A WEEK OF WORD WARS by Sohaib Alvi
It was during the last World Cup that Shoaib Akhtar acrimoniously exited his contentious cricket career, choosing to speak to the media in Colombo without the knowledge of his management and without much mincing his words. Now he has chosen to do so again this time on a stage that is known for throwing insults: Comedy Nights with Kapil. Which one has been more inappropriate is up for contention but while the first one was specific to cricketing issues this time he has chosen to mock at a personal level.
One of his targets has been Ijaz Butt who was the chairman of PCB when Shoaib was, according to himself, unfairly sidelined from the Pakistan team in the middle of the 2011 World Cup and missed his much desired farewell in the semi final at Mohali. Others included Inzamam with whom he had a contentious relationship throughout the time he played under him and Kamran Akmal, who dropped sitters off him in that tournament and who he reportedly had a physical altercation with during the drinks break in the game against New Zealand.
Though it was light hearted banter the second time around with lots of laughter but clearly there was a heavy undertone of a look-down on the individuals who Shoaib has often mistrusted, misunderstood and mishandled respectively.
The point is should he have done his stand up comedy stint in India? A country whose government is accused and perceived by Pakistanis of waging a proxy war in our country, which has gone to a great extent to slander and denigrate Pakistan at every level locally and internationally and which refuses to play cricket bilaterally with us even on neutral soil. Should he have made fun of his countrymen there?
From what was seen you could see the gleam in the eyes of Kapil and Sidhu who could hardly hold back the joy of what they were getting on their show. Same went for the audience at the venue and thereafter the millions who must be seeing the humorous tirade in homes across India. It was the Indians laughing at us courtesy a Pakistani making fun of his compatriots. That is what hit hardest.
But the fact remains that a lot of what he said was true. And also, they and some others before them had done Shoaib something of a gross injustice, on and off the field. It was this hurt coming out of him I felt. That and some ego being massaged at getting such a huge audience to laugh at the cracks he was making.
Shoaib is making his way into the Indian show business industry and good luck to him for that. But he must realize that mocking his countrymen will not build for him a respect among those he believes he is entertaining. No matter how much we laugh when others make fun of their countrymen, and how much we believe that laughing at oneself and one’s heritage/national characteristics-habits shows a big heart we can sense when people are indirectly running down their own. Shoaib, who has given his heart and soul to Pakistan whenever he played his cricket in Pakistani colours and badge, may just have bowled a no ball that will cost him more than he thinks.
On to another stage, this time in the heart of Pakistan. Shaharyar Khan appeared in front of the mikes at the Gaddafi Stadium and announced that for all it took, Moin Khan had been cleared of any misdemeanor in Australia and that he was not guilty of indulging in any gambling; at least one that the PCB Chairman did not know of. And that the matter was now closed.
He had a point. After all no videos have emerged of any such activity and Moin could simply have been invited in for some photographs. Like I said last week an inopportune thing to do for someone in his position, and poor sense of timing, but the fact remains there is nothing to say he was doing anything untoward.
Appropriate words therefore from the chairman and a quite right stance, something I had said last week should be happening. Close the issue and get on with the more serious business of the World Cup. What was big of the chairman was that he chose to address the media himself, and clearly informed that he had taken on this responsibility after Moin refused to do so and instead asked him to do the last rites.
In doing so he has shielded the former Pakistan captain from the possibility of a new controversy should he have said anything untoward while answering the questions from the media. He has also shown who is boss and who is the man in control. Najam Sethi will not be amused though for all we know he could have played an advocating role for Moin being let off without a fine or further disciplinary action.
Shaharyar Khan also took the opportunity to let everyone know that were there to be an India-Pakistan series it will have been made possible by him, perhaps a veiled attempt to take away the credit from his predecessor with whom he seems to be having something of a cold war. Najam Sethi it must be remembered had said in one of his last press conferences as PCB Chairman that he had signed and sealed MOUs with BCCI for four bilateral series that Pakistan would ‘host’.
Shaharyar Khan has nevertheless booked his ticket to India to call on the new BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya and press for the bilateral series. He perhaps has tried to indicate that were this to go through, it would have been possible due to his intervention and bonhomie with Indian government officials which he has said he will be meeting.
It is another attempt by the aging PCB boss to claim his own ground and break away from the Najam Sethi shadow. After all, he said, whatever was promised previously was dependent on the blessings of the Singh government; now we have the Modi government and the process must start all over again.
In other words, were India to come and play even on a neutral venue it will have been through his efforts. It doesn’t matter who initiated the possibility; it matters who made it possible.