When cricket was white and pure

From 1977 to 2012, the game has changed face and, to many, has become more entertaining. PHOTO: AFP

Lord’s, 1982. When Imran Khan threw the ball to Mudassir Nazar, a collective groan went up. England were nine without loss as I watched sitting on the rickety benches positioned on the cover boundary. Sarfaraz Nawaz had gone off from a suspected side strain.

Nazar, as he ran into bowl, looked like Shoaib Akhtar from where I was. I saw him bowl, saw the batsman leave and Wasim Bari dive behind the stumps but I didn’t see the ball. Suddenly, England were nine for three – Randall, Alan Lamb and David Gower all back in the hut. Pakistan went onto win that match by 10 wickets.

Earlier, in January 1977, the team had to make 32 runs as the whole of Pakistan tuned into proceedings from the Sydney match. There was Majid Khan facing Dennis Lillee. I couldn’t see the ball as Majid was beaten. Sadiq Mohammad and Zaheer Abbas were already dismissed and Lillee had hit Majid on the head. I remember shaking – was it the cold or was it the tension, I didn’t know. Another bouncer, but this time Majid deposited it into the stands. Pakistan won by eight wickets.

Things have changed now. Some changes are visible – the advent of Twenty20. But the neutral umpires (you have to watch an Indian umpire in Bangalore 1987 to appreciate that), the helmets and the pitch covers too; the uncultured slash from Virendar Sehwag over third-man or a Shahid Afridi miss-hit for six.

When I was in school, I was expelled from the second-XI for lofting the ball twice in an over. I’d spend hours in front of a small radio, tuning into Test Match Special. There were no talks of money, no fixing issues but just pure love for a game of nobility. No endless analysis and, above all, no Facebook or Twitter ‘experts’ sharing their views.

The game has moved on a lot from the days when the world was still young. My first experience of National Stadium Karachi was the same as Lord’s: No chairs, just steps and no shamiana cover either. It was tough going. You dare blink risking missing a wicket or a six. But it was spontaneous and passionate. Today we see replays but can’t appreciate the game. The serious spectator has disappeared with the space taken up by the Twenty20 enthusiasts. Even at a run-a-ball required, players and spectators still want to see a slog. The ‘we will make them in singles’ just doesn’t exist anymore.

It was a quiet and non-commercial game back in the day, before Kerry that is. With money came great things like affluence, viewership, fairer umpiring, innovation and improved fitness. Experience was made to last and the spectacular became imperative. Pitches were toned down, the game shifted towards batting. Tail-enders started hooking and pulling without fear. Fitness improved careers and ‘gods’ were created, greater than the game itself.

Cricket died and was cremated. Now we have less skilled players and, at times, it becomes excruciating to see batsmen not capable of concentrating or being squared up. So while the spectator experience has improved considerably, the quality has gone out of the game.

I lament for the game which I loved but there are very few who hear and understand.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @Sarehman 

I am an average Pakistani; would you like to hear more?

When I get home, it is nice to be in a hot house with the wife lovingly beating me on the head. No electricity, you know. One hour on and off! The baby keeps crying all night. PHOTO: REUTERS

I am a typical Pakistani and am dying to tell the world who I really am, but no one is ready to listen. In the scheme of things, I could have been born anytime late 1930s onwards, and am gainfully (or rather painfully) employed.

Whereas the world is moving towards nano technology, my single greatest skill is that I manage to ‘exist amidst the chaos’. This chaos is not of my making, but the wise say that I deserve it, since I have given my vote to the wrong people.

They must be right! Mind you, I have not seen the inside of a polling booth for the last 20 years. Every time I have queued up to vote, after a few hours of waiting, when I got to the polling officer, he/she said that my vote has been cast and ask why I’ve come again.

The polling booth is always inside a government (peela) school and the polling officer is a teacher there. I hear that they get four times the salary of a private teacher. Since they turn up to teach only one day a month, they must be paid for the election day every five years. Mashallah, it’s good to be paid high amounts, for working one day every five years.

I digress. I was telling you about myself! I am educated as I can write my own signature, but not because I went through proper schooling. Since, I am part of the privileged 44% who can sign, I have carried the burden of this country ─ not so for those clever ones, who left these past six decades. They moved off to greener pastures and red/blue passports. Now they can write about Pakistan and say what a ‘mess’. This was natural, since they left poor old me to carry the burden and they themselves are living in foreign lands in such hardship as alien people.

Anyway, so there I am, hanging on to the handle of a bus, or if lucky, sitting on the roof. It takes me about two hours to get to work and by the time I am at work, I feel like going back, even though it will take another two hours; but what can I do? One has to earn a living. You know one has to pay taxes. I am lucky to have the privilege of paying more than most leaders of the country, opposition and treasury. So proud of carrying the burden of running this country!

Sometimes, I look down from the roof of the bus and I see VIP movement. We have the privilege of waiting 20 minutes to see our leaders.

This one time, the prime minister passed by. There were 84 cars with him ─ Land Cruisers and Mercedes which my taxes pay for.  I enjoyed the show! We must see what we are paying for. Also, I must go and vote for him again, since it is dangerous to vote for PTI. Imran Khan is honest, and we cannot have that, you know. If you are honest, you are stupid.

I look over the shoulder of this young fellow at office and he is on Twitter. He loves to use the ‘F’ word all the time. It’s extremely intellectual. These intellectuals sit at home with generators spouting continuous electricity, so they can stay online, forever talking about how people are being killed. I get so worried about the killings in Gilgit and Quetta, because I am not sure who does these.

In Wana, we know that miscreants are killed by the drones, they have this system whereby they can tell who is a bad guy and they just kill them. I wish we had this system here, because the other day, I saw a few people being killed while I was hanging on to the bus handle. Almost lost my grip on the handle. Phew! However, apparently these guys were innocent, since they were standing on the pavement eating chaat with their children.

When I get home, it is nice to be in a hot house with the wife lovingly beating me on the head. No electricity, you know. One hour on and then off! The baby keeps crying all night. We can’t afford the protection, so babies keep on coming. Number four is on the way now and I think might end up with seven. Schooling will be an issue. We are also without water and so can’t go to the loo. Sometimes when the electricity is there, I see these great people arguing and fighting on “Hamid Mir Live”, or see Najam Sethi wisely telling us what will happen.

After a while, I feel like throwing something at the TV, but then it’s the only TV I have. I have to watch the cricket match. One is really not sure, if these cricketers are throwing the matches. I hate it when Pakistan loses, but that happens regularly, since they appointed this foreign coach. Mohsin Khan would not do, he won the series against England 3-0, but was just not good enough.

Now the guy on Twitter is getting angry. Why am I being such a wimp and I should sign a petition against all the disappearing people? So if I signed, would the concerned people be scared and stop kidnapping and killing? Last Sunday there was a protest and two thousand promised they will turn up. Then I saw tweets that fifteen did; good numbers. That is the route to change.

My neighbours are always talking about having had enough. Apparently the glass is full and brimming over….just saying. They are forever talking of going and sorting out the Defence people. Oh, not the army! It’s the ones who live in Defence. Must forewarn my boss! He lives there.

Oh, I forgot to tell you that we can afford one meal a day. We are lucky, some neighbours have one in two days. Of course, do remind me to cast my vote, if I survive till then…

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