Age of Khan October 13, 2009

Meritless chancers win again


Younis can return © AFP

The best of times are usually followed by the worst of times. This is Pakistan cricket. Something in the Pakistani psyche will inevitably prevent a delicate flower from blooming. Cricket is so fundamental to this nation’s identity that everybody wants a slice of cricket’s luxurious pie. Politicians, bureaucrats, and administrators want their 15 minutes of fame — though infamy is more common.

Meritless chancers choose cricket as their passport to power and glory. Nothing provides a greater thrill to these self-deluded fools than the belief that they have brought a national champion to his knees.

Pakistan cricket’s history is punctuated with such insulting tragedies, the most poignant being that of Imran Khan, the Sher of Pakistan, deciding to retire from international cricket after winning the 1992 World Cup.

Imran was 40 and his bowling had begun to evoke memories of Mudassar Nazar, but as a batsman and a leader his job in mentoring future champions was unfinished. But Pakistan cast him adrift, questioning his personal motives and viewing a hero with a scoundrel’s contempt. Imran’s pride, his greatest asset and his perennial weakness, forced him to say he’d had enough.

I once heard a parable of why ability is rarely a criterion for progress in Pakistan, why merit counts for nothing. It is not the whole explanation, of course, but an important part of it.

Imagine a ladder reaching up to the heavens, with all the millions of people of Pakistan condemned to an eternity of clambering to the top, an exhausting desperate existence. The first person to reach the summit will liberate his people from this ladder-climbing hell but will also become king and master of his nation.

In the heavenly ladders of other nations, people reach the top to bring succour to their fellows. They achieve this through co-operation and a realisation that the best of them should reach the summit for the common good. There are some false starts, and some progress to their goal faster than others, but they move towards liberation from their plight.

On the Pakistani ladder, people climb forever, a purgatory of perpetual struggle without reward. Pakistanis of all hues and tongues rush to the top, trampling over their weaker countrymen, pushing many off the ladder to their deaths a thousand miles below.

Some are pure geniuses, racing up the ladder with skill and artistry unseen on any other heavenly ladder. But each time a Pakistani nears the top, a hundred, nay a thousand bitter hands reach upwards, making a superhuman effort to grab their fellow, drag him back, and plunge him into the darkness below.

Nobody reaches the top. Nobody succeeds. Nobody brings solace to a troubled people.

This then is the state of Pakistan, the mindset of Mr Jamshed Dasti, a supposedly honourable parliamentarian. It is the mindset that pervades too much of Pakistani society and cricket.

Why let a good man succeed when you can’t succeed yourself?

I commend Younis Khan for standing by his principles. The laws of libel and slander are too weak to protect anybody’s reputation in Pakistan. I would have commended him too if he had decided to stay and battle his adversaries. No evidence has been presented, no grounds for a character assassination.

The attack on the integrity of Pakistan’s cricketers was unleashed by a frivolous media report, a report seized upon by a dismal political creed that chooses to devote its time to investigating cricketers when the country is in crisis. The investigations that are urgently required, however, are of the politicians, bureaucrats, and administrators who destroy every bright new dawn. But that reckoning will not come.

No resignation or retirement is the last word in Pakistan cricket. I imagine Javed Miandad in perpetual preparation to come back to lead Pakistan and bat at No.4 against Australia. That isn’t about to happen. But Younis can return. Pakistan needs him.

It is Mr Dasti and his ridiculous parliamentary committee who should resign or be sacked for giving dumb credence to a scurrilous story. And if the rumours are true about the role of the PCB in destabilising Younis, those self-appointed busy bodies should hang their heads in shame. What have they achieved, what talent do they possess, compared with the men they seek to fling off the heavenly ladder?

Younis is no Imran but his story has echoes of the past in the manner of how a triumphant captain is dethroned. What gives the system abusers, who sit in positions of power without mandate, the right to malign the reputation of a cricketer who has delivered a World Cup and a world of prestige? If this is the fate of a hero what hope for the common man or woman?

Once again nobody reaches the top, nobody succeeds, and nobody brings solace to a troubled people.

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