough to know. They must also throw their bat to keep the score moving, since the oldie will not do it; and Yunus is no Richards. As the youngsters err, it provides hope to the seniors of longevity. Imagine how Yusuf survived that long, and no one should give me that nonsense of him being a class batsman. I judge one by the way he goes. Back to Yunus. He is, has been for some years now, devoid of strokes. He attempted one. His full-blooded high shot over cover holed out meekly with a feeble chip to the fielder there. Yes he can score with cuts, not late cuts those, but the silly snicks through the slips that in international cricket mean catching practice. Look at the statistics and see how often he has been caught behind the square. He is irrelevant; he slows down the game; he gets others out; he cannot score; he should be history. Wonder what Imran Khan finds in him? Imran may know more about politics now.

Misbah: wonder of wonders, the street-smart Lahore kid. In his assessment the Board made a mistake shedding him for the England tour. All his years in cricket he has but been waiting to be recognised. He screwed up when, in keeping with his penchant for dramatics, he wished to win the Twenty-20 final against India off the last ball and pushed himself far beyond the boundary of his ability. Same in Mohali. He waited for all to fall; Yunus, Umar, Razzaq and Afridi before he was the lone warrior against the entire might of India; that suited his plan well in raising the stakes for his ultimate heroics. Alas, he once again went far, far beyond his capacity. And Pakistan lost once again with Misbah at the crease. Wail to the loser.

There were winners too that we will celebrate. Afridi for one; he brought unity to a divided nation, from FATA and Swat to Karachi, across the sectarian divide, across ethnicity, and across the social spectrum. Wahab, the tireless bowler; Hafeez, for his dedicated and selfless contributions; Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq for being outstanding talents full of potential, class and fearlessness; Umar Gul, a champion save the last game; and, Rahman and Saeed Ajmal for baffling the best and unravelling the false gods. Hail to the real kings. They did for this nation what many have failed to do in the last four years. They made a nation of a people.

The writer continues to celebrate his abiding passion for the game

Source :\04\04\story_4-4-2011_pg3_2

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