Over the top - Masood Hasan - Sunday, April 17, 2011

It was Charlie Brown of the Peanuts who said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as you win.’ To that extent this cricket crazy country has come to some acceptance of the travesty that was played out at Mohali on April 2, 2011 by what a sport writer calls Afridi, ‘The Idiot King’ and his band of brain-dead ‘professional’ players.

It has been hard to accept it – the abject manner of losing the match from the start has seriously upset millions. But to add salt to the wounds, in what looks like a hatched up plan in which the government and the PCB are involved, this routing has been drummed up to look like our finest hour. This is beyond acceptance.

How has this been engineered is something we do not know. Is it a happy coincidence that has been cashed in? Who knows? From a day before the semi-final with Interior Minister Rehman Malik threatening the team en bloc ‘we are watching you’ to the joyous and rapturous welcome a few days later, when everyone discovered the heroes and hoisted them sans the Cup, is a transformation that defies explanation.

Clearly, a decision had been taken to use this latest distraction that had become an embarrassing defeat and milk it for all it was worth. The media went to town, clearly taking their cue from the masters, crowds thronged the airport and Punjab’s chief minister led the way with cash prizes and generous praise. More money changed hands later as Islamabad too got into the show and there was a who’s-who reception with much handshaking, photo ops with the grinning leadership, embraces, pats on the back and ‘well done buoyz’ doing the rounds. Of course, this chicanery has helped other hopeless causes. Firstly, it absolves a whole bunch of irresponsible, self-centred and brain-dead professional cricketers of poor judgment. Great.

Worse, no one has really asked for a thorough enquiry into what on earth was going on in Mohali. A few random questions thrown at Afridi have been answered with inanities like, ‘I am sorry,’ or ‘It was my mistake.’ It seems to have satisfied the questioners but does not cut any ice with those who still have half a brain.

In a sense of course, the current position suits many. The idiot team gets a reprieve – nay even makes good money, the managers of this sorry outfit make money, get off scot-free and get new assignments, the board emerges smelling roses and the heat is off Ijaz Butt. Since they are ‘building a new team’ for the 2015 World Cup, it is obvious that Afridi and Butt have to stay on. Cute.

The GOP takes a sigh of relief since the Davis affair suddenly seems to have become irrelevant and lost its urgency. In no time at all with the monkeys off to the West Indies, at home it is back to business plundering, blundering, looting and shooting.

Unsavoury as it may be to some, there is a ground swell that views the match as fixed. Personally, I don’t think so. It takes many team members to engineer that and while performances that day stretched the credibility line way beyond reason, it was a game Pakistan threw away. The big occasion got the better of them. They just couldn’t handle it. With no Game Plan whatsoever, things just fell apart.

Whatever that may be, some things simply make no sense. Tendulkar inexplicably dropped by Misbah (27), Younis Khan (45), Kamran Akmal (70) and Umar Akmal (81). Tendulkar adds 58 after the first drop. It was as if the word was to drop any catch that came from ST.

Then Kamran drops Dhoni with perilous consequences. A couple more chances and India is let off again and again. Fiction? Coincidence? Not that we don’t drop key batsmen. Graeme Smith (65) was dropped five times in a Lahore ODI. What about the Game Plan? There was none. Plug the Gaps and wait for the next shot. Stop the singles? No.

It was in the fitness of things that Afridi delayed the Power Play. Why? ‘It was my mistake,’ he said. Is that good enough? How could a skipper forget this? What were Messrs Alam, Younis and Javed doing? Why were they huddled in their own corners, their body language, negative and passive? I am no mind reader but these were individuals who were neither gelling nor even interested. No writing pads, no notes, no lap tops.

After a day of fielding, all of us would like to forget, we truly lost the match when we batted and that too after a good start. Pakistan has clutched defeat from the jaws of victory so often that the most die hard fans simply have no faith when we are in a clincher. Deep inside, we expect the worst and when the team delivers that, we plunge to depths of unfathomable despair.

Long before Misbah did what only he knows, there were other culprits who started to set the stage for our funeral pyre. The paddle shot Hafeez created, will remain a mystery. Then grinning Younis Khan arrived and grinned for 32 balls for 13, left grinning having pushed the rest of his team in a death dive. A veteran of 221 ODIs what possible excuse has he got for killing the momentum? Misbah was paralysed with fear. Imagine, 76 balls and 56 runs. Plod, plod, plod. It was inexplicable except he’s done it before. Is the man demented? Captain Afridi who unlike his Indian counterpart preferred to bat way down the order, came and went as he has always done – in a terrible sorry followed by ‘Sorry. It was my mistake.’ And so whoosh went the Cup as far as we were concerned.

But it’s a game say the wise, but it’s the only thing we have. And that does place enormous pressure on the ‘buoyz’ but then, they are professionals not club weekend cricketers. The sad fallout of all the feting and thunderous slogans has sent a terrible message to younger Pakistanis – Fail badly but here’s some cash to take the hurt away.

I would have settled for a rousing reception but because in Pakistan money talks and is our declared religion, it is all that matters. The injection of cash has cheapened the loss. It was the last thing we should have done but it’s the first thing we did and the PCB lives on to inflict more mayhem. Ye gods, have mercy. The cheap chief selector has demanded a cash reward and got it. Shame on you Mohsin Hassan Khan.

A senate hearing has revealed that since Mr Butt was gifted the cricket farm, over US$ 70,000 have been dished out to journalists, broadcasters and media people. Why? From what funds? And why has the PCB chosen to keep mum? To add further mud to our splattered face, Wisden has restricted its five cricketers of the year award to four while our prodigy is bowling bouncers in England’s courts. We have made history again.

The thing is, it will never change because our cricket is what we really are.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: masoodhasan66@gmail.com

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=42077&Cat=9

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