VIEW: Absurd mix of religion and cricket —D Asghar - Wednesday, April 06, 2011

It appears that our passionate and often senseless emotions impacted our rational thinking. It is not their faith that was on the pitch in Mohali, but the skill of their players that was on the line

If anything, the recent 29-run loss in Mohali of our cricket team must serve as a sign for many in our hyper-religious society. Some of our own, shamelessly run any and everything in this ‘religious blender’ to play with the emotions of our naïve masses.

The SMSs circulated on mobile phones throughout, requesting the recipients to recite a certain ayat-e-kareema (verse) for Pakistan’s win, is just the tip of the iceberg. The religious leaders suggesting a tasbeeh (mantra) and dua-e-haajat (special prayer) for a potential win is another one. The country coming to a total standstill and special prayers being held for our team’s win, somehow beg for some collective thinking.

This scribe, by the grace of the Almighty, is a Muslim. However, I am of the opinion that religion and sports are two very different things and need not be mixed with one another. One thing is for sure — religion is not a game. However, some in our so-called religious circles are hell-bent upon making the religion a game. This always suits their agenda: keep the masses under the opium of religiosity, and take their ability to think independently away forever — that is their goal.

We were reminded of the major Armageddon being played in Mohali between haq (truth) and baatil (falsehood). We were assured that haq always triumphs over baatil, no matter what. We were reminded of our major battles of the past, where we were supposedly bruised and battered, yet we were able to emerge as victors, only because of our faith. The irony is that these emotions are peddled on a constant basis, at every juncture of our lives, cricket or otherwise.

The entire country came to a standstill with our local governments declaring the day of the match a holiday. Channels were flooded with experts from all over, columns were filled with commentaries and sentiments ran on full throttle. Heck, even our ‘independent’ judiciary took time off to indulge in some fun. There is nothing wrong with the frenzy but, when it supersedes sense and sensibilities, it becomes an issue.

Either our prayers were lacking the requisite purity or we were totally blindsided by our emotions. It appears that our passionate and often senseless emotions impacted our rational thinking. People who totally mortgaged their brains and fell for such antics must not doubt their faith or deity. It is not their faith that was on the pitch in Mohali, but the skill of their players that was on the line.

Cricket, much like any other sport, is a game of skills and strategy. Undoubtedly, the Indian team had set a significant target of 260 runs. Having the home turf advantage and playing with better skills, tactics and strategy, they were able to bring Pakistan down. Why is it such a big deal to accept and give credit to the Indian team where it rightfully deserves it? Our egos tend to get in the way. We tend to bring our faith and our reasons for parting with India into the game as well. Whatever transpired in 1947 is history; the more important aspect is to determine how history will be written from 2011 onwards.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to his counterpart Prime Minister Gilani to watch the match live was a welcome gesture. Of course, it sparked a whole new discussion of the infamous ‘cricket diplomacy’, if that really means anything. Looking back at the track record of Zia and Musharraf, one could disregard it with absolute ease. The PM took his entourage to cash in on the Mohali mania and to restart the stalled dialogue with our neighbours. As anticipated, it was a good opportunity for photos, some handshakes and news blips. Who, in their right mind, thought that 63 plus years of grievances and issues could potentially be resolved with a significant breakthrough in 90 minutes of discussion?

Pakistan played with fully coordinated effort and did put up a great fight, which of course is highly commendable. The squad under Afridi, with such a herculean lead, was able to perform with tact and effort. The low run rate per over is what really became the reason for our defeat.

So did Bhagwan get to triumph over Almighty Allah? Perhaps not; it is the better sportsmen who got to win. If that is the case, then Bhagwan must have been on a major high when India trounced Sri Lanka in the final. Again, it was not a match between Allah, Jesus or Bhagwan. India deserved to win based on their performance and that is about it. Winning and losing is all part of the game. In the end, it is all a game.

The take away from this episode for the general public is to focus on strategy, skill and tactics in the future. Next time when we are in a showdown of a similar nature, we need to sit back and relax and chant this to refresh our brains: the best team gets to win, no matter what, regardless of their faith or nationality.

The writer is a Pakistani American. He blogs at and can be reached at

Source :\04\06\story_6-4-2011_pg3_6

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