World Cup 2007 March 15, 2007

Bakwas is bakwas in Urdu or English

Now here's a strange thing. Pakistan's cricketers are banned from speaking in English at press conferences. The reason we are told is that their wonderful use of Urdu will promote tourism in Pakistan. I'm not sure how that works, particularly since their words will be revealed to the world by the warbling English of PJ Mir, Pakistan's media manager?

Consider too that Urdu doesn't readily lend itself to describing a cricket match. A beautiful verse of poetry, yes, but try saying great cover drive without using any English words and you begin to sound like a dimwit--and Pakistan's players are no linguistic cousins of Mirza Ghalib.

In fact, the notion that speaking in Urdu will lure foreigners to Pakistan is fantastically crazy. By extending that logic the player chosen for the press conference grilling should have a shave, put on his coolest shades, an Hawaiian shirt, and a pair of shorts and flip-flops. Because let's get one thing clear: the sight of bearded men speaking in an Eastern tongue will not be a tempter for most people who don't happen to be Pakistanis.

Indeed, the idea that speaking Urdu might be enticing invokes a Western image of Orientalism that has long been discredited as racist.

The simple answer, of course, is that Pakistan's players should be allowed to speak in whatever language they wish. Inzamam, for example, enjoys jousting in English at press conferences, and he fully understands the questions put to him. One of the pleasures for journalists at a Pakistani press conference is Inzamam's considered pause after a question is put to him, a pause that is often followed by dead-pan humour. His vice-captain, Younis Khan, is as bubbly with his English as he is on the field.

The Pakistan Cricket Board, then, has created a solution to a problem it didn't really have and brought further controversy upon its head. And it is perhaps its head who this edict should apply to? Dr Nasim Ashraf has caused more problems with his utterances in English than his players ever have, and, yes, he probably does do a disservice to Pakistani tourism. He possibly also argues that he spends more time touring with the national team than back home in Pakistan so that he can do his bit for the Pakistan Tourist Board? I reckon Dr Ashraf should worry less about tourism and more about human development in Pakistan, his other job, which, if he makes a success, will do more for tourism than any cricket press conference.

Ultimately, though, bakwas is bakwas in Urdu or English--and there's enough of it emanating from the Pakistani camp to say: "Stop these trivial pursuits and start focusing on what really matters--like winning the World Cup."

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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