Samir Chopra March 10, 2010

Should any 'family' be this tolerant?

There is a way of describing Pakistani cricket, which used to be tiresome but which has now started to strike me as patently offensive

Pakistan cricket has plunged into yet another crisis, and it calls for a different reaction from outsiders. © Associated Press

Apparently, there is some drama in the world of Pakistani cricket. The headlines are sensational, and the outraged reaction even more so. But really, is this even mildly interesting? All the banned players will be back soon enough and Pakistan cricket will go on the way as it did before: dysfunctional in the extreme.

There is a way of describing Pakistani cricket, which used to be tiresome but which has now started to strike me as patently offensive. This is the insistence that Pakistani cricket is charmingly erratic, wonderfully unpredictable, beautifully inconsistent, sublimely indisciplined. Right, I'm making these up. But you see the pattern. Pair a couple of adjectives which span the spectrum from the sublime to the sordid and have a go at describing Pakistani cricket. And I suspect the world of Pakistani cricket revels in this description, because this sort of indulgent tolerance gives it a free pass.

A common feature of the calls for a display of solidarity with the Pakistani cricket world in its "time of need" is the invocation of "family" and "fraternity". I find that a bit over the top, but let's stay with it for a second. If we are going to invoke the family trope, then let's go the whole hog. What kind of family member is Pakistan then? Your lovely talented nephew who can't behave himself? Your incapable-of-good-manners little sister? What does it take for the family to say "Enough is enough"? (I don't know what "enough is enough" amounts to in the cricket case but at the very least it should be an end of the amused indulgence of Pakistani dysfunction, whether it is within the team or between the board and the team).

Pakistani cricket has been lurching from disaster to disaster for a very long time, marked by endemic indiscipline and a stunning lack of professionalism in all too many fronts. From Inzamam-ul-Haq's assault on a spectator, to the many player-captain disputes, to Test-match forfeits, to the doping scandals, to the failure of security. Yet, the worldwide perception of it as, you guessed it, charmingly erratic, persists. And the clarion calls for solidarity to support, shoulder-to-shoulder, whatever latest species of misbehaviour it throws at us never cease. Where one would demand introspection and self-correction, we are asked to look for failures elsewhere: umpiring conspiracies, non-cooperative neighbour boards, ignorant, racist, paranoia about safety, the list goes on.

We could all do with a little tough love. The continued winking at the indiscipline that pervades both the PCB and its team is part of the problem that affects Pakistani cricket. Crises of behaviour among members of a group demand introspection and change from all members of the group. The first step for outsiders (the Pakistanis have their own work to do) would be to ask themselves what role their constant indulgence of the foibles of Pakistani cricket has played in its random walk down Indiscipline Street.

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Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here