The Irish Threaten Again

Note: This article was published in The News on Sunday March 15 before the match began and can be read there on 


The Irish Threaten Again by Sohaib Alvi

Pakistan’s World Cup campaign comes full circle today as they play out for a place in the quarterfinals on the very ground where they began it against India on February 15. It has since then been a time of introspection and experimentation and much controversy, not least by the coach’s adamant ignorance of there being no third opener travelling with the team.

Pakistan are likely to go in against Ireland today with a batting line up that really should have played against India, give or take Younis Khan. The experienced batter has vowed to play better following an element of rejuvenation in the game against South Africa; and being very close to the late Bob Woolmer wants to dedicate his innings and a possible Pakistan win to the memory of the former coach who passed away on the night that Ireland knocked out Pakistan from the 2007 World Cup.

But will or should he play if Haris Sohail is fit? I wouldn’t slot him in only for his 37 against the Proteas. After all Sohaib Maqsood, the other batsman who is being said should make way, has a fifty in the tournament. And both are good fielders, especially in the slips. Also, when it comes to scoring faster against the top teams that come up to Pakistan in the knockouts Sohaib has a better probability of doing that than Younis.

I also feel that Pakistan should make a call on persevering with youngsters in pressure situations. This is the time to blood them. Whether he fails or succeeds he will be better off for it. Pakistan I believe are still paying for their intransigence of the 2011 World Cup where they persevered with conservative batsmen like Hafeez and Asad Shafiq, the latter a brilliant find for the five day game but unsuited for a format requiring faster scoring; the former simply an off spinner who can bat but lower down, maybe at 5 and not slow down the opening. But both were continued with over the last four years in limited over cricket and we have them out today.

If the selectors continue to make the same mistake here then by start of the 2019 World Cup we would still be looking for our best combination for our opening game, continuing to try experience rather than talent.

So what happens today? I believe they should open with Sarfraz and Ahmed Shahzad and then at least I would send in Sohaib Maqsood or Misbah followed by Haris Sohail and Umar Akmal. This is if the news of Umar Akmal’s reported niggle is unfounded. Then comes the hope with Afridi for a few runs followed by the four pacers. Yes I wouldn’t play Yasir Shah today if only because of the rhythm that the four pacers are in. Haris Sohail if he is fit also brings to the table his left arm spin. Otherwise we make do with Afridi.

Rahat Ali has especially surprised with his penetration and accuracy and proven me wrong when I doubted if he was good enough for the limited over format. There has been talk of Irfan being rested, even of a strain he is carrying. But Pakistan desperately needs him out there, as the Irish batsmen are in form and have been notching up totals regularly that Pakistan can only aspire for, or have reached only when playing against UAE. There is the chance of dropping Sohail Khan for Yasir Shah and it is not too outlandish an idea. The Irish will struggle against quality spin despite shorter square boundaries at the Adelaide Oval.

The match today is also a test for the coaching and support staff. I feel there has been some innate panic in the backroom. The team is in danger of being knocked out of they lose today and all of Grant Luden, Grant Flower and even Waqar Younis have been preparing their run for the lifeboats. Luden has already made his point early in the tournament by handing in his resignation citing lack of effort in fielding being put in by the players. Now poor fielding cannot be penciled in against his name. Waqar Younis has indicated it is not the best team given to him under the circumstances though Sarfraz proved that actually there is a third opener in the team.

Now batting coach Grant Flower has given out signals that he has done his best with the batters and it is up to them to make a match of it. Partly he is right to throw the gauntlet at his wards but to tell them publicly to swim or go down should have been avoided, especially with a crunch game coming on today. You can have firm words with them one-on-one and leave it at that but to announce what you have said is designed more for the ears of Gaddafi Stadium than Ahmed Shahzad, Sohaib Maqsood or Umar Akmal.

Nevertheless the fact remains that Pakistan are a par 250 team. They remain the only side, perhaps other than Afghanistan, to not have one of their batsmen past three figures in a game. And when you see that the list includes batsmen from Scotland, UAE and Ireland it is embarrassing. But then if I recall Pakistan had no hundred in the 2011 World Cup and other than one by Imran Nazir against a half baked Zimbabwe attack in the 2007 edition there has been a severe drought of three figures by any Pakistani batsman in World Cups.

Coming to the 2015 edition that is a cause of concern considering we have supposedly better batsmen than what the minnows are supposed to have. Perhaps that is what has riled Grant Flower. Pakistan needs a good hundred if only to lift its sagging spirits which so far have been given elevation by their bowling attack, again much like in 2011.

And just how much one attacking innings can inspire a team can be seen by what it did to Pakistan when Sarfraz blitzed his way through Steyn and Co. at Eden Park. Will Sarfraz do it again at Adelaide today or will his stirring entrance at Auckland give wings to someone like Ahmed Shahzad or Umar Akmal or Sohaib Maqsood (if he plays) to do something similar? Or will the bowling attack see is through the Irish challenge? Whatever, the real Pakistan potential needs to come to the field today.

Posted in Cricket | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Waqar Doublespeak

The Waqar Doublespeak by Sohaib Alvi

Waqar Younis was quietly assertive on Sarfraz Ahmed as he sat in the commentary box at The National Stadium on the eve of the team’s announcement for the T20 & ODI series against Australia. “I don’t want to say this but I believe I have played a role in his transformation as a batsman in Sri Lanka,” he told a group of us after looking over his shoulder to see where Moin Khan was. (Moin was the one who, when he was manager-chief selector and Whatmore the coach, had walked up to the press box a few months earlier when Pakistan was preparing to chase that 300-plus target set by Sri Lanka on the last day at the Sharjah Test and said: “We’ll get this total and we will promote Sarfraz in the batting order to use his attacking strokeplay to build the momentum early on.” Sarfraz had come in at No.5 and got 48 off 46 balls.)

Waqar then went on to elaborate on how he had taken aside Sarfraz Ahmed in Sri Lanka and told him that if he can score runs in the domestic circuit he can score runs at the international level by simply batting the same way. He should just believe in himself and play with a free spirit. He must not worry about failure.

Now we have a Waqar Younis who is vary of Sarfraz’s batting skills hiding behind his pretentiousness of securing Pakistan’s asset for the future. Where is his self proclaimed call of not fearing failure? Where is the mentor and motivator he claims to be? Are we to now take his credit seriously for reinventing Sarfraz in Sri Lanka?

He is now daft enough to offer naivety of Sarfraz’s skills as an opening batsman. In the media briefing after the UAE game he says Sarfraz bats at No.6 or 7 forgetting that under him Sarfraz opened in the three ODIs against Australia back in October and fetched scores of 34 off 41 balls, 65 off 72 balls and in the third 32 off 39. The drop down pitches in this World Cup are all batting friendly so take away that as causing too much of a variable factor. Sarfraz was not played as opener in the pre-World Cup warm up games either, just given two casual games and an ODI as opener in New Zealand conditions where Pakistan lost all their games due to complete failure of batting.

Why is Waqar doing this, defying all logic and this own claims on how he got Sarfraz going as a batsman? This is not normal. Something is grossly wrong. Is he not seeing that the other option is an overweight and underfit left hander who couldn’t catch a train if it was stalled at a platform.

As such his press briefing after the UAE game contained an extraordinary declaration of why he is persisting with Nasir Jamshed when he said: “After the departure of Hafeez we don’t have a third opener”.  That shows a totally befuddled mind. Since Hafeez was swapped for another opener, does that mean that if he hadn’t been sent back, Waqar entered the World Cup with no reserve opener??!! And he accepted that team without commenting on this humongous oversight by the selectors, other than the fact that he has to answer why he kept quiet about this considering he was consulted all through. Is it that Moin Khan is being readied for being a scapegoat for the team’s failure at the top, with Waqar eventually citing his helplessness to replace Nasir Jamshed when he submits his report saying he had no other choice? Not even Shahid Afridi?

But then what is to be made of Moin’s assertion at the National Stadium that Sarfraz Ahmed would be the third opener when the team was announced?

There is now the need for an assessment of what is really going on. If Moin was the chairman of the tour selection committee till the time he was in Australia-New Zealand he had to take responsibility as well  for being quiet on the opening front but now that he is not there the manager Naved Akram Cheema is purely a figurehead in the tour selection committee and will not dare to overrule Waqar. The responsibility now rests with Waqar and Misbah. If we take away the fact that Misbah is retiring from ODIs after this tournament and we have only Waqar going through in the ODI set up, is he now worried for his job? And beginning to cast away the blame for what has been a completely warped selection so far in the World Cup games with Yasir Shah not being played against West Indies and Zimbabwe against which sides South Africa leggie Imran Tahir did so well?

Going by his briefing after the UAE game it has to be asked: Have the defeats and narrow escape against Zimbabwe befuddled Waqar enough to have a memory loss? Or is he just taking the media to be duds? He is already accountable after previously losing all sense of balance in the team as to play four specialist bowlers in the game against West Indies but now he has revealed an inert panic state. Or is there another game being played out as there has been in Pakistani cricket since the last two decades. Is the unprovoked panic simply a happenstance or is it part of a more thought out plan? Wonder what the odds are on that?

Posted in Cricket | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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.

Posted in Cricket | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moin out to a false stroke

Moin out to a false stroke by Sohaib Alvi

There’s a time and place for everything, it is said, and that remains the core philosophy and reasoning behind the recalling of Moin Khan from this World Cup. However, in my view there are some things for which there is never a time and place. And a casino falls in that category. As such it was an injudicious venue to have dinner in the first place whether or not Moin indulged himself in what is a frowned upon activity by most in even civilized societies and which our religion forbids emphatically.

Nevertheless, by just being present in the casino does not prove he was gambling. No photographs have passed my eyes indicating he was, though it has to be said that it is not a place where you just walk in and have your photos taken.

But it is his personal matter and whether he is innocent or guilty is not for us to decide. What is not his personal matter nevertheless is his job at the time he was caught inside the premises of a gambling place. He was after all the man who was representing a cricket board that is already being maligned for being soft on cricketers mixing with match fixers. And we all know that the probability of them being in a casino is high. He was the man who had a say in the final XI and millions of dollars are bet on what that will be at the time of the toss. Bets are opened in the casino for everything from the final XI to who will open the batting or face the first ball.

You can also pass on props that will indicate a certain event to happen; the colour of the wicketkeeper’s gloves or who will not wear a hat while fielding in the first 10 overs. But does that mean he should remain locked up inside his room and go into some sort of hibernation till the time the match begins? Certainly not. Is he to stop talking to anyone outside the team management and players? No he shouldn’t. But he should have the discretion to not create the perception that he is accessible to gamblers.

It can be said that he is not guilty of gambling away Pakistan’s fortunes. One would not be daft enough to be seen among gamblers if one is to fix a game or any of its aspects. And then make it so high profile an event as to pose for photographs that are bound to make the social media if not the mainstream.

But Moin certainly shot himself in the foot by going to the casino, especially considering he belongs to the generation of the 1990s that has been tainted in match fixing inquiries and accusations.

Moin all his life agreed to the realism that it is not necessary that you are out for an umpire to give you out; it is enough that the umpire perceived that the ball took the edge of his bat on way to the keeper.

He is now straddled with just that fact of life and he should not complain that he has been wrongly given out. He really shouldn’t have played that close to the ball if he wasn’t going to middle it.

On to today’s game and the question is whether the Pakistan think tank has learned from the mistakes made in the first two games. But so thick is the skin of the decision makers that we might yet see Umar Akmal keeping wickets and Younis Khan retaining his place at the expense of playing the extra bowler — or rather the necessary fifth bowler.

Younis seems adamant that the faults in the team have nothing to do with him and has conveyed that he has no plans to retire. Does that mean he will put some latent psychological pressure on the tour selection committee and get into the side despite a horrendous run up to today’s game?

If the tour selection committee which now includes the bureaucrat Naved Akram Cheema were to select him it would be equally guilty if he were to fail again.

I have written before and writing again that Sarfraz Ahmed must be given his rightful place back and Younus is the man who should make way.

If he plays and opens, Yasir Shah can be played in place of Nasir Jamshed who really must be told that we have more than six balls to chase the target. And that until he gets that into his head he can warm the bench. His inclusion is already being viewed suspiciously after Hafeez claimed that he was to be fit within ten days (in time for West indies’ game).

Pakistan are playing at Brisbane today and in the game between Ireland and the UAE  on this ground played a few days ago we saw that the temperature was testing and that high level of fitness was vital to bat or bowl through the fifty overs.

It will be seen whether Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz are able to bowl their 10 overs, considering the injuries they have battled over the past six months.

It will worry Misbah even if he plays Yasir Shah as the fifth bowler as Pakistan have only Ahmed Shahzad and Sohaib Maqsood to bowl should one bowler break down.

Thankfully the boundaries are bigger on all sides at The Gabba, which allows Misbah to bowl spin with less worry about the boundaries.

The pitch also holds up the ball even though it is good to bat on. Over 550 runs were scored in the game between Ireland and the UAE.

Pakistan have their work cut out. And not just for today but for the rest of the games as well. Even if they were to win three of them their place would not be guaranteed in the quarter-finals as theirs is the worst run rate. They must not only defeat Zimbabwe today but they must do it emphatically. The same will be the case in their matches against the UAE and Ireland; maybe by over a 100 runs or with something like 15 overs to spare if they are chasing. But then like a true blooded patriot, I am assuming we will win today and squeeze our way into the quarter-finals.

Posted in Cricket | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Breakaway Selection

The fact that Moin & his fellow selectors eschewed the temptation to go back and pluck out Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal from semi oblivion shows that the selection of the World Cup squad has been made more on merit than on hope; something that I had feared in my last column. Yes, hope is there in the shape of picking Hafeez as a batsman when he will not be bowling unless he passes the official biometrics test which I feel he will decline to give. Yes it is there in taking along a circumspect Younis Khan though a team sport needs someone with his intelligence and calming influence in the field. And yes it is there in the form of Ehsan Adil, a bowler who is quite injury prone and hasn’t done much in 2014.

But in once and for all deciding that the oft used and abused word of ‘experience’ as a basis for carting along totally spent cartridges will not hold water Moin & Co. have taken a forward step. I qualify ‘spent’ with ‘totally’ because Younis and Hafeez are still in the team and Younus has clearly stated that this is his farewell appearance. They have also risked more than the previous selectors would do. Then the tactic was to bring in anyone for a big event who once had a name and if –rather when– they failed to hide behind the excuse that if the best and most experienced couldn’t deliver, there was nothing they could have done. Total hogwash it was of course.

Now the current selectors may be put questions if Pakistan returns earlier than the semi finals as to whether they erred by taking players who had no, or little, experience of Australian and New Zealand pitches, or had not the wherewithal to take the pressure of playing in the World Cup. As such the more conservative ones would have picked players like Mohammad Sami, Sohail Tanvir, Nasir Jamshed and of course the duo of Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik. But Moin Khan is his announcement was clear he would be here to take the flak if that happened but for now he was backing these 15.

Nevertheless I am terribly disappointed that Fawad Alam did not make the squad. He is the ideal player for a World Cup situation and had shown form and grit in his performances in the first half of the Pentangular Cup. I can understand where the selectors were coming from. He had to fight for a place in the middle order where Sohaib Maqsood and Umar Akmal were the other options and I would have picked both any day.

But in the presence of four fast bowlers, perhaps a fifth in the form of Ehsan Adil may have been dispensed with and an extra batsman like Fawad brought in who can also bowl left arm spin. The question arises, yes, whether he could have been preferred over any one from Younis, Haris or Umar/Sohaib, Misbah being a constant. My answer is that it would have made all four conscious of their performance and would have given Pakistan an excellent fielding substitute if nothing else.

The selectors have taken a mighty gamble in selecting only one specialist opener in Ahmed Shahzad. I say one because his supporters can label him an opener all they want but Hafeez has disappointed in that role for the past few years, putting up some runs only when the pitches are soft and the pace attack contains no big name. I would play Hafeez any day in the limited-over sides because of his bowling and bat him lower down. But now with the prospect of him going in as specialist batsman he certainly doesn’t merit a place in the first XI.

Maybe In his heart of hearts Moin thinks so too but has taken pitiful measure for that by saying that Sarfraz is back up. I say that because knowing that Pakistan had paucity at the top Sarfraz should have been tried in this role in the five ODIs against New Zealand. It is distinctly different than opening in T20 and any opener would tell you that. The selectors have perhaps relied on his experience of doing so in domestic cricket.

But as I had written then, Hafeez was persevered with knowing he would get runs on such pitches against a none-too-threatening opening attack. That part of the selectors plan has worked. If anything I would have picked Sharjeel in the 15 instead of Hafeez. Yes, he hasn’t set the pace when given several opportunities in the past year but hasn’t Hafeez been given years of the same? Sharjeel would have allowed a left-right opening combination and is equally, if not more likely, to have scored at least as many runs as Hafeez might.

I am nevertheless happy that Sohail Khan has at last been given his due. He has been performing admirably in domestic cricket and as Moin pointed out the selectors decided that Pakistan first class cricket has to be given importance. Sohail can generate good pace and bounce but if he plays he must be held back from spraying it around too much in his excitement. A good coach and analyst will show him, and in fact all the fast bowlers, how the Indian pace attack has suffered on the current Australian tour by bowling short of a length.

Sad for players like Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali who had emerged with such aplomb in South Africa and seemed to be the answer for Pakistan’s search for all rounders. Tough luck for Raza Hassan and Zulfiqar Babar also, both of whom have done well in limited-over formats whenever given the opportunity. I would have thought that just like the option of trying Fawad Alam for Ehsan Adil, the selectors could have gone for one of them in his place. I suppose the emergence of Haris Sohail as a reasonably restrictive left armer and who also took some important wickets, sealed their fate.

Important thing to conclude here is that the selectors announced this in a press conference and Moin took the questions confidently, showing he had no guilt feelings and has nothing to hide. I think the selection has been done with sincerity and the selectors deserve credit for that. Now it is up to these fifteen players to back them up come February 15.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Educated Have A Greater Responsibility With Words

The 4th of January marks the death anniversary of Salman Taseer, shot and killed by one of his guards as he exited a café in the heart of Islamabad. He was the Governor of Punjab, a stalwart of Pakistan People’s Party and a graduate of Cambridge University.

He was killed because he had chosen to speak out against the Blasphemy Law. His detractors claim he was killed for the right reason, his supporters believe he was the victim of a mindset that is extremist and intolerant. What is right will never be settled or agreed with unanimously. Even the courts are ambivalent; they have punished the man, Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, but no one dares to push for anything beyond that. Taseer’s shooter may be in jail but is a celebrity among those who believe he acted correctly and courageously.

The question is not whether he is guilty in the eyes of the law. The law is clear. The question is whether he is guilty in the eyes of God? The jury is out and it is in the millions. It never meets except in groups of like-minded. And then the decision is either very guilty or very innocent.

What has in my view never been debated is whether the commencement that led to the gory episode could have been better handled. That is the point of this piece.

Let us look at where it all started. Salman Taseer sat next to a woman, Aasia Bibi, condemned for blasphemy and spoke in her defense. However, it is what he said rather than the spirit in which he spoke that needs to be examined. Why was it that he was picked for ‘execution’ if you may, by the killer or by those who instigated the feeling inside the gunman, and not others who have been equally critical of the law?

Abstaining myself from the actual controversy or commenting on the vile consequences thereafter for Salman Taseer, not least because it is not the subject of this piece, I must state that it is such coarse choice of words from the educated that require attention.

Examining his words that day we come up with some that possibly went beyond the call of advocacy. In particular was when he referred to the Blasphemy Law as “the black law” as Newsline published on December 23, 2010 quoted him: “Even people who are deeply religious have spoken out against this black law.”

Having been educated at Cambridge he should have known what the connotation of the word “black” is when referring to day or law. Being a businessman, politician and holder of the office of Governor directed that he should have had his pulse on the level of illiteracy and the comprehension level of the uneducated. I pray for the soul of Salman Taseer and believe he did much good in his life, was a loving husband and father and a peaceful citizen of the country. But though he said much right in that interview he also erred appallingly.

“People in power have to be careful about what comes out of their mouth. They have to find exactly the right word that can’t be attacked”, says the playwright Anna Deavere Smith.

So while the late Salman Taseer may not have meant it that way it did come out to an extent that he was against there being a blasphemy law, which is intrinsic in Islam. While it is unfair to pluck out one word from among many he said that made sense, should not the educated be aware of the nuances of a word? The whole essence of education is to be able to pick and say the right word for the right occasion and to have a narrative that steers clear of any confusion or misinterpretation.

Sadly, we do not care for that attention to detail. And when it comes to bite us we choose to blame the listener or reader.  That is not to be an apologist for the actions of the individual who reacts. But to have an understanding of his or her mistake nonetheless if there is one. I am talking of normal disagreements not an extreme one like that enacted by Mumtaz Qadri.

I say again that the objective of this piece is not to pass judgment on the happening of the day but to say that those among us who are educated and have read history and are familiar with the ramifications of misinterpretations must be at the vanguard of communication. We are quick to condemn acts by the illiterate, no matter how justifiable, yet we look not upon ourselves at what we say and more poignantly, how we say it.

That is not to say that educated people should be faultless; just that they have a greater responsibility to be correct especially when it comes to public speaking and principally when it comes to issues involving sensitivities of all kind especially religious.

I believe I am educated and entirely at fault on several occasions, especially in my writings where I have touched on a nerve at times with an abominable choice of words. So have thousands of others on an occasion or two who may in fact be scholars. Yet it is a case of diminishing errors the more we become cognizant of the fact that education thrusts upon us a responsibility towards guarding against the miscomprehension or angst of the illiterate. It is no less than that of a parent to the decent upbringing of their child. It is not just a responsibility. It is a moral duty.

And to build on Anna Smith, we the educated are more responsible for consequences than those who are not. In fact we are more accountable to society especially to the underprivileged that live in it.

But to return to the individual, we must be careful of the terms we use to speak our intentions and opinions no matter how well intended they are for others. It is a responsibility that is as intrinsic a part of education as string is to the woven fabric, without which our covering will fall apart; without which we will remain grossly naked while wearing the fur hat.  As indeed we are.

Posted in Op-Ed | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Playing cricket after the massacre

This appeared in Dawn today. Please visit their page also and post a comment for a wider audience.                                                                 


Playing cricket after the massacre

Should Pakistan have played cricket after the horrific school massacre at Peshawar that sent a nation into shock and grief and mourning? That is a question that will be discussed for some time and there will be countless who will remain adamant that it should not have been played.

However, the PCB could not have given a more ludicrous reason for going ahead by saying that it could not postpone the ODI due to broadcast commitments! A more heartless and selfish reason could not have been given and shows a complete lack of diplomatic communiqué skills from the Gaddafi Stadium. And how come this has been given in an impersonal press release. This was a time when no one less than PCB chairman should have publicly come forward personally and given a personal statement as did the CEO of ACB when the first Test was announced as postponed after the death of Phil Hughes.

It showed a severe absence of emotional intelligence, leave alone normal intelligence by those at the helm of PCB and Chairman Shaharyar Khan has to take responsibility. For out of this clearly tortuous mindset came the next statement that appeared in PCB’s press release as quoted online by “We tried our best to postpone the 4th ODI but were constrained by the broadcasters commitment as well as for cricketing reasons advised by the New Zealand management.”

Constrained? 132 children are butchered and PCB says that they were constrained by private enterprise? And are we to believe that the New Zealanders are heartless people who care little about such a horrendous episode and want to have their cricket game, or the opportunity to equal the series? I refuse to believe that. And would the PCB please elaborate on what were the reasons advised by the Kiwis.

So the broadcasters, who are not from Pakistan, can be so cold-blooded as to demand that their coffers be filled. I refuse to believe that also. These are people who just a couple of weeks back announced that they couldn’t cover the game because a cricketer had died back home. A whole day’s play was called off and taken forward.

And if what the PCB says is true then if I were the chairman I would have written them the cheque and called off the matches. If New Zealand doesn’t want to play us in future because of our refusal, then so be it. How can anyone play cricket after what happened?

The Shaharyar Khan-led PCB then gave some convoluted logic that “We are playing outside Pakistan only because of the threat of terrorism at home. If we allow terrorists to disrupt our matches abroad, then all will be lost.”

I’ll tell you what is already lost; our self respect in front of the comity of nations, at least ICC members who see us as insensitive people who are just interested in money and who bow down to broadcasters and another country that wants to play cricket.

And what of the players? Analogy, if you can call it that, will be drawn with the death of Philip Hughes that led to postponement of the second day of the second Test between Pakistan and New Zealand. If the players could not get themselves in the right frame of mind to play cricket after an Australian batsman had died tragically after being hit by a bouncer in the peaceful setting of the SCG, and with no ill intent, how could they possibly bat and bowl with vim and vigour and celebrate successes on the day after one of the world’s most horrifying episodes?

It was a massacre that took our breaths away; innocent children going about their daily routines of creativity, examination and making or sharing plans for the day with friends. It was a day bloodied that made a nation livid, feel numb and lose all sense of dimension all at the same time. You dropped whatever it is you were doing. And we played cricket the next day?

A further insult to the dead and the grieving was added when the PCB, perhaps in a bid to rationalize their decision and win support, announced that they would donate the earnings from the 4th ODI to the families of the dead. This is preposterous. This is not a natural calamity. This is traumatic killing. They don’t need money; these children were not bread earners of the family and the adults were employees of an institution who will look after them as will the state.

By saying that they were “constrained” has once again revealed that PCB cannot stand up to anyone or any institution. If they could not postpone or cancel an ODI of a ‘home series’ after Pakistan’s PM (and PCB’s patron) announces a three-day mourning, we should hang our heads in shame.

Published in Dawn December 18th , 2014

Posted in Cricket, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment